10 days... 10 days until my marathon. 10 days until the fulfillment of a 21 year old dream. 10 days until I will either flourish or flail, but finish nonetheless. 10 days.
As I count down the time until raceday, I'm going to start a list of 10 reasons why I am competing in this most challenging athletic adventure I've ever attempted. Here is the first reason.
My dad. My dad and I ran together only 1 time ever. I was maybe 15 or 16, it's hard to remember for sure. I was at his house, and we were watching a football game. At least I was watching a football game; I think he was reading a Louis L'amour book.
In fact, there must either be a million Louis L'amour books or my dad must have read the same ones over and over because it seems like almost every memory I have of him at home he was reading one... Hmmm.
Anyway, somehow we started talking about running; and, being the ever-confident teenager I challenged him to a 1 mile race. Now I knew my dad didn't run. In fact, I don't think I ever had seen my dad run prior to this event...
But my dad was a good sport, and he accepted the challenge. We climbed in his van and drove the neighborhood to mark off a 1 mile course. Nearly flat, no traffic; it would be a nice fair race for us.
We went back inside to get ready, and my dad downed another drink for a last bit of fortification. And then we were off.
Oh, we were slow, in retrospect. But we ran. Mostly together, but occasionally he would creep ahead. We teased each other, and laughed as much as we could through embarrassingly heavy breathing.
And then he stumbled, tripped over his feet. And my dad fell to the street. And he tried to get up immediately and shake it off, but it wasn't as easy as he thought it would be. And he stood there, bent over, hands on knees, panting.
He said he was dizzy, but I knew even then that he was just drunk. He staggered a couple of steps, and then leaned over again with hands on knees. He was bleeding from the hands and there was street gravel buried under the skin on his knees.
2 kids on motorcycles stopped and asked if we needed help. He shooed them away. No, no, there's nothing wrong here...
After a few minutes, he staggered the rest of the way home.
I never saw my dad run again; it was only a few years later that he died suddenly and unexpectedly. But there is almost never a time when I run when I don't think at least a little about that little race with my dad.
You know, in a way, I think it was the biggest race I've ever run. That race taught me about alcoholism... It taught me about pride... It taught me about stubborness... It taught me about love... It taught me about being a dad...
I loved my dad, despite his flaws. He was an honorable and decent man, and he had an amazing and quick smile. When I look in the mirror, the man that now stares back at me looks eerily like him. And when I have a problem, I find myself wondering what my dad would have done, and that's more often than not what I do.
I miss him terribly. And I wish, oh how I wish he could see me in 10 days running our race 26 times over. He would be so damn proud of me...