My Dad's Story
My dad was born in his parents' bedroom in a two-room house in St. Joseph, MO. When he was a toddler, his parents couldn't afford to keep raising him, so they sent him to live with his grandmother. He got his first job at age 6, raising lab rats at a school. In high school, he was class president. Clearly, his drive and resilience are deep-seated.
Right out of high school he enlisted in the Army, in order to earn money to go to college. This is where he began to run. He picked it up right away, and ran every day of his three years in the Army. He ran when he was stationed in Germany, and he ran even when he was stationed in Death Valley. By the time he was out, he was running 10 miles a day, every day.
My dad enrolled at UMKC and earned his bachelor's degree in psychology. He got married, and had two children. He enrolled at CMSU earned his master's degree in English, while simultaneously working 40 hours per week as a postal inspector and raising two kids (and two dogs), and he still managed to run his 10 miles a day, every day.
He and his first wife divorced, and he ended up living in North Kansas City and working at the main post office downtown. He was 36 years old when he saw a pretty secretary in the hall one day, and started talking to her regularly. That was my mom, and she was 19 at the time. Stud, right, With 18 years of running under his belt, he has always looked, acted, and felt far younger than his age and apparently it paid off in spades!
He and my mom got married when he was 40 and she was 23. He ran the morning of the wedding. I was born when he was 43 and she was 25, followed by my sister 3 years later. He ran around the hospital those afternoons. After my sister was born, we moved from North Kansas City to Overland Park. My dad's commute went from 20 minutes to almost an hour, and for the first time in his running life, he was forced to cut his mileage from 10 miles a day to 8.
Growing up, 8 miles a day is what I knew. He would come in the door, smelling like sweat and the outdoors, and make me and my sister screech and run away by trying to hug us. My dad hit 50, and retired shortly after. He hated not having work to do, though, so within a few months he had gotten hired on at both the FBI and the State Department, in positions that allowed him to basically choose his hours. Every morning, my mom would go out and walk her 5 miles, and when she returned, he would go out and run his 8. Every time someone finds out my dad's age, they are shocked.
My dad scoffs at the concept of rest days. I only remember him taking a day off a HANDFUL of times in my life. Two of those were the days he had radio keratotomy (back before there was LASIK, and they did it one eye at a time). The other time was the day he had his appendix removed. (He ran the day before, with full-blown appendicitis, and the day after, with stitches in his abdomen.) I realize a lot of people would ridicule him for 'doing it wrong' by never taking rest days. Try telling him that, ha. He doesn't have aches and pains, he doesn't get sick, he eats what he wants, and he's happy. That's the main reason that my mom and I so rarely ask him to slow down or take a break. Running is what keeps my dad balanced, relaxed, and just plain content.
When I went to college, and my sister was in high school, my dad decided to go back to running 10 miles a day. After that, he started experimenting. He had never gone outside his regimen of 8/10 miles a day, every day, but now, past age 60, he began playing around. Some days, he'll run his 10 miles in the afternoon, and then go for a 10-mile walk or jog after dinner. Some days, he'll deviate from the 10-mile routine, and run anywhere from 11-18 miles. One week not too long ago, he ran 13.1 miles a day seven days in a row. A half marathon a day for a week.
My mom is 48, and still walks her 5 miles a day, every day. She's sometimes driven crazy by my dad's relentless running, but she can't complain about having a husband whose body is like someone 20 years younger, not unlike her own. I believe I have the youngest parents of anyone my age I've met. Youngest in body, mind, heart, and spirit, both of them.
I recently completed my first marathon, and the first comment from anyone who knows my family was 'She's going to be just like her dad.' My dad has never run a marathon, or any race, for that matter, but he'll tell you he has no interest. He runs for himself, not for a t-shirt or a medal or a PR, and he runs alone, finding peace and solace on a road all for himself. (My secret suspicion is that he also dislikes the idea of seeing other people run faster or farther than him, haha.) My dad turned 65 last month, and there is absolutely no sign of him stopping. Every afternoon, rain or shine, sun or snow, weekday or holiday, you'll see him out there, running at least those 10 miles. I bet you he'll be out there for another 30 years, and if not that long, then I can tell you that the day my dad dies, he will have been running less than 24 hours prior. If there is an afterlife, my dad will walk into it, kick his shoes off, and say the words he has said every day for 47 years: 'Good run, good run.'
That's my dad. Stubborn, determined, driven, unstoppable, and, to me at least, inspirational.