62. Sharing More Than a Jog

62. Sharing More Than a Jog

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners

Sharing More Than a Jog

Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states.
~Carol Welch

My dad had invited me to go running with him, and I was scared to death.

Dad and I have a somewhat colorful history. He’s a long-time, binge alcoholic, so I entered a tumultuous home life at birth. There was fear, drama, and a time or two when the entire county’s police force seemingly converged on our house. Growing up, I had a hard time figuring out exactly what to think of my father. Eventually he disappeared from our home life and I didn’t have to think about him much for more than a year.

Visitation started toward the end of my elementary years, with me being the last of the children to submit to the court’s order. I had a hard time seeing him as human. My mother fueled this by filling me with disturbing stories about him.

At the time of the running invitation, I was living more than a thousand miles away from him with a family of my own. He and his girlfriend were visiting for a week — one of the longest amounts of time I had spent with my father since my early childhood.

Running had been the focus of my dad’s life since he was a teenager. I had run periodically throughout life, but inconsistently. Recently I had started running again, but only about three miles per day. Since my dad had run about one race per week for more than forty-five years, it would be a stretch to call me a chip off the old block.

During his visit, my dad and I were running separately each morning, and my dad was building up to asking me to join him. I pretended to miss the hints. Finally he said, “Erin, since we’re both running, we should run together sometime.” I was noncommittal — saying something about being slow and unsure of timing.

I was terrified that I would disappoint him. Why was I so concerned about impressing him, since he didn’t exactly merit the “Father of the Year” award? He was a perfectionist — and he was my dad. I wanted him to be proud of his little girl, regardless of what kind of father he had been in those early years.

Saturday night he shocked me by asking, “So when is church tomorrow?” My self-proclaimed agnostic father took the initiative to attend church with us, rather than us inviting him.

I answered, “8:30.”

“I’ll be ready by then,” he said. “I can probably even get my run in beforehand.”

Sure enough, my father was standing next to me in a balcony pew Sunday morning. It was moving and surreal to have my father hold a hymnal with me and sing the words of “Victory in Jesus” aloud. Jesus is the center of my life, as running is the center of my dad’s.

That whole day I fought an inner battle regarding our potential running date. I wanted to say yes, but I was petrified. That night I left a note for him: “If you hear me up by 6:20, plan on running together.”

Sleepless that night, I could think of nothing but running with my dad. I prayed, “Lord, is there value in this?” The answer came quickly, “He sang ‘Victory in Jesus’ with you. If he can do that for you, you can run with him.” I awakened well before 6:20.

We headed outside on that brisk November morning. “You lead,” he said. “I’ll follow your pace. Just do what’s comfortable.”

I took a deep breath and ran. He actually fell behind and then quickly caught up. “You run a faster pace than I expected,” he said. That gave me the boost I needed. I continued my pace throughout our 2.5-mile or so jog. We talked a little on the run. I pointed out places where running stories I had shared with him had occurred in the past. He gave me tips without being at all intimidating.

I thanked God for giving me the courage to share my morning jog with the dad I was learning to understand. We both received a great gift. My dad shared the most important part of his life with one of the people he most loved in the world. And I experienced one of the tenderest moments I had ever had with him.

As we approached the end of our run, he said, “I’m impressed.” I couldn’t believe my ears, nor how much those words meant to me. He thanked me for running with him and said, “That was really special. I’ve never run with one of my daughters before.” He said he would run farther after dropping me off. As we reached my home, he took my hand, squeezed it, and I watched as he ran on down the road.

~Erin Liddell

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