The Art of Running: Running and Fatherhood
We had a guest speaker at our church a few weeks back and he made a suggestion to our congregation. It was more like challenge really. He told the men “If you want to know how well you are doing as a father, go ask your kids.”
My boys are 17 and 14 so there’s a lot of history there and over the years I’ve tried to give them the opportunity to sincerely talk to me about how they saw me as a Dad. I’m ashamed to say that a number of those opportunities came as a result of me going to my boys and asking them to forgive me for overreacting to something they’d done wrong. I would ask for their forgiveness because I was more concerned about repairing and maintaining a great relationship with them, even if it came at the expense of my ego. Once you lose someone’s trust, it’s awfully hard to get it back.
Having never shown any flashes of talent in my collegiate or post-collegiate running, I had never looked at running as more than a hobby I treasured. Over the years when family and career responsibilities took precedence, running was always pushed to the side. My boys have memories of my running when they were very little but it was just a sporadic activity back then due to all the chaos of my military deployments and raising our boys so far away from family.
In their elementary and middle school years I squeaked in a run a couple of times a month but it was tough with all the after-school/weekend activities and sports obligations. Add to that the fact that between 2005 and 2008 I was working full-time, consulting on nights and weekends, and working on my Master’s degree.
The one area of my life that I never spoke to them about was my running. Since I’ve spent more time training lately I thought it was time to bring it up. So I bit the bullet and took a deep breath. I asked both my boys to write me just a few sentences or a paragraph on how they felt about my running and how it impacts them both good and bad. I let them know I wanted to post their responses on my blog and they were OK with that. So I waited…patiently. Below are their answers, raw and unedited:
From my 17 year-old: “When people ask me why my dad does marathons I usually just say he’s just insane, which he is. But I think there is more to this so-called insanity; my dad has the desire to push his body to lengths that very few enjoy doing. It inspires me, and although I don’t want to be a marathoner myself, I know I can push myself in the areas that I want to make stronger. My dad has courage, and I take pride in his courage. Maybe someday I’ll get a chance to obtain that courage.”
From my 14 year-old: “I noticed after my Dad has gotten into running he has been less quick to anger and happier. My Father is focused on running and is successful. It takes up a lot of time but he does a good job at balancing his time. I’m proud of my dad and all his accomplishments as a runner.”
As a Father I’ve tried to be very aware of the time I spend (or don’t spend) with my family. Because relationships have always been difficult for me, I find it a challenge to gauge when I’m being too distant. I’m wired as an introvert and a geek so it’s easy for me to be engrossed in solitary activities that can last for hours. As I read the answers I saw the word ‘time’ and I cringed a bit. Maybe it was a bit of guilt or self-doubt about priorities but it brought me back to asking myself the question “Why?”.
Why do I run? Why am I doing this? Where does this fit in my life and what’s its purpose? I think we can ask these questions not just about running but any activity including our careers, family obligations,volunteering, anything. So how do we find balance? What’s the guiding principle? Never being without an opinion on something, here’s my take:
Life is about relationships, it’s why we’re here. By comparison, nothing else matters.
As a follower of Jesus my faith isn’t about rules, rituals, dogma or ceremony. It’s about having a relationship with my Creator. Everything else flows from that. If you focus your life on your relationships, career decisions have astonishing clarity. Where you spend your time and energy become self-evident. When we remove the cloud of wants, ambition, accumulating stuff, and self-realization, what we have left is what really matters: How our lives impact those around us.
Where does my running fit in to this? Honestly, I’m still figuring that out. It’s a daily gut check for me to make sure I’m putting my family first but I’m sure I fail more often than I realize. You can say I’m setting a good example of hard work and accomplishment but when does that start to bleed over into selfishness and isolation?
I was relived to see in my son’s responses that I haven’t hit that danger zone where it’s having a negative impact on them. As I’ve mentioned in another post my running is something that I no longer feel I need to push myself to do. It’s something that I feel I’m being pulled towards. In an effort to make sure I have my priorities straight I’ve asked my Creator for some details on this, but He’s not sharing much with me yet. I’ve learned over the past twenty-two years of my relationship with Him that He doesn’t tell me much in advance. That’s probably for the best. He knows me so well that if He did let on, He knows I’d just obsess about it and get in my own way. I need to trust Him like my family trusts me, because without trust it’s really not a relationship, is it?