Running with Dad – by Kim-Sơn

Running with Dad

Posted by ⋅ June 23, 2013 ⋅

My father is eighty years old, but he remains more physically and mentally active than most people in my generation. He swims four days a week, for two continuous hours each time, and was running on the treadmill for an hour the other three days. He operates a widely-followed political blog and is a productive writer, having published an 800-page memoir and a few collections of short stories.

More recently, reportedly inspired by my training for my first marathon, he picked up outdoor running again. To him, treadmill running is just not real running. He doesn’t like the monotonous constant speed, the indoor air, and the lack of challenge. Running outside is much harder and therefore much more attractive to him.

He used to be a better runner than I was, comfortably whipping up three miles in under forty minutes. He was running almost every day, tackling the steep hills in the neighborhood park. Then about one year ago he started swimming again after decades of not swimming. In the beginning he had to take a break after each lap to catch some air, complaining of how much weaker of a swimmer he had become. In his prime years, when imprisoned on the famous Con Dao island off the southern coast of Vietnam, he was allowed to roam freely in the ocean and could swim for hours straight. He was widely respected as a strong swimmer then. Now he was embarrassed by his swimming in the tepid YMCA pool.

So he started swimming almost every day, waking up at 3 a.m. to get ready for the 5 a.m. opening of the pool. All the lifeguards became familiar with him. His swimming improved. After a few months, he could swim for one hour without stopping. Now he can easily do two.

But he neglected his running and resorted to the treadmill instead. When I added a rigorous running schedule to my road biking earlier this year, he considered running again. Outdoors, in the streets, over the hills, in the rain and the sun. On his first comeback run, he had to walk most of it, dismayed at how weak he was. So he did what was natural to him–running again and again, while keeping up with the swimming. I told him about Strava. He started analyzing his efforts, his pace, the elevation gain and loss on his route. He quickly achieved personal records after personal records.

This afternoon, we ran together again. Our Strava apps were turned on. I let him have a slight head start. I used the excuse of still painful knees from last weekend’s half marathon to take it easy, jogging leisurely at 13:00/mile. Then he started to disappear into the horizon. I picked up the pace, ignoring the aches in my joints and muscles. On the hill, he slowed down and I passed him, the pain lessening with each stride as I thought of the marathon in a few months, of my father now behind me but still running, a smile on his face, waving me on. I increased my cadence and launched myself into the hill baked in the golden afternoon sun, the cool breeze caressing my face. I dreamed of one day running with my son, telling him the stories about his grandfather, about aiming for the tallest peak and for the longest distance while rejecting the mediocrity of a soul-numbing comfortable life.

Trả lời

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