Thank You, Dad.

I owe most of where I am today to my parents.  Both my Mom and Dad have always been there for me as a source of support and guidance throughout my whole life.  They have helped mold me into the person I am today. 
One of my earliest supporters in terms of my athletic ability – or lack therefore! – was my father.  Growing up, I never really considered myself athletic or even good at sports, but my dad was always there for me to cheer me on and help me to do my best.  He coached my soccer team, helped me learn to shoot hoops, pumped up my bicycle tires, and encouraged me to run.  Here’s my Dad:
Probably my most notable athletic achievements as a kid came during middle school when I joined the Cross Country team.  I don’t remember why I joined – other than to hang out with friends – because I downright hated running (and it was probably the only scholastic sport that would have me!).  And, at that time, I had no idea how much work actually went into distance running!  Even back then, I was slow and usually finished races very near or at the back of the pack.  I’m sure I was of no help to my team at all, but my dad taught me that didn’t matter – what mattered was that I was out there doing it and giving it my all.  He followed me around the 1.5 mile course shouting “Run, don’t walk!  Keep your head up!  Go, Sara, you’re almost there!  Don’t Stop!”  And when I got a PR, he and my Mom were the first ones I saw at the finish line cheering me on.  It didn’t matter when I finished, just that I did.  And I know my Dad would have cheered me on for hours if that’s how long it took me to finish.
Because he has.  This past March, I ran the Conquer the Creek race, my first-ever attempt at a trail run through Alum Creek State Park.  How much of a trail can be at a state park, right?  I found out really quickly what the race tag line, “forget everything you think you know about Alum Creek State Park and join us for an off the pavement and out of the ordinary trail run!” meant.  I could run a 4 Miler or 7.5 Miler and believe me, the 4 miles I ran were horrible.  It took me over an hour to finish the course filled with mud (which I lost a shoe in), hills, streams, rocks, tree roots, and thorns.  I crossed the finish line at a 16: 38 per mile pace, my slowest race ever, and I finished dead last.  With a race of only 30 people (and now I know why), it’s pretty obvious when race officials are waiting around for you to finish.  I was tired, filthy, bleeding, mud-covered, freezing and out of breath, but when I came into the clearing it was my father that I saw cheering for me to finish strong.  He asked me how it was.  I told him it had to of been the Course from Hell, and he told me what a good job I had done.  I remembered what he had taught me as a kid: “It doesn’t matter, Sara, when you finished, you finished and you were running.”  And then, in his way of making me feel better when I feel down, he mentioned that he thought they might still be waiting on some 7.5ers to finish.  We didn’t wait around too long to see if that was the case.
He’s been up at the crack of dawn to meet me at the starting lines for half marathons, waited around for three or more hours while I ran them, and found a pristine spot at the finish line to cheer me on.  He’s battled wind, ran, cold, and heat to make sure I make it.  He’s carried my pink fuel belt, my pink bag, and my sweaty clothes.  He’s gotten me food and water and helped me walk when I was too weak to stand.  He’s supported my various causes and fundraising, no questions asked.  And he never tells me I can’t.  Me and my parents at the finish line after Cap City 2010 Half:
As I currently train for my first full marathon, I think about my father and how he’ll be there at the Finish Line on October 17.  I know he believes I can do it, even when I believe I can’t.  And, it will be the lessons he taught me in my youth and still teaches me today that carry me through on that day that is still to come.  
Thank you, Dad, for helping me to become the runner I am today. 

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