Yep. Half marathon training. Attempt #3. Tubes are destroyed–no chance of a pregnancy getting me out of this one. 13.1 miles by November. I don’t like to talk about it. (Except, yes I do.)
I often find myself faced with an inexplicable* (*completely explicable) lack of free time. Babies wake up at 6:30-7:00 a.m.–Toni is not waking up at 5 to go run in the dark amongst the coyotes. Little kids go to bed by 7:30 p.m., which still leaves a good amount of time for a pleasant evening run but my butt is sufficiently kicked by then and all I want to do is lay in my bed and cry because screamy twins and toddlers and also Arbor.
Which leaves naptime–ah, naptime. The crown jewel of my day. All little ones in bed? CHECK! Energy abounding? DOUBLE CHECK! Built-in Babysitter sitting in chair texting and watching Jaws? SUPER CHECK!
Noon runs it is.
It’s vomitly hot though, and I’m going to be honest–running is hard in the dead middle of the heat of the day. But I’m doing it. A big help for my mental game is music–sometimes Shakira, sometimes Led Zeppelin, sometimes Alvin and the Chipmunks’ rendition of Uptown Funk (so dope), but on a good day? Christian worship music.
Yesterday was a good day.
And as I run, I think of my dad. We used to run together, starting when I was in the seventh grade. He invited me to tag along with him to a local running club where the runners had to first find the correct path (out of many fake paths) and then follow it through the city before drinking beer out of bed pans at the end of the race–and I loved it so much. I was hooked. (They gave me a Coke in a can, and a T-shirt that I wore until I was maybe 32 before it disintegrated into thin air.)
My dad and I ran on gravel trails near our house by a peach orchard. We ran around a park in a volcano every week. He never said anything to me; we didn’t talk. But we ran, and we ran together.
And then I started to run on my own. I ran at school. I ran the mile and I ran it well. I ran for me; I ran to increase my time. 8 minutes. 7 minutes. Six minutes and forty-two seconds.
I wanted to go faster.
We moved to Florida where my dad ran at noon all the time.
ME: “Oooo, can I go too?”
DAD: “Uhhh…I’m going to run far, like 4 or 5 miles in a sketchy part of town. You’ll just have to keep up.”
I went with him. At this point I was running cross country and track. I wanted to decrease my mile time so badly I could taste it. He offered me advice as we ran: “Don’t slump over. Straighten up. Stop bouncing your upper body around. Keep your head up. Light feet! Lean into the hills. Run fast on the downhill. Keep looking ahead. Set short distance goals to help you go the whole way. Breathe. Relax. Shoulders back. Head up.”
In the summer of 1995 we were drinking shots of apple cider vinegar and honey together before a noon run. “Keep your shoulders back. Light feet! Be strong. Stay straight. Head up.”
I was crushing personal goals like gangbusters in cross country. I loved running. I couldn’t get enough of it. I ran in the evenings with my team; sometimes I ran twice a day. Sometimes three times a day.
I loved the way running made me feel–so strong! And my dad was at every race, running along the sidelines, cheering for me but also encouraging me: “Come on, Toni! You’re so close! Light feet! Head up! Shoulders back! You’re doing great!”
And I ran with him until I got pregnant with my daughter.
Things were obviously different after that. I had my sweet baby in high school. I still ran track and cross country, but slower. It was so hard to stay motivated. My joy was gone. Life was busy. My dad didn’t run much at all.
I’ve picked it back up on and off through the years, taking back, little by little, bit by bit, a smidgeroo of the passion I had for running in my youth.
I’m back up to four miles again, down from 2016’s 8, but up from December’s obvious 0. Outside, in the sun. At noon. Water. Good shoes. Chewing gum. Apple cider vinegar. Honey. Basic Caucasian Instagram Christian Girl songs on blast. It’s hot. It’s hard.
But Hillsong sings to me words of beauty and truth and I praise God for being a good Father.
And I never do not hear my dad’s voice as I run: “Keep going. Shoulders back. Head up. Breath. Light feet. I SAID LIGHT FEET! Stop bouncing, stay steady; stay strong. Breathe. Almost there.”
If you’re a dad, maybe even specifically a dad to daughters, you have such an opportunity to speak life into them and build them. I promise you, we hang onto every word you say. It matters. It is remembered. It becomes a part of us.
I praise God for allowing me to have had such a good father–one who spoke kind, encouraging words to me; one who nurtured me; one who protected me, provided for me; one who taught me and pushed me; one who brought me up to be able to even remotely grasp the concept of the love of a father–our Father.
This man, he is a good one.