Monday, October 10, 2011

A loss reminded me why I run

I was reflecting while I was walking the dog this morning. I tend to reflect a lot when I am walking the dog. I never realized that I did that until I started this blog. Maybe it’s because it’s one of the rare moments in my life when I am not changing a diaper (that’s nappy for your Brits) or dealing with a tantrum (child or adult based). Hmm interesting. Not sure the dog is aware of all this cerebral stuff going on.

Tomorrow, I attend the service of someone who left this earth too soon. He was awesome and it is going to be a tough day for his family. They are a great people and I know they will all be fine eventually but I hate that they have to go through this pain. I also hate that they couldn't have had more years with him. Life isn't fair. As I thought about him and the emotions his children are dealing with right now, I suddenly remembered why I chose to run for real. It's actually a pretty meaningful decision.

Let me dial things back a wee bit first. I was never really overweight in my life but after 3 kids and a stressful job, I found myself the heaviest I have ever been. I was 207lbs and that didn't look to good on me at a stocky 5'6". More importantly, my asthma was not good. I had been going to the hospital emergency room a couple of times of year, I had had one extended stay and I'd been on and off steroids. I started to do some calorie counting through portion control and my weight started to drop a bit. I started to be more vigilant about eating healthier and that helped too. As the weight came down and the health improved a bit, my energy came up. I decided that I would like to run. It was just for the exercise. Nothing more at that point.

3 Generations Race Together
My friend Tina knew that I had been running a bit, so she asked me if I wanted to do the Chicago Thanksgiving Turkey Trot 8K. It's a nice thing to do before a big celebration meal with the family. I was happy to be doing a race with a friend. I felt healthier, I felt like I had lost some weight and I was proud to be able to run 8K comfortably at a nice slow pace. Standing  there on that chilly Thanksgiving morning, something caught my attention. There was a grandfather, father and son standing together ready to race. They seemed delighted to be there together. I was so happy for them. Just then, I started to feel really sad. I wished that I could have experienced something like that with my dad. He is a miraculous cancer survivor who is still alive and living in Wales with my mother. The reason I never got to do it with him is because he never ran. He gave up his last sport (rugby) in his teens. I imagined how delighted I would have been to do something like that with him as a teenager. I imagined how awesome it would be to have race photos of us doing it together. That's when I decided. I wanted to run and it was for multiple reasons. I did not want asthma to shorten my life because I wanted to be around for my kids as long as I could. I also wanted to be able to run with my kids. I wanted to share race achievements with them but also instill a philosophy of wellbeing in them. I have lots of regrets at not being able to run when I was young but I don't think I would ever have had this moment if it hadn't come at 41 and 207lbs.

So, if my daughter Maggie races with me at 15, I will be 50. That's more than achievable. If she has a 15 year old when she is 50, I would be 85. That's probably pushing it but you never know. Maybe I started a family too late to run with grandkids but I really want to do it with my kids. I want those memories. I want those photos. I want them to remember it. I want them to pass on that type of experience to their children. 

I'll try to never to get caught up in the mechanics of running and forget my motivation to run. The most enjoyable running comes from the heart, so I'll keep my kids with me on every run, whether they are there or not. I can't control when I am taken from this earth but I can control the things that will take me from it sooner.
My friend Stephanie running a marathon with her dad - so sweet.

Oct 11. Updates to post:
Some people have connected what I wrote to the death of Captain Will Caviness of the Greenboro Firer Department. He collapsed 500 yards short of the Chicago Marathon finish line. The emergency team got to him very quickly but he later died in hospital. It is thought he may have had some sort of heart condition that he wasn't aware of. This post is not about Will but my thoughts go out to his family. Like I said, I can't control things that will take me from this earth before my time. Nobody can. I could die from running. I could die from driving. I could die from a shooting. I could even die from sitting on the sofa trying to avoid death. When it comes, it will come. If it is running, I can live with that. In the meantime, what I do know is the physical conditioning and asthma control that I get from running will increase my life. I'm going to focus on that.

I also wanted to point out that even though I never got to run with my dad, he is an awesome dad. When I re-read the post, I felt like it didn't reflect the love and admiration I have for him. He may not have given me running memories to carry with me for the rest of my life but he has given me a treasure trove of other memories. Life is all a bunch of snapshots in time. He has definitely inspired me to pass-on positive snapshots to my kids. Running may be one of them but certainly not all of them.

My sister pointed out to me that running is something I can share with others too. My brother Miles started running when I did. He is younger, so he's out-doing me. I'm, proud of him. We ran together the last time I was in Wales and I loved that. I hope to do a race with him in future. There is a chance that my nephew Rhys will come to school in Chicago. If he does, I am going to drag him out with me. He has done some running in high school. Lot's of running memories to make.


  1. I can appreciate this post from a couple of perspectives. Most of all, I like reading that you think about family when you run. I do too. I love my family, and though we only run together sometimes, I find myself thinking of them almost all the time. Running, for me, can be a nice way to spend time alone, thinking about the things that matter most.

    I also think about whether my kids will share my interests. Right now they do, and I am very honored to see them want to run with me. But looking back on my childhood, I did not enjoy playing guitar very much (my dad's favorite passtime). I'm taking that up now, and I am lucky enough to get advice and playtime with my dad. I hope to be open-minded regarding their interests.

    Finally, from the perspective of living life to the fullest and dealing with loss. It is at times of loss that we are rejuvenated to improve our relationships and live life to the fullest. I'm thinking a lot about that right now. There is a lot that I'd like to do with my family, and I believe that running can serve as a way to keep healthy and inspire positive activity with my family. So, I hope to come up with lots of good ideas over the next few hundred miles I run, and I hope to be able to enjoy their implementation.

  2. I can relate to having interests that weren't compatible with my parents. I will follow your advice when it comes to my kids and try to stay open minded about the things they are into. Not always easy.
    One thing I didn't mention that you reminded me about is the fact that running also helps me to be a calmer and happier dad and husband. It's no secret that running is used as a treatment for anxiety and depression. For me, it helps to take away the stresses of life and then I much less likely to pass stresses along to the family. I'm still not perfect but it helps.


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