Like many teenagers, I feel like my dad still doesn’t quite get me. We come from completely different backgrounds and live in vastly separate worlds. He’s from Tlacolula, Oaxaca and I’m from Chicago, IL. His life is centered on going to work and paying the bills. He’s a textbook capitalist. And I’m a college student with dreams of becoming a teacher. We both think our way of life is the right way and neither of us fully understands why the other is “the way they are”.
My dad doesn’t have many hobbies, though I’m convinced his daily habit of reading the paper is single handedly keeping the newspaper industry alive. He is strangely obsessed over doing chores (and doing them for as long as possible). He’s the kind of guy who takes his 1 week vacation from work to paint the house. At the surface level, my dad is an average joe. But his favorite hobby, long distance running, never ceases to amaze me.
But I also love running because it’s something my dad and I can have in common. And with well over 10 years of running experience, he’s an expert. When I hit the lakefront with my dad he seems to be more machine than man. His pace is steady. He is unfazed by the sweltering heat; unlike me, he doesn’t carry water with him. When we reach the turn around point of our long run he is revitalized after a quick stretch and sip from a fountain. While I’m pretty sure if I stop I will never move again. By the time I reach the end of the run, I am alone: my dad already at the car, drinking his gatorade, and wondering if he should start worrying about me. Eventually, I arrive unsure of how my legs are still keeping me up. I am shedding clothing and fighting the temptation to pass out on the grass. My 53 year old father jokingly tells me my youth should give me an edge. But of course, it doesn’t. He presents me with a variety of drink options and we discuss how our runs went. When I tell him I want to run farther next time he is hesitant but supportive. He tells me I am too focussed on my speed and reminds me I will get faster eventually. Running with my dad is a humbling experience; I have a long way to go.
Running with my dad is a luxury and unique bonding opportunity. When I run alone in Chicago, I am faced with crack sidewalks and stoplights until I eventually reach a small park that has me going in circles until I hit my desired mileage. When I’m with my dad, I enjoy a car ride to the lakefront where I enjoy gorgeous views and convenient mile markers. When our run is over, gatorade and water bottles are waiting for me in my dad’s ice filled cooler. He offers me a small towel a dry tshirt to change into. He has this whole thing down to a science. One look in the trunk of my dad’s dodge nitro and you know this is not his first run.
Afterwards, he treats me to breakfast and it’s one of the few times we sit down and have a real conversation. And, for two people with seemingly little in common, we sure have a lot to talk about. As we blend our coffees to our liking and update each other on our lives I realize how much I will miss this. How my dad’s talent for running always pushes me to go a little farther and faster. How I wouldn’t dare let him catch me walking. How these weekend runs give us a few hours together that we wouldn’t normally have. And while my dad understands that A’s mean I’m working hard, when I build mileage its progress he can relate to.
Now I am in Iowa, about to run my first half marathon (which I am barely prepared for). This week, it’s been all I can think about. I am on paranoid injury alert and have spent the whole week in my Brooks ravennas. On saturday, I’ll go to another running expo but for the first time ever I will be the one picking up the bib number. And even though my dad is over 300 miles away I know he’ll be in my thoughts on race day. That every time my shoes scrape the ground I will hear my dad reminding me to pick up my feet. And that I’ll follow his advice and “think of sunday as another long run but with a bunch of friends. And when the gun goes off [I will] stick to [my] plan”.