Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lessons I Learned from My Dad Through Running

From the first day that we found out about Dad’s diagnosis until 75 days later when he went on ahead, my family and I kept detailed logs in spiral notebooks  to record everything involved in his care – grids of medication logs, fervent notes from conversations with doctors, comments he made that we wanted to share with whomever wasn’t there at the time, schedules of who would be with him when. 

One of the many elaborate schedules we kept for Dad during his illness

It helped us to keep things straight during a time when we weren’t always thinking straight, it gave us a place to write down questions and to-do lists, and it was a way for us to communicate with each other when we passed like ships in a harbor.

But Dad thought the logs were funny.  He liked to tell other people about them: “Watch what you say,” he told whoever came into his hospital room, “The court reporter is here.”  A few times he even told us what to write in the notebook, questions he wanted to remember to ask the next time he saw the doctor and things he hoped to do when he got better, a much-abbreviated Bucket List.  Still, he acted like he didn’t really see the value in them; certainly he didn’t get as much use out of them as we did during his illness.

The day after he went on ahead, I was going through some old photos in a box at my parents’ house and came across a set of running logs that he had kept on me many years ago.  In the margins he had written notes that made me think about the many lessons I have learned over the years from him through running, all of which can be translated into important life lessons as well as training and racing tips:

-“No guts, no glory!” (“Don’t expect something for nothing,” he’d say as he prodded me to run up the levee AGAIN in the Mississippi Delta 95 degree weather as part of my training regiment. “It’s good to be lucky, but it’s even better to be prepared!”)

-“Always double-tie your shoes before a race.”  (Be prepared!)

-“Don’t quit just because you get a cramp.” (Even when the going gets tough, stay in the race.  “Keep your eyes to the front and your head in the game” was often his pre-race advice to me.)

-“Know the course and know your competition.” (Pre-pre-race advice!)

-“I know the secret to being a better runner, and it sure isn’t fancy running shoes or gadgets.” (“Well, what is it then?” I asked him when he said this to me when I started training for my first marathon.  “Get your ass out there and run more!” he said and then roared with laughter at his own cleverness.)

-“If you need motivation, find a friend.” (“Running is easier with more than two legs,” he told me more than once, and then he always added, “Do you get what I’m saying? I mean running is more fun with friends.”)

-“When you’re going on a long run, always tuck some TP into your shorts.” (I like to think he meant “Be prepared” which is a good life lesson, but I’m pretty sure he meant this one literally.)

-“Sometimes the best runners have the crappiest running gear.” (Dad’s version of “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”)

-“Keep track of your thoughts in the field.” (Dad sometimes carried a pen with him when he went on a run, and when he had an idea during the run he would – without breaking stride, of course - use the pen to make a note on his hand.  If he didn’t have a pen, he moved his wedding ring from the ring finger of his left hand to that on his right hand as a reminder, a habit that one of my sisters and I got from him and still do now.) 

-“Excuses don’t get you to the finish line.”  (“You can always say it’s ‘too something’ to run, but you’ll be glad you got out there anyway,” he said.)

-“If you are adequately prepared, you won’t have any regrets, no matter what happens in a race.” (If I heard this one from him once, I heard it at least 100 times.)

The last two are my favorites. 

Dad, you were very much “adequately prepared,” and you made it to the finish line in a way that was respectable and admirable.  Thank you for the runs and for the advice; I get what you were saying, and I will remember your wise words.

Running with my dad

1 comment:

  1. Stephanie this is wonderful, thank you so much for sharing Karen