Over the 4th of July week, I attended a family wedding up in New York. The wedding itself is a story all its own, as the entire wedding party (bride included) got food poisoning from the rehearsal dinner and were ill throughout the wedding and reception. This isn't the intended subject of my writing tonight though. Prior to leaving for New York, my father had been seeing a doctor for some concerns surrounding his heart. He was advised to alter his diet and continue his workouts. One day dad asked me if I would be bringing my workout gear on our trip. I asked him why and he told me that he would like it if we could workout together. That was a first, and it made me smile. I told him that yes, I would bring my running shoes and yes, we could workout together.
Once in NY, it was easy to revert to "vacation mode" and sleep in, eat some delicious New York treats, etc. I came downstairs one morning to find my father sitting at the table looking perplexed. "What's wrong?" I asked, to which he replied "I was hoping to go for a walk today but it's raining." I looked at him and said the same words I would hope my very own workout buddy would say to me, "So what? Let's go." We put our sneakers on and set off on an adventure around my aunt's neighborhood.
It was humid and the sun was strong but after spending many hours in a car the previous day, I couldn't wait to shake out my legs. I broke into a slow jog as dad walked beside me. "You don't expect me to run, do you?" he asked dubiously. I giggled and told him no, I didn't expect him to run. I would jog slow enough to stay with him. He seemed OK with that and so we continued on.
Running is not something new to my dad, as his question might lead one to believe. When my mother was pregnant with me, my dad became infatuated with running and even completed the NYC Marathon mere weeks before I was born. Not only did he complete that marathon, he did it at an average pace of under 7:30/mile. That is AMAZING, you guys. I can't even run ONE mile under 7:30, let alone 26.2 of them!!
As we plodded along, I asked him to tell me about his race experience. I was surprised to learn that the NYC Marathon was his first and only marathon. He told me about his training and how he had a group of buddies that he would meet up with to do indian runs and long runs. We talked about the technology of running and how nearly 32 years ago there was no such thing as sport drinks or gels. His voice changed as he described the marathon itself. I could hear from his tone that he was re-living that day... running over the bridges and through the various boroughs, and eventually making his way to Central Park.
What he remembers most about the race was the energy of the crowd. He said that there were areas along the course that were simply devoid of spectators and that those miles were the most difficult. I could hear awe in his voice as he described arriving in Central Park to the wild screams and yells of thousands of on-lookers. "There were so many people there cheering us on during that last mile. I needed it." He paused for a moment and then said something that touched my heart.
"I was lucky. I finished in just over 3 hours and the streets were filled with people. You know... the Olympians, the fast runners, what they do is incredible. But the people who I admire the most are the ones who take 6 or 8 hours to finish. After the lights are shut off and the crowds go home, the people who run, walk or crawl across that finish line no matter what... those are the real heroes." Indeed, Dad. Indeed.