As many of my friends know, we lost my dad earlier this year. The grieving process is not linear; the realization of it comes and goes.
Dad instilled many values in me, among them curiosity to learn as completely as possible about things that interest me, which has served me pretty well in my career (though might bore a number of my friends), but most important a love for endurance sports. It was he who got me running. First a 10K, then another, and pretty soon I was running my first marathon with him.
That was an interesting moment in our relationship. We had been training together all of the summer of ’82, and I was 20 years old to his 47, so naturally as I got fitter I started to get faster than him. In 10Ks I could finish 4 or 5 minutes ahead of him, and this made me start to think that I should target a faster time in my first marathon than his 3:30 pace.
There were two problems with this idea:
- I had never run a marathon, where he had. Experience counts for a lot in the longer distances.
- The marathon we had picked was the Frontier Days Marathon in Cheyenne, Wyoming, which was at over 6000 ft.
I took off (from memory) at around 5 miles and was on pace to run 3:15. By 19 miles I was walking, and sure enough here came Dad. It would have been so easy for him to leave me in the dust and teach me a lesson, but he slowed and stayed with me, helping me through horrible miles of walking in the heat. We finished together in 3:42 and change, not exactly the auspicious beginning I had hoped for. But I took that lesson with me and did better the next time.
I’ve since gone on to run 30+ marathons and finish 18 Ironmans, and Dad was there for a number of them. My siblings have similar stories, so among other things we did to honor his memory was run up Pike’s Peak this summer (he raced the Ascent in 1981). An MIT graduate, he also prized academics, and he had two sons go to Rice (and one of them go on to get a PhD at Cal Tech), so I thought a fitting way to honor him was to name the Rice Invitational Cross Country Meet after him.
My brother Scott and I in our respective times at Rice both had very good friends on the track and cross country teams, even if neither of us was good enough to actually run for the school, but it’s a sport I believe deserves more support – the inherent discipline it takes to do all of the training and endure all of the suffering is a pretty good parallel to what it takes to excel academically and out in the work world, so I’m happy to do my part in contributing to the program.
If you’re in Houston on Friday, September 8, please go out and cheer the runners on! Here’s a link to the event.
Miss you, Dad.