“He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” – Clarence Budington Kelland
I ran 31 miles with my Dad yesterday. It was the most time I spent with him since January 3, 1985, the day he died. Those thirty years haven’t diminished the influence he has on my life.
By now you are likely wondering, has this guy gone mad? How could anyone possibly run 31 miles with a dead man? Well it’s like this. Most years since my dad’s death I went to church with my mom on January 3rd. But life goes on, things change, and running has become my sanctuary. These days I feel as spiritual in the outdoors immersed in perspiration as I do sitting inside a building full of religious artifacts. I refer to such spirituality as the sanctity of sweat.
The 2015 Watchung Winter 50K was on January 3rd, the 30th anniversary of Dad’s death, so I thought what better way to honor him than to run 31 miles? The 50K was five laps around a pastoral 10K course on the Watching Reservation in New Jersey. The sounds of rushing water, wind rustling through trees and wildlife scurrying along the brush were complemented by peaceful views of rolling hills, babbling streams and a serene lake–the hands of the creator.
I love distance running for the solitude. The time alone allows me to burrow deep inside, figure out my life, put things into perspective. I realize how fortunate I am and appreciate those who fill my life–my family, friends–and I am thankful for my health, the gift of running 31 miles at this stage in life.
I found the 50K to be many different races. The weather was pleasant when it began and by the end of the first lap I stripped my running jacket. Mid-way through the third lap it began to snow so I put my jacket back on. It snowed harder and harder and looked as if it might become a blizzard, but then it slowed. Mid-way through the fifth lap the sleet started to come down. I finished soaked from perspiration and then went into a deep freeze while I stood around talking and inhaling carbs after the race.
The ultra is a lesson in desire and determination, and a test of fortitude and will. I think that’s what Dad taught me simply by the way he lived his life.
Full Disclosure: I was the only one in my age group.
Trivial Disclosure: I was also the oldest participant.