“When am I a runner?” Runners World routinely poses this question and the generic rhetoric is usually, “When you take that first step” or “When you determine you are a runner.” I don’t have the answer to this question because I think it is individual to everyone, based on their experiences and perceptions. I have known people that I considered a runner months before they concerned themselves a runner, and vice versa. Honestly, it took years for me to figure out not only what it meant to be a runner, but what running meant to me.
My first real running memories date back to when I was 11 or 12 years old. My dad had put on a few pounds over the years and decided to take up running to improve his physique. My first thought was: well, if he can do it, I can do it….better! As he was walking out of the house preparing to go run, I informed him that I would be joining him! I remember running down a country road, alongside my dad, feeling like I was going to fall over dead at any given moment. I finally succumbed to the pain, and began to walk. My dad smiled as he ran up ahead of me and continued home with me trailing in the distance. That was the longest quarter mile I had ever ran!
I’d love to say the next day I was out there ready to go, but that wasn’t the case. Several months passed before I decided to try running again, but each time I ran I slowly increased my stamina and distance, and throughout the process my dad and I became running buddies. We quickly progressed to running 10K races and were fiercely competitive with one another.
Ask anyone about my dad and they will tell you he was a runner. He was that crazy guy running around town all the time, any time of day, in all types of weather! Back in 2000 my dad ran the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon. It never made sense to me why anyone would want to run 26.2 miles. I was certain it was nothing short of pure insanity! Fast forward to the present day and it all makes sense to me. I truly feel that running makes me more calm. I am a better husband, a better father, and just a better person because of it. Now I am that crazy guy running around town all the time. My dad passed away in 2001 and most of my memories of him involve running! I would give anything to turn back the clock and be able to share just one more run with him or to experience the excitement and humor of us racing out of the Bellin 10k porta-potty lines because the starting pistol went off!
Since childhood, running has been a significant part of my life. Now, as a father and a husband it has continued. And, as much as my family may sometimes say otherwise, we are very much a running family. My son Griffyn has ran high school track for the last 2 years and I help as the assistant coach. Sometimes, if I am lucky, he will even join me outside of track for some weekend races. My middle child, Maddelyn is a huge racer……depending on the style of the shirt. What can I say, she brings a new meaning to being “fashion forward!” My youngest, Lillyn, is fiercely competitive! On her first race she placed in her age group and threw up as she surged past another runner just before crossing the finish line. As foreign as 6am may be for my wife Kate, she is always up and there to support me! Kate has attended all of my races with a gleaming look of pride on her face that is always so amazing; she is by far my biggest cheerleader!
Running is woven into every sense of my being. Running is what helps me stay connected to my past while forming new memories with my family.