It wasn’t until 2011, in the wake of the inaugural Ragnar Relay Napa, that I ever referred to myself as a runner. In 2012, my paternal grandfather, a man who always squeezed me tight and reminded me to never settle, passed away at age 103. It was his passing that reminded me that life is for living, for celebrating, and I declared my “run 103” mission. This is the original post. See what events have been run for #run103 here.
Originally posted on 9.10.2012 on a since-retired blog. All writing is my own.
It is quiet, dark and cool currently in the house. As I sit here, the tile is cold under my battered feet, barely healing blisters on the tops of my toes from soccer aching. Weary, tired eyes watch the cats wander about. The dog is pretending to snooze on the couch as she watches them glide by.
As it does from time to time, my mind began to wander.
In all certainty, any member of my family can attest to the fact that I am not always one to follow suit, that down to perhaps choosing my own birthday, there are times when I simply prefer to do things differently. We all mourn and remember in different ways and to this affect, I am no exception.
Today at work there were many hugs, many worried eyebrows approaching me in pairs, a lot of genuine caring and love. Few tears were shed, when I smiled it felt genuine. It became very apparent quite quickly just how much I really talked about my love for my giant family, where I had come from and of the amazing age and wisdom of my not-so-average grandpa. While I did share what I had written with some of them, every single person landed in the same set of thoughts: what an incredible life he must of lead. Yes of course I should celebrate this with my family. How blessed I’ve been. How he clearly touched many lives.
It was like a time lapse scene from a movie, watching the life of my grandfather play in fast forward, flowing into the life of my father, flowing into my own. Epiphanies, like Pop Rocks on a ready tongue, each explosive realization just as expected and surprising as the last.
Clearly, my cousin was on to something when he chose the online moniker of “IgnacioPride.” I like to think it is something I carry in me. Ever strong and enduring yet able to bend and flex. An unspoken drive, an air of humility, a firm handshake, a steady smile that reaches through the eyes. It is my roots that have never forgotten their lineage, genus and species, in soil now called home. Crooked is my notched bamboo spine but it is steady, it holds me tall. It is mine and ours alone. And it is not to be wasted.
What I deem to be that which I have overcome pales in comparison to what the roots of this young sapling knows. Regardless of how big or small, public or private my battles my have been, are or will be, somehow and somewhere along the line it was ingrained in me as though through bloodlines that if it did not kill me, it could only make me stronger. To not back down. To leave it all out there.
Yes, I’m the sort of girl who would be more upset at a win I did not work for than a loss I fought tooth and nail against. As I was trying to explain to my husband the other day before our indoor soccer game, there is simply no ‘sort of’ when it comes to me and things of passion: it is always all. The game I just played was not a great game unless I deem it so.
There is a time I recall once from high school, perhaps something I only dreamt as it seems so far away. My dear father, shaking his head and clapping a heavy and firm, warm and comforting hand on my shoulder, telling me I was too hard on myself. Maybe I am sometimes, but in some ways I feel like I should be. Looking at that time lapse in my head, wow – I have it so good. What do I have to complain about?
This brings me back to that which is often tied to complaint: running.
What I don’t tell people about when I run is who I talk to in my head when I do it, and in some respects, who I have ‘running with me’ when I am out there alone. Do not call the psych ward; even if I were a system, we seem to be getting along fine. When I run, I run without music, so it is me, my feet on the ground and breath in the air, the thoughts in my head, the memories in my heart.
When I run up hills – because I have begun choosing my enemy for the day and tackling it – I can hear my dad. On the sidelines of my soccer games, he never, ever yelled my name. No. Neutral. The bass in his voice is in my ears. He’s yelling my number. I hustle harder; her ponytail is in my face. Breathe; this hill doesn’t own you. In, two three four, out, two three four. He claps. Good hustle number 2, good D. This is the same tone I hear in my head in TRX class when I think I cannot hold the plank any longer, when I am ready to drop the dumbbell before the count is done. This is the same tone I hear as I get close enough to see a finish line, as I prepare for a deep breath and to push it out. To leave it all out there. There we are in the garage; I am a gangly tween referring to a checklist he has made me. I am doing hamstring curls on the bench and for the final set, I do the same weight as before instead of it being lighter; he is pushing me because he knows I can do it and I need to prove to myself I can do it. This is where my need to stay strong through and through must come from. He says it has always been about what is in me.
Thanks Dad. Thanks 12 year old me. You set a good path.
When my endurance is running out, when I cannot make it further, or when I look down and see I’ve traveled barely far enough to call it any distance at all, there is my grandpa. Papa is over a century old, I would tell myself. The dude gardened for other people into his 90s for fun. You’re punking out now? You can do this. A few miles is nothing. Somehow, I push it out, as though carried by spirits of loved ones passed, by pure adrenaline, by sheer will. Because if Papa can garden into his late 90s and make jokes at my expense at over 100 years old, I can certainly push out one more mile. Because he lead by example, because he instilled this in my father. Because it is ingrained in me.
Thanks Papa for the path you paved. Thanks Grandma and Grandpa, for the groundwork you laid. Thanks, to my history, for helping me break the mold.
When it comes to paying tribute to my grandpa, I wanted to carry something with me this Sunday at the race, to have him with me in a tangible way. A pin with his image or age, a passed-down bauble, just a little something, and it hit me: 103.
I will complete 103 races.
Starting this Sunday being number one, with no determined end date, 5ks, 10ks, trail runs, relay races, I will run. One hundred and three races, one to honor ever single year of his amazing, epic life. Because that is when I feel closest to him, to my roots, to what keeps me strong.
To date, I have six races under my belt. Let’s call that the warm up.
Here’s to the first of my 103.