I did a race this morning that I’ve been looking forward to for months, mostly because it takes place close to my house. An 8:15 a.m. start is lots easier to take when it’s a five-minute drive to the start rather than forty-five minutes to an hour. For the first time, I picked up my race packet the day before and didn’t even have to go out of my way to do it, as it was right next to one of my usual Saturday errand stops. I had the chip on my shoe and the number on my shirt before I went to bed last night.
Because I haven’t been able to train the way I’d like due to my leg issues, I didn’t set any goals for time or intervals or anything other than just finishing. That’s just as well, because I once again surprised myself by getting all teary at the start; this time it happened before the gun and distracted me so much I didn’t remember to turn on my iPod until I was well past the starting line; so much for that Nike+ distance and time tracking. The issue this time was Father’s Day. I didn’t think that would be a problem; it’s been long enough since my dad died that it’s not an open wound. I was doing fine until I saw the two runners in the pack ahead of me with signs pinned to their backs that said “Running in Memory of My Dad”, with the man’s picture and birth and death dates below. That got me. “My dad’s dead, too”, I thought, and it hit me in a way it hasn’t for a long time.
I dabbed my eyes and sucked it up and followed the pack down streets I know from driving and walking them over the years. I got passed by kids as usual, but also people pushing strollers, a woman wearing denim shorts, and a guy carrying a POW-MIA flag above his head–but no dogs, maybe because they started ahead and stayed there. I passed a few people too, mostly walkers and small children, but I’ll take it. It was really warm for being so early in the day, and I was bummed to get to the water stop and find they’d run out of cups. Thank heaven for the man a few houses down who was standing at the end of his driveway with his hose, making a nice cool shower of water for people to run through if they chose, and I did choose.
Sometime after that Mr. Karen showed up, riding his bike on the sidewalk to stay out of the way of the racers. I hadn’t expected to see him, so it took me a little while to recognize that that guy on the bike was my husband. By that point I was getting really hot, to the point where my scalp was prickling, so I walked more and ran less and tried to stay on the shady side of the street. The good news is my leg didn’t really bother me; I’d done my exercises before the race and evidently that and the work I’ve been doing the past couple weeks helped, because it wasn’t my leg that made me stop and walk like it was during the last race. I didn’t stick around afterward long enough to see the results posted, so I don’t know how I finished, just that I did finish, and that’s good enough for me today.
I hope to run this race again next year. I don’t think I’ll do it wearing a sign in memory of my dad, since he never ran that I know of (though the whole time I knew him he was a heavy smoker, so that’s not surprising) and he never knew me as a runner, but that didn’t stop me from pulling out the box of photos I got from his house after he died and looking through them again for possibilities. I don’t recognize him as this boy, but I see him in this merchant marine, eighteen years old and serious. He’d be eighty this year if he’d lived, but I never really expected he’d make it that long. It’d be comforting to think he’s still out there somewhere, checking in on me from time to time and proud of the things I’ve managed to accomplish. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
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