Last March I decided to start running pretty much on a whim. My Dad had signed up for the NYC Marathon, having already had run NYC and Philadelphia in recent years.
Throughout my childhood, I remember my Dad and his running. Running when we were on vacations, in extreme heat, and in icy temperatures during the frigid New Jersey winters.
My Dad was one of those crazy runners you hear about sometimes, never wanting to skip a day. To give an example, my Dad went out for a run during Hurricane Sandy as not to mess with his training schedule.
So one night last March, I asked my Dad whether or not he thought I could run the marathon. He said,
“Anybody could run a marathon if they put in the training,”
How I Ran the NYC Marathon with My Dad and Why You Should Run a Marathon With Yours
I honestly can’t tell you what even made me ask him that. I hadn’t been to the gym in months. Furthermore, I had never run a day in my life. But here was my Dad, fifty-one years old with two marathons under his belt, and another one coming. I was twenty-one years old, in the prime of my life. Couldn’t I do it too?
“Go to the gym tomorrow and see how far you can run; I’m signing you up for a 5k.”
It was settled.
Starting from Zero
For the next two weeks, I went to the gym everyday, running on the treadmill for as long as I could. The first day, I think I was able to run for maybe three minutes, not even making it half a mile. I remember looking at all the people running on treadmills around me, thinking how stupid I must look, how stupid I must be to think that I could run a marathon when I couldn’t even run one mile.
But I kept going.
After two weeks, I hit the three-mile mark on the treadmill. When I finished I was nauseous, red faced, and very sweaty, I remember calling my Dad afterward totally ecstatic.
“Dad, I ran three miles! It only took me thirty-three minutes!” At the time, that did not seem slow at all, I promise you.
Getting Through the Rough Times Together
By June, I was up to running eight miles outside. At mile two of my first eight mile run I tripped over a chain. My Dad had victoriously leaped over the chain before me, safely planting his feet on the other side. He looked back at me, waving his arms, “Come on, are you going to jump?”
I was mid jump when I realized that my foot had gotten caught on the chain, but by then it was too late.
Before I could try and catch myself, I had made contact with the ground. I had actually caught myself pretty well, landing on my side, protecting my face from the ground. I waited a couple of seconds to inspect the damage, already feeling the sharp pain from my elbow. My knee and elbow were bleeding, and my thigh had a various scrapes on it that were already swelled and puffy. To say I was embarrassed didn’t even begin to cover it. I looked up to my Dad slowly, anticipating his look of shock, edging on mockery.
But he didn’t make fun of me, didn’t laugh. I mean, I would expect that most Dads would have taken their injured and very embarrassed daughter home at that point but my Dad was not most Dads; he was a runner.
He helped me up by my hands, and we kept going, finishing the eight miles in stride. When I got home from the run that morning, I nearly passed out. I threw up for an hour, and had to be put to bed. I can still remember my Mom and Dad looking down at me as I laid in bed, my Mom shaking her head.
“Eddie, how is she ever going to be able to run the marathon?”
“She will. She will.”
It didn’t get easier. That summer was filled with some of the hardest runs of my life, but my Dad was always there to help me get through it. Through my first fifteen mile run in the ninety-degree heat with an air quality warning, to the two-mile run the day before the marathon, he was there to push me. Yes, an air quality warning. My Dad did not complain once.
After the expo the Thursday before the marathon, I remember freaking out, suddenly very concerned that he would leave me half way through the marathon.
“If you’re going to leave me, tell me now. Please.” I said, staring at my bib number in a panic.
“That’s what your mother said twenty years ago.”
It seems that along with being a runner, my Dad was also an amateur comedian.
Race Day NYC
During the last eight miles of the marathon, I totally hit a wall. My entire body was in pain, my mouth dry. It seemed as if the second after I downed a water cup at the mile markers I was already thirsty again. Every other minute I thought I was going to burst into tears.
But my Dad was having none of that.
“Smile, Ali. This is amazing! Look at the crowd, look at the signs! Do you know how little amount of people get to do this?” I have never seen my Dad so happy in his entire life. Truly, I think my Dad smiled the entire race. Even at mile 23 when my entire body was screaming at me to walk and my facial expression was set in a perpetual look of despair, my Dad grabbed my hand smiling, pushing me forward.
“Who walks at the last three miles of a marathon? Let’s finish up strong! Remember all of those long hot runs this summer? Remember when you ran your first 5k? You can do this!”
“Please leave me.” I shouted, waving him away. All I wanted to do was walk.
My Dad took my hand, just like he did that day I fell, “How could I ever leave you behind?”
Crossing the Finish Line
We crossed the finish line, finishing in four hours and twenty-five minutes. I thought that I was ready to run the marathon. I supposed I was, but I don’t think anything can prepare you for the feeling you get when you see that finish line. When it hits you how far your legs brought you that day, how many miles it took you to get to that point. How you feel when you finish and suddenly tears are streaming down your face. The way that in an instant, all the mental and physical anguish are worth it because you did it. You just ran a marathon.
I could have never done it without my Dad. Probably would have never even went to the gym that day back in March to attempt my first mile had it not been for my Dad.
You Really CAN Run a Marathon
So maybe there are some runners reading this story who have never made the jump to a marathon, or never ran more than three miles. I am here to tell you that you can run a marathon. My Dad was right, anybody could run a marathon if they put in the training.
I was that ‘anybody’.
It won’t be easy. There will be times you want to quit, mornings you want to sleep in, days where it all seems like too much. But I can promise you that if the girl who could barely run for five minutes in March just completed a marathon in November that you can too.
If my Dad had told me this time last year that I would have completed a marathon with him, I would have laughed in his face.
It all starts with that one trip to the gym. And for me, the world’s greatest running coach; My Dad.
Do yourself the biggest favor of your entire life. Don’t just train for a marathon, but do so with your Dad.
Sign up for a race, put the training in, and not only change your life, but grow an amazing relationship with your Dad. You will be happy you did, and I know he will be too.