10 Years ago I submitted this little story to Runners' World in the hopes of them publishing it in their magazine. They used to have a short story section for readers to submit their stories. It never did get published but that doesn't matter. I cherish this story.
Thanksgiving Day is perfect when it starts with a run in my old hometown on the familiar four-mile loop. It reminds me of how simple my life was up until the age of 18, when I left home for college. I was just a kid from a small hick town with its country roads, safe neighborhoods and always a familiar face; where my mother and father started a running club with their friends during the 80's running boom. I was the youngest member of the Run-a-Mucks Club. I am forever grateful to my parents for introducing me to the sport and encouraging me along the way, as that is where I learned to love running, and came to realize that I would "run until I died". That's what I told my mother when she called me at college to see if I was still running.
My hometown four-mile loop has two very distinct hills that I used to run on a regular basis. While training for my first marathon at the age of sixteen, I would run around the loop four times. Often after work, my father, mother and I would run that darn loop! As we ran up the steepest hill on the loop Dad would torment me by grabbing my T-shirt from the back to make it more difficult for me to run up, or he would be tormenting me with loud, obnoxious sighs, as if he were dying. During mile three he would embarrass me to no end by chanting loudly " Gee Melly, people only honk their horns when I run with you. You're making me popular; I must look pretty good!" Then during the last mile, about three-quarters of a mile from our house, we had to race to the end.... "Ready Melly! Let's go! Let it all out! Don't hold back." I would run as hard as I could, gasping for air, sighing for real by this time. He would actually be racing me: me, a 16 year old and my father in his mid-forty’s! He never let me pass him. I believe he was trying to toughen me up.
This Thanksgiving my partner and I will stay at my mothers, and my family and I will be going to my brother's new house for dinner. I am looking forward to this gathering. It has been five months since my family gathered
at my father's funeral. He passed away on the golf course at the age of 61, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, doing what he loved to do with my mother and friends. This Thanksgiving will be different: a time to remember our father, to be thankful for the time he was here, and a time to be thankful and happy that we still have each other.
In a few weeks when I go home and out for a run on that four-mile loop, I will be running with my father at my side; remembering when he was alive and well and obnoxious. I will feel most "at home" when I'm running that day. It was there on that loop that we really connected as father and daughter, like no other time in our lives. It sounds strange, but the most precious memories I have of my father were on those runs when he would torment me. I knew that was his way of communicating with me. We had our differences, but while running it didn't matter how bad we were to each other because we were doing something that we both loved and it made us happy.
During one of the last few times I talked with my father I told him I was trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I said, "Dad, do you think I can do it?" I needed a 3:40 time and my best so far was 3:57. He gestured with his hand as though I was nuts, but then said, "Oh shoot Mel, you can do a three-hour marathon!" I laughed and thought, he has forgotten how hard it really is.
Now when I think back, I realize that he was probably right. I could do a three-hour marathon if I put my mind to it. I looked to him for confidence that day and he gave me more than I asked for. He was also the one who encouraged me to start my own business without worrying if I could pay the bills. He lived his life with the motto "Where there's a will, there is a way".
Last week, when I qualified for Boston by 61 seconds, I knew he would have been proud of me. In all the big steps I have taken so far in my life so far, he backed me up and also toughened me up. Now as I wonder what my next big step will be, I wonder who I will go to for that confidence booster. Maybe I'll just look up to heaven and pray that he is watching over me to make sure I don't chicken out -- just like when we raced in that four-mile loop.
Melissa J. Caron
33 years old. Lives and runs in Westwood, Massachusetts.