I got the call at 9:30 p.m. To many a runner this is the equivalent of being woken in the middle of the night. My father was dying. I needed to get to the hospital immediately. My life would never be the same. The next few days would be a whirl-wind of family, friends, the fellow-bereaved. And all I wanted to do was run. Run away from my grief. Run away from my tears. And run because running is my biggest coping mechanism.
Strapping on my Kinvaras the first chance I got I asked my dad to join me. And whether this actually happened or whether it was an episode of bereavement-induced psychosis, I felt my dad’s presence with me. I had never been able to run with my father while he was alive, but I could now with his spirit watching over me. He was so thrilled and proud of what I am able to do. Even writing this now my eyes fill with tears at the pride I too have for who this man was and is.
Now 7 months after his death my dad is still with me. He always runs with me. He says I don’t have a choice. And that suits me just fine. He’s the extra set of eyes that protect me from wayward cyclists and motorists. He’s the voice of encouragement when I’m getting tired. And he’s my dad. He still wants to be my dad.
The first marathon I raced after my father’s death was particularly powerful for me. Anytime my energy started to flag, he was there. Anytime I needed some extra encouragement he made sure someone cheered me on — by name. And when I crossed that finish line it was he who I thanked first.
(above in yellow with outstretched arms thanking my father)
And when the runners ducked under a bridge in the post-race chute, I cried. Away from the spectators and the cameras my emotions let loose once more. Not bitter torrents, but gentle tears of gratitude.