On Speed

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.

  • Grace

    I remember your dad’s excitement after that race. And, knowing his competitive nature, I’m sure that the faster you flew the more excited he became. However, if he were here, he would be beyond thrilled to know that you are taking this on. Most people don’t have to gumption or courage to challenge their body this way. A Giants win, however fantastic, would not bring a broader smile than watching you [and Brad] cross that finish line.
    And remember, he’s always running beside you, not just when you’re wearing running shoes.

    • I know you’re right! xoxo

  • Jessica

    This is your best post yet. Thank you for sharing your dad with us.

    • Thank you so much — that’s very sweet.

  • Steph. This brought tears to my eyes. Very beautifully written. You’re going to do amazing at your half marathon and make your dad so very proud <3.