July 18, 2012


As distance runners, don't we all like to believe that we are mentally tough to not need our own cheerleaders? If we get down to it, though, we can each probably name at least one person that has positively influenced our running, a cheerleader, so to speak. I began thinking about this today during cross country practice. My personal rule when dealing with the teens is that I never let anyone be on the trail alone. Occasionally, I will have to slow down or backtrack to make sure everyone gets in safely. This might seem a bit crazy or protective to some coaches, being that these are teenagers, but it's more of a summer-safety issue. With teens, you can trust them to hydrate and fuel themselves properly for these hot Gulf Coast runs. I also know them well enough to know that some of them would push through warning signs. Today when I ran back for one of the guys, I could tell he was struggling. Once I reached him, though, it only took a few words of encouragement when i noticed his head raise a bit and his speed increase. We ran the rest of the way in with very few words spoken to each other, but when we got back he said, "Thanks, coach." Sometimes just having someone there makes all the difference in the world.

Where does this lead me in my reflections? I was scheduled to run a tempo Saturday morning and a LR Sunday. My running buddies convinced me to swap my days so that I could run with them Saturday, as they had changed their LR days, too. It didn't take much arm twisting and we all hit the very hilly route first thing Saturday. I was with the boys; we didn't take it easy. You can see where this is going for Sunday. Sunday morning, I woke up EXHAUSTED, thanks to my rude neighbors. I decided to put the run off and hit the TM in a few hours. Well, a few hours later The Boyfriend wanted to go do a few things, so I put the run off to the evening. Then that night came and my legs already felt like crap and I DREADED the tempo. It was so bad that TP (The Boyfriend) offered to go with me. And just like that, having a cheerleader, a buddy, made it all better.

Tuesday, I had a pretty rough looking set of 1Ks in front of me. Sam (who is in 5K training) and I hit the track together. Even though she was doing a different workout, just her being there made this workout so much more manageable. Misery loves company? I think we all just need a cheerleader, which is what we can be to our running partners.

This weekend I am racing a 4 miler. I know, crazy in the heat, crazy during marathon training, blah, blah, blah. This leads me to my next somewhat heavy reflection/explanation. I'm racing this one for my dad. While he has made a remarkable and downright miraculous recovery, he does have permanent partial long term memory loss. He also has suffered through many personality changes that are well described here. The next part is very difficult for me, but one of the purposes of this blog is to use it as an outlet for my feelings and reflections about running. And this "thing" has weighed heavily on my mind for quite some time.

I miss my dad. I feel so, so guilty saying that b/c I have so much to be grateful for. He is alive, and I have a loving, supportive father. My mom has a husband, and our family has been blessed with his recovery and inspired by his strength. The thing is, since his accident, he is different. Almost like a stranger. And things have changed. My dad used to be my biggest running fan. He was not a runner, but an avid cyclist, even winning master's division of many of his races. He did Ragbrai and many century rides, all like they were nothing. He was a cyclist, like I was a runner. Therefore, he understood things that my mom doesn't. He was always so involved with my racing and training. He knew my paces, my times, my PRs. He and my mom traveled to many of my marathons. In fact, he rode his bike with me on most of my LRs when I trained for my first marathon, and he was there to run with me the last 6 miles.

Every time I mention 5K, 10K, or marathon, my dad asks the distance. During a 3-way phone call awhile back, I mentioned that I won a race. My dad was so shocked. He asked me if that was my first time winning. Mom showed him pictures of my first marathon, where he was running with me and he cried. He simply couldn't remember.

Mom and I don't discuss this much. I know it's hard for her wondering if he remembers their wedding day or their honeymoon or all the trips they've been on, etc. However, his doctors have talked with mom about trying to recreate memories for us as a family. Not for us to go out and try to have the exact same experience, but go and do some of the same things we used to enjoy.

So, I will be visiting my parents this weekend and running the 4 miler. It will be my dad's "first" time watching me race.

Never give up the opportunity to be someone's cheerleader. You never know how much they might need it! Run Happy, friends!


  1. Big hugs my friend! I am so sorry about your Dad. The fact that you are blessed that he is still with you does not take away from how hard/sad/heartbreaking it is that he isn't the same and your relationship isn't the same. I hope this weekend is a wonderful experience for you and your parents. I will be cheering you on from here!!

    In regards to cheerleaders - YES. I can't tell you how often I wish I had someone to run with or train with. This morning when I hit the track on my own I kept thinking how much more fun it would be to have someone else out there running, even if we weren't truly running "together". I think that's why I love the online running community so much. Virtual cheerleaders are better than no cheerleaders. :)

    And again - i think you are a super awesome coach. :)

  2. Thanks for sharing. I like the idea of creating new memories (even for those who remember the old ones). I hope your dad enjoys the new memory this weekend.

  3. You are so smart to keep the rule about the trails and the high schoolers. Any number of things can always go wrong, as Amanda and I were discussing recently on my first "real" trail run (the kind where you could be miles away from your car and end up with the sun going down before you find it).

    I don't think you should feel guilty about missing your dad- he's not as you remembered him and that IS hard. You have a good idea there to take him to share some experiences, ones he will enjoy and you can look back over later as well. I am sure he is BLESSED to have you as a daughter.

  4. I could say so much about this post-
    There are times when we need to be our own cheerleaders, and even more so be someone else's cheerleader.

    Hope your "first" race is a great experience for all of you-perhaps this is more important than any marathon you run from here on out.

    Love you!


  5. Oh this post touches me so deeply. Hoe emotional to be racing for your dad and have him there. And I completely get this "I miss my dad" part. You have lost parts of him in so many ways and you most definitely deserve to grieve that! this must be so very painful to know what you once had together and for things to know be so different. So glad I got to your blog today. xo

  6. Oh, Rebecca, I almost teared up reading this at my desk just now. I am so sorry for your loss- and I understand there is so much good, but you know what I mean. I hope that you all get to create some really good new memories this week.

  7. Sorry dude, for someone who is as tough as nails you really wear your heart on your sleeve too, I find it a very humbling combination. Time to start making lots of memories, good luck for your 1st race ;)

  8. What a very touching post. I'm really sorry about the situation with your father. It makes sense that you miss in that way. He's very lucky to have a daughter like you!

  9. Hey girl, just wanted to say that while your guilt is entirely understandable, so is missing your Dad. Brain injuries are truly transforming, I just saw it firsthand when in California. I don't want to go into detail about here but it's not something you can pretend doesn't exist. The reality is, it can change a person dramatically. I'm sorry it happened to your dad. Hugs for you, my sweet.