This morning, my father called me from the finishing chute of a 5K in New Hampshire. "27:23!! On a hilly course! And negative splits!!"
This is a man who spent over fifty years of his life believing that he could not run. He had bad knees. His back would give out, He figured he'd run if someone was chasing him. But this is also a man who has cheered on his daughter while she raced on the trails and the track and the roads and listened when she was telling him that there was no feeling in the world quite like the pride one feels upon completing a race, after doing what previously seemed impossible.
Last April, I had planned to run the Boston Marathon. I'd qualified for the fourth time -- and for the fourth time, injury struck. I was sidelined with a broken foot. Dad and I watched the runners, and he let me fill the space with chatter of what I would do differently when I got back to training. I appreciated the graceful manner in which he listened that day: I felt heartbroken to be watching the race that remains on my bucket list pass me by once again, and I knew that Dad was letting me talk so I wouldn't cry.
What I didn't realize was that he was devising his own plan. At sixty, he decided to become a runner.
Our phone calls were filled with questions about running form and injury prevention, queries about foam rollers versus stick rollers, and suggestions for the best running gear and shoes. We each would read intriguing or inspiring articles and books about running and rush to text them to one another. I thought it was great that he had added some jogs to his regular walks and bumped up the speed on the treadmill. And then I started to get race updates. There was the first 5K,,,and then another, and another... Dad started to text me snapshots of his Garmin; his mileage was climbing while his weight, blood sugar, and blood pressure were dropping. His knees and back had never felt better. His insomnia was cured as long as he was running regularly.
When my dad visited at Thanksgiving, just six months after he started running, he told me that he wanted to break 30 minutes for a 5K by summer 2016. It's May 1st, and the man ran a hilly 5K race on a cool spring day in 27 minutes and 23 seconds.
Dad would be the first to tell you: it's just one foot in front of the other. He has excelled at listening to his body, resting when his body is tired but promising himself a run on the days when his body is able. Generally, this means he runs 4-5 days a week. He rolls out diligently and has continually adjusted his nutrition to find what foods make him feel both healthy and satisfied. He accepts that this journey to becoming a runner is an evolution, that he is both aging and becoming faster and that his training will continue to change with both of these variables.
His story is at the core of what I love about running. Our bodies are made for movement. We can grow stronger and achieve new personal goals at any time in our lives; running is not just for the young.
If you have been wondering about running your first race, getting back to running, trying a new race distance, or setting a new goal time: go for it. Put one foot in front of the other. Reach out to others with your questions. Join others for a run. Join US for a run! I promise you, when you cross that finish line, that first step will feel so worth it.
And here's one specific way to get started:
June 18th marks the 9-week countdown to the Lighthouse 5K. It takes 9 weeks to complete the Couch-to-5K training program. You can do this.