Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day and one reason why I run

I'm still working on my San Diego 100 race report; the writing is almost complete and I'll add pics and video over the next couple of days.  Work is really busy right now as I'm trying to grade students' final projects and balancing that with watching the NBA finals last week and apartment hunting this weekend left little time to work on the RR...but it's coming. 

With today being Father's Day, I felt I should post something.  My boyfriend's friend asked me last night what I'm running from...I laughed and joked that I'm not running from anything, though running to escape the stress of work is something that happens at times.  But there was a huge reason why running became a higher priority in my life a couple of years ago. 

Rewind to 2007 when I decided to train for the Nike Women's Marathon with Team in Training; my best friend's mother who I was going to raise money in honor of passed away the day after I committed to being with, my training and fundraising were in her memory and I did it because it meant something to my best friend and anything that could help her cope with the loss of her mother was the least I could do.  My parents, especially my dad who was more into sports than my mom, were very proud of my fundraising and finishing the marathon.  I decided to attempt to qualify for Boston and ran another marathon a few months later to improve my time and inch closer to a BQ...again, my parents were very proud of me.  When I toed the line at my third marathon, San Diego RNR, a few months later in early June of 2008, I did so with a very heavy heart as my dad was in the hospital and not doing well...needless to say, seeing people collapse around me in the heat of the day got to me as I did not want to wind up in the hospital and make my family worry and I did not have the day I hoped, finishing at 3:47, 7 minutes away from a BQ.

Father's day 2008 was a few weeks later and it happened to fall on my parents' 45th anniversay.  My parents had many ups and downs in their marriage and,  being the youngest, I saw much of the rough times.  However, when my father got sick (variety of things...asbestosis, chronic lung infections, Lyme disease, West Nile disease, Wegner's, kidney failure), their love became more and more obvious.  My parents were side-by-side almost every day during their marriage and loved each other with a love that few couples have after so many years together.  My father was in the hospital on Father's Day and I'll never forget my phone conversation with him.  I told him happy Father's Day and he said thanks and then went on and on about how it was their my mom was so wonderful of a wife and his "nurse", how much he loved her, how he didn't want to celebrate their 45th anniversary in the hospital.  I kept trying to say happy Father's Day and tell him how much I love him but he continually brought it back to it being their anniversary and how much he loved my mom.  I was laughing on the inside as it made me so happy to hear him saying those things and I know my mom had to love hearing him say that also. 

A few days later, my dad took a turn for the worse as his lungs failed and he asked to be put on a ventilator.  I flew home to see him in the Intensive Care Unit and, because he was on a vent, he could only mouth our conversation Father's Day two years ago was the last time I heard his voice.   I spent as much time in that ICU room as the nurses would allow and it was so hard...I'd talk to him and pray.  I told him about my life and my dreams and promised him that I would run the Boston marathon the next year; Boston would be the day before his birthday, very fitting.  My way of dealing with his being in ICU was to run; I stayed in Memphis a few days and then returned to CA; I'd go for a run during visiting hours so that I could handle hearing my sister on the phone tell me how he was doing.  I had returned to CA thinking he was improving, but that quickly changed.  I know my dad gave every ounce of his strength to have those days with me and my family as, once my brother and I returned to our respective homes, his condition worsened rapily.  He died in the early hours July 4th while I was on a plane trying to get home before he died.  Running in Memphis, TN during the summer is brutal but I had to do that to cope with his losss...I knew running was better than drinking or other negative ways of coping. 

I accomplished my goal of qualifying for Boston in my best marathon ever, the Santa Clarita race I ran a few months after his passing.  Before Boston, I started trail running and was hooked.  Early last year I was wondering how to deal with July 4th; I didn't want to be miserable that day so I decided to celebrate my father's life in the only way I knew would give me time to reflect on everything he did as a father, running 65 miles since he was 65 when he passed away.  I planned on doing it solo and mapped out a route and my awesome friends and boyfriend were so supportive of my memorial run plans.  I did a couple of trail ultras before Boston in preparation for it and then wound up battling injuries until a month before my memorial run; it was hard but that run was everything I needed and wanted it to be.  Billy asked to run with me for part of it, as did Sam, and Alan served as my crew....didn't know that Billy and Alan were learning the ropes for future endeavors but that's how it's worked out. 

I guess I can say that my dad is why I started running ultras.  Finishing that 65 mile run was tough but nothing compared to what my dad went through during his last years.  Anytime I'm struggling during a run, I think of my dad and draw on the fortitude that he gave me.  Running trails has been my therapy and continues to be how I remember and commemorate my dad's life.  I like to imagine that my dad is looking down on me and I know he'd be proud of me, including for last weekend's run.  I love and miss you so much dad....


  1. Big Hugs Rachel. Your dad is no doubt proud of your accomplishments (both on and off the dirt roads). He would have dug Alan too (but hey - who doesn't?)

    I have nothing but fond memories of that 65-miler. Thanks again for letting me be a part of that. :)

  2. I read this yesterday but didn't have time to comment. My step dad has been in the hospital the last two months, most of that in the ICU. Was in there initially for something totally different but has been battling Pneumonia and a collapsing lung. Up and down, up and down has been his progress. He's fighting and has come close a couple of times. Flew out to see him before SD and dedicated my run to him. That was a lot of pressure, I've never dedicated a run to someone before. We don't know how things are going to end but just glad we had him this long. Grateful for those precious conversations when he was lucid and off the ventilator. Running has seen me through rough patches in my life and it has been with me know through all of this. I'm very blessed to have it. In fact I'm going to go out for my first run since SD. Congratulations on your finish. You have great friends. I know at least two of them.

  3. Touching post Rachel. Big hugs. One day I hope to achieve half of what you have. When you read about it, just know you were a big motivator!

  4. Billy said...

    Big Hugs Rachel. Your dad is no doubt proud of your accomplishments (both on and off the dirt roads). He would have dug Alan too (but hey - who doesn't?)

    I have nothing but fond memories of that 65-miler. Thanks again for letting me be a part of that. :)

    Sam says the exact same thing.