I remember being in my early college years and heading west from upstate New York to Nisswa — where my stepmother’s parents lived at the time — for Christmas vacation, and going for a long run down some country roads. I don’t recall the distance, but it seems my dad was pretty impressed. “You’re a runner, Ryan!” he probably announced to me more than once.
I had run a little bit of cross country in college, working out with the school team but never taking part in any competitive meets. I wasn’t very goal-oriented at that time; I think part of the reason I ran then was because my dad had told me several times that I was good at it and should keep pursuing it. This way of thinking had evolved some by my early- to mid-20s, when I started to run for both physical fitness and to be alone with my thoughts. But despite enjoying this type of exercise, good habits always seemed to fall by the wayside for one reason or another.
Over the last decade or so, it’s been more of the same when it comes to running. A few years back, I trained relatively rigorously for three months or so in order to run with my dad on King Turkey Day (and that was just the 5K run/walk event, not the 10K). I felt great afterward… for about 20 minutes. I got home, bent down to pick up who-knows-what on the floor and strained my back something painful. It was only an issue for a few days (local chiropractor Jake Roethler essentially beat me back into tip-top shape), but I fell out of the running habit and for whatever reason couldn’t get back in it.
A few months later, I felt determined to try again. I remember going for a good run my first time back out, even though I was exhausted afterward and a bit disappointed by my lack of distance. But that would come, right? Well, my left foot began acting up, and it became too uncomfortable to keep applying the repetitive pressure on it that running requires. So… again, I stopped.
Fast forward to a couple months ago. My wife and I had given ourselves an exercise challenge of sorts, which is something I clearly required. I knew I needed to stop being so sedentary when it came to working out, but the fear of having to give our dog a bath should I lose the challenge got me off my behind. I’ve done lots of cardio work at the Y since, as well as some bike riding (another love — although my dream a couple years ago of riding in RAGBRAI has yet to come to fruition) and feel like I’m at least halfway (OK, maybe quarterway) decent shape. But… I hadn’t run.
Then, a few days ago, Grace asked me to run a mile-long event with her at the middle school. It would be on Halloween morning, and she was excited about it. How on earth was I going to turn my 10-year-old daughter down on a run together? I wasn’t so worried about the distance endurance-wise — after all, it was only a mile, and I had been exercising — but I was concerned about my foot. I do have some good cushion inside all my shoes for extra support, but running would be a different kind of test for that support.
In the end, it all turned out great. I made it through just fine, with the biggest challenge probably being the low-40s temperature with light rain and a fair amount of wind to boot. I was a little sore afterward, but that pain was not necessarily concentrated in my foot. I must also brag that I came in first in my age division; OK, I was the only one in my age division, but who cares?
The best thing about Saturday morning’s run? Grace whipped me pretty good. She was off the starting line like a cannon and ended up outdistancing me by a sizable margin. It’s often said that when children grow up, they became their parents, and I heard myself afterward proclaiming proudly, “You’re a runner, Grace!” And you know what? Regardless of whether she’s really one or not, it’s not a bad thing to be by any means.