Not long after I published my mushy Mother’s Day post, a good friend—and loyal blog reader—of mine pointed out that I sure as heck better write something equally sappy to commemorate Father’s Day. Of course, I was already planning to do so because (a) my dad is awesome and deserves mad props for his awesomeness, and (b) writing this blog post was much cheaper than buying and mailing a card. (Thanks for teaching me how to budget, Dad!)
My dad and I chillin' like movie stars in SoCal (Brad Pitt is taking the picture).
My dad and I share much more than just our good financial sense. From him, I inherited my charming foot deformity, my taste for anchovies and green olives, and, perhaps most notably, my insatiable desire to win at everything. As a pro football coach, he pretty much has to be competitive. And although he always emphasized sportsmanship and humility above all else, my dad definitely nurtured my innate competitive drive throughout my childhood—whether I was vying for the lead in the local children’s theatre production of Oklahoma! or a spot on the middle school math team. So, despite being raised in the age of participatory trophies and no-score youth basketball games, I developed a competitive spirit so strong that to this day, I can’t even get through a friendly game of Scattergories without a little smack-talk.
And even though cross-country was a bit outside of his wheelhouse, my dad fully immersed himself in the world of distance running to support my passion for it. If that’s not the definition of great parenting, then I don’t know what is. Here’s the “run”down (see what I did there?) of our most memorable father-daughter running moments:
A Daddy-Daughter Jog Down Memory Lane
1996 (summer) – I enter my first 5K road race. My parents also enter the race. After leaving my mom in the dust, my dad and I set out on a joint mission to conquer the eight-to-ten-year-old female age division. By the midway point, I am whining and complaining so much, you’d think it was an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras. Knowing full well that my drama queen antics are all for show, my dad risks a CPS investigation as he basically drags me through the final mile. Just as he predicts, my tears magically disappear when I see the huge throng of spectators gathered around the finish. I sprint across the line, win my age group, and receive my first-ever gold medal. From that moment on, I am in love with running.
1996 (fall) – My dad lets me race his offensive linemen in practice drills in hopes that they might be motivated by the threat of getting beat by a third-grade girl. I am oddly satisfied by my repeated victories over a group of 300-pound men.
2002 – It is the morning of my very first high school cross-country meet and I am a nervous wreck. It also happens to be school picture day, and in the midst of dealing with a Stage-5 Hair Crisis—trust me, curlers never work the way you want them to—I almost forget to pack my race bag. When I finally get to school, I make the horrifying discovery that in my rush to get out the door, I forgot to bring a sports bra. I immediately go to the office to call home. My dad answers the phone. My face burns red with embarrassment as I explain my predicament in panicked whispers. Ten minutes later, my dad shows up at school with the necessary equipment wrapped discreetly in a plastic bag.
2004 – My dad is coaching in Europe, and my family and I visit him over spring break. I am right in the thick of training for my sophomore track season. Because he does not want me to get kidnapped by a group of Euro-thugs in a Taken-type scenario—although, for the record, Liam Neeson ain’t got nothin’ on my dad—he insists on accompanying me on all of my training runs. He enacts the rule that I must stay within his sight at all times, so I end up doing a lot of back-and-forth running. This seemed overprotective and annoying at the time, but in hindsight was actually very loving and sweet.
2005 – For the second year in a row, my dad spends hundreds of dollars to take me to California so I can compete in the Footlocker West Regional Cross Country Championships. My race performance is mediocre at best, but he knows I gave it my all and offers lots of congratulatory praise nonetheless. Afterwards, he tries to ease my disappointment by devising a completely skewed, wholly inaccurate mathematical calculation proving that I am actually one of the top 50 high school runners in the United States. Also, he buys me a Tommy’s chiliburger.
2007 – It’s my freshman indoor track season at the University of Montana. I’m set to run the 800 meters in a meet at the University of Idaho, which happens to be in the middle of butt-effing nowhere. My dad doesn’t even think twice about making the five-hour trip to Hick Town, USA, to watch me run for two whole minutes. In his rush to get there in time for the race, he neglects to fuel up and runs out of gas midway through the drive. Without a moment’s hesitation, he gets out of the car, and—dressed in jeans and a leather jacket—begins jogging down the interstate toward the next exit. A nice young man takes pity on him and gives him a ride to the closest gas station. He makes it to the track just in time for the 800. A local sports writer is so impressed by this story that he later pens an entire column about it.
2010 (spring) – I’m set to run the 800 in one of the most competitive track meets of my college career: the Rafer Johnson/Jackie Joyner-Kersee Invitational. The meet takes place in Los Angeles—my dad’s old stompin’ grounds. I’m pretty sure my coach has fudged my entry time so I can run in the fast heat. To get myself in the psychological state necessary to compete against women with thighs the size of my torso, I repeatedly tell myself that (a) I am a badass and (b) as such, I can definitely keep up with these chicks and their massive quads. Once I hear my split at the 200-meter mark—27 seconds, the fastest I have ever run 200 meters, period—I realize that my plan is effed. I blow up hard core at 500 meters and finish dead last. My dad commends me for taking a risk and tells me it’s good experience to race against such a competitive field. Also, he buys me a Tommy’s chiliburger.
2010 (fall) – It’s my senior cross-country season at UM, and we’re on our way to one of the biggest meets of the season: NCAA Pre-Nationals. For some odd reason known only to the NCAA and possibly Dr. Phil, the Division I cross-country championship course was built in the boondocks of western Indiana and is only accessible by a series of windy backwoods two-laners. My dad has traveled all the way to the Hoosier State to watch me compete. I have no idea how to direct him to the course, so I suggest that he follow the team van. He is staying at a hotel a few miles up the road from ours and plans to jump on the freeway as we approach his exit. Despite my moronically vague descriptions of our location—“Um, we’re, like, on this road that is next to, like, another road...oh, and the roads have lines on them!”—my dad somehow manages to perfectly time his freeway entrance, sliding right in behind the team vehicle in the legendary maneuver that forever will be known as “The Merge.”
2013 – I’m now a full-blown has-been, and I’m running in my latest community road race—a 10K in Polson, Montana. When I pick up my race packet, I find out that the 10K course is actually just two loops of the 5K route. I also find out that there are approximately six people registered for the longer distance, half of whom are men over the age of 50. After the starting gun—er, whistle—goes off, I am running alone within seconds. To help me deal with this double-whammy of monotony (repetitive course + no competition), my dad drives the car alongside me at various points throughout the race. He and my mom cheer just as enthusiastically as they would if I were pulling ahead of Kara Goucher in the Olympic Trials.
So Dad, thanks for always being there to cheer me on no matter what. I can always count on your congratulations, encouragement, and support—whether I win a major award or just a participatory trophy (although for the record, I hate participatory trophies and think they are slowly destroying America). Love you!