When I was 12 or 13 years old – I can’t remember which – I won a 100 meter dash. Just one. Just once. It was at a middle school track meet, and my dad was there. He ran the entire race with me, right next to me on the sidelines. For years afterward, whenever it came up, I would scoff and say, “I was in the last heat. I only beat the slowest people there.” My dad would say it was one of the proudest moments of his life.
When I’ve talked about running on this blog, I haven’t mentioned that I was on the track team in middle school. It never seemed terribly relevant. I wasn’t very good. I don’t remember particularly enjoying it, and I didn’t take it particularly seriously. In fact, I don’t really remember anything about my experience on the track team except for that one race. And maybe that’s the main reason I haven’t talked about it.
Since my dad died, thinking about special moments between us has made me sad. I guess even after three years, I’m not at that “may your memories bring you peace and joy” stage yet. (A piece of advice: If someone you know has recently lost a loved one, please don’t say that to them. In my experience, it just doesn’t work that way.)
But now that I’m running again – this time with a lot more effort and with a lot more of my heart in it – that race creeps into my mind from time to time. As a beginner runner, the topic of speed inevitably comes up. It’s always in the context of “don’t go too fast too soon,” or “there’s no such thing as too slow of a run.” That’s always sounded good to me. Since we’re training for a half-marathon, I’m aspiring to be a distance runner, not a speed demon. I’m quite skilled at going very, very slowly – no pace control issues here – and most of the time, I’m OK with the fact that I’ll probably never surpass a 10-minute mile. Most of the time.
I guess maybe deep down I still remember the feeling of running as fast as I could with my father by my side, cheering me on. When I think about that, I don’t want to be a plodding long distance runner. I don’t want to be satisfied with “just finishing.” I want to fly as fast as my feet can carry me, even if I can only beat the slowest people on the road.
I have to accept the limitations of my body, though, and if I’m ever going to be able to increase my speed, that time is a long way off. And it may never come. But until then, I’m sure I’ll keep catching myself obsessively checking my pace at the end of a run. My dad was so, so proud when I ran fast. I can’t help it.
What drives you forward?
PS: Go Giants! My dad was a huge Giants fan – he would have been so thrilled Sunday night.