Last week, I headed home for spring break to enjoy nine days of low stress, naps and–most importantly–family. Living in close proximity for the first 18 years of my life, my family has influenced me greatly.
My parents were the first to ignite in me a passion for running. Watching my parents run road races as I grew up, I was intrigued by their willingness to run for sometimes hours on end. I was drawn to the friendships that seemed to be forged through these hours of running and the free food that would occasionally follow these hours.
By watching my parents run, I learned at a young age that running was not about hardware. Running was laughter. Running was self-actualization. Running was genuinely fun.
Having never participated in sports beforehand, my mom started running for fun as a freshman in college. With a friend, she signed up for a 10k–her road race debut.
“It was really long at the time,” my mom said. “I ran too fast and just about died, but I was hooked. That’s when I started running consistently.”
Since then, my mom’s running addiction has sparked several adventures: jumping over hay bales with dogs in Chicago’s Sport Mart Steeplechase, trekking across the Imogene Pass in Colorado, and racing in the day-long Market to Market relay with some of her closest friends.
In 2008, she ran in the historic New York City Marathon.
“Just racing in New York City and going through all of the neighborhoods was amazing,” she said. “I remember being in the athlete’s village, and it seemed like I was in a different country.”
It’s true; the marathon consistently draws large numbers of international runners, with 37 percent of 2017 runners not residing in the U.S.
Ultimately, running makes my mom feel healthy, strong and connected to the outdoors, which she said is becoming more important as technology dominates our lives. Running is something she wants to continue for the rest of her life, even if she “runs into the grave.”
“At any age or ability, you can find your place, whether you want to compete or not,” she said.
My dad shared a similar sentiment:
“I’ve studied the world record charts,” he said, donning a dad-joke smile. “I’m looking at the 90-95 age group, and I’m thinking about running the 50 meter dash.”
At Waverly High School, my dad was a decorated sprinter; at the time, he held school records in the 100m, 400m and multiple relays. During college, he ran longer distances on his own and began participating in road races (such as the River to River Relay, the Backwards Mile and the Sport Mart Steeplechase) after moving to Chicago and meeting my mom.
Though his current focus is on the annual Market to Market Relay–an event that he enjoys because of its camaraderie–my dad seeks out creative ways to compete against himself each year. To fulfill a dream of becoming a world record holder, my dad creates his own world record criteria. For instance, in 2016, my dad increased his weekly mileage by at least 0.1 miles per week for 52 consecutive weeks. In 2017, he decreased his weekly average mile pace by at least 1 second per week, but around week 35, an injury “crushed his dreams” of continuing the streak.
After extensive Googling, my dad found that no one had set standards in these exact competitions before. Thus, according to his logic, he was a world record holder. And if anyone challenged my dad, he could show them numerous spreadsheets documenting his success.
World record holder or otherwise, my dad’s goal is to continue running. He said that he doesn’t have any desires to be competitive at this stage in his life.
But, he has a few decades to decide whether or not he wants to become a 90-year-old track star.
Track & Field and running is what led me into your and your parents’s lives. I can say, of all running benefits-this was one of my favorite “benefit”! We always laugh that the distant parents took in the jumper/sprinter orphan parents without hesitation. We just didn’t have the groupies that they did. Thanks for sharing your writings and best of luck this season/semester, Alana!