31 Miles to Celebrate a 30th Anniversary

“He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” – Clarence Budington Kelland

photo

Dad at the age of 43 in 1962.

Dad at the age of 43 in 1962.

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.

photoI 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.

photoPost Script: After I wrote this post I found out that I came in first in my age group.

Full Disclosure: I was the only one in my age group.

Trivial Disclosure: I was also the oldest participant.

 

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About Jim Brennan

Jim is a Philadelphia-based writer, author, poet and editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.
This entry was posted in Health, Marathon, Running and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to 31 Miles to Celebrate a 30th Anniversary

  1. Joey says:

    Awesome job Jim! I love the line “I found the 50K to be many different race.” You could not be more spot on. It’s only 6 more miles than a marathon but that could mean hours for some, like my first 50K. There usually is one wall in a marathon, but in ultras you can hit many in one race. It’s a roller coaster of emotions, almost like a whole life balled up into one race.

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      You are so right, Joey. I was struggling and questioning myself after mile 15, and then when passed mile 20 I found a rhythm and was content, and then after mile 27 to the finish was a struggle. So yes, a lifetime is a good metaphor. And there is no better feeling than after you cross that finish line, that good hurt only endurance athletes can appreciate. Thanks for dropping by, Joey.

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  2. Sophie33 says:

    A beautiful thoughtful post about the bond between a Son & his beloved Dad!
    Thanks so much for sharing with us all! Xxx

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  3. A beautiful honor for your father. And the photos show a beautiful course, although the last loop probably looked less beautiful than the first.

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  4. Your Dad is smiling down on you! Great job by the way! ❤

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  5. LB says:

    Congratulations! Your father would be so proud!
    and I am proud of you, too, for coming back from an injury and for accomplishing this goal.
    and thanks for the chuckle at the end!

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  6. Well done! What a superb way to honour you Dad!

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  7. runner500 says:

    Well done! I would expect that your Dad would have been proud of your achievements both in terms of the race, but what you have achieved with your life. It looks a fantastic location, I am rather jealous. Happy New Year!

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      It was an experience I’ll always carry with me, and likely won’t be my last ultra, though next time I’ll train a little harder. Happy New Years to you too. I look forward to reading about your adventures.

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