A few weeks into my 10k clinic at the Running Room, I realized that the pace I was running wasn’t the right pace for me. Being 48 year old and not-completely-toned, my pace is going to be a little off all the 20ish year old university students in my clinic group.
Easing off a bit and still being able to finish without passing out became an important goal. Changing my pace reminded me of what I have heard a lot of seasoned runners and racers say: run your own race.
This is an important piece of advice for me in so many ways and especially this February.
This month marks not only one year of separation, but also the 5th anniversary of my father passing away.
Rather than dwell on how parenting my own way—running my own race—has evolved during separation, I want to talk about the different races my father and I ran.
For two months before my father’s death, my older sister and I drove about two hours three or more times a week to clean up his apartment and help move him into a nursing home. It wasn’t a forced move because he wanted to move to the nursing home, which had a wing for World War 2 veterans. Although we had relatives who lived in the same town as my dad, my sister and I did most of the work. It coincided with me taking parental leave with the twins, so I would pack up the kids, drive to London and help to pack up his overloaded one bedroom unit.
Just days after the apartment was all cleared out, my dad broke his hip and we had to discuss surgery, which was going to be risky because of his health. I encouraged him to get the surgery and I was pretty selfish about why. I wanted him to see more of the twins and I wasn’t ready to let go.
We had a long talk the day before surgery and my father asked if I had any questions for him. He knew that he might not survive the operation and I was pretty sure that he was preparing both of us for that.
As it turned out it would be the last conversation we would have.
Now, my father had not been an easy man for me to like. After age 5, when my parents split, I rarely saw him and most of the time I was with him we just didn’t talk. He was also, to use the old parlance, a son of a bitch. I’ll use that as my short form for a lot of unpleasantness.
When he invited my questions that day, I had so many stored up over the past forty years, but I knew none of them were important at that point. I told him I figured we all did the best we could.
Dad floored me with his response. After telling me that I had become wise, he told me what had been on his mind anyhow. For about fifty years he had been holding in that he wished he had worked some other job than a long haul trucker driving into the States, because he had missed us growing up. He regretted it because he believed he could have done a better job at fathering.
There are many lessons I learned from my father who was not around as much as I wanted. I chose to take parental leave for all my kids. I chose work that was flexible enough for me to either be home with the kids at the beginning of the day or the end or both if that was possible. From the time that the twins were born, I knew I wanted to structure my work life so that I could stay home when they entered grade one.
Life throws us curves and puts hills in that we didn’t expect to have to run up. Life also allows us to learn from others and follow well-worn paths or take new ones.
Yes, my father was largely absent from my life. But his race was always going to be different from mine. I am still sorting out my path and pace, and there have been turns I wouldn’t have expected. But it is still my own race I am running and I love that I can be flexible and explore new routes that allow me to be present with my kids. At this point in running my own race, I don’t have to wonder how to tell my kids when I am eighty that I wished I had spent more time with them.