I wanna tell you a little of this man’s story, and why this last Peachtree Road Race was so very special to me. He doesn’t like it when we make a big deal out of his physical issues, but since this was a physical feat, I just have to. (Just one time, Dad. Because I’m so proud of you.)
He was born significantly premature in the 50’s with a brain injury resulting in limited mobility and other issues on the left side of his body. He endured braces on his legs, dozens of procedures and an extremely painful surgery on his foot and ankle to improve his mobility. His left leg is shorter and responds differently than his right causing a limp. His left arm and hand are twisted to a certain degree causing limited use. He now suffers with arthritis most severe in the joints affected by the surgery. He fractured his hip from a fall requiring surgery. He’s in his 60’s, and has always thought running wasn’t a healthy option for him.
He has always been active and health conscious, though. I remember watching him do push-ups with his good arm growing up not realizing how difficult that actually is. He has always had a “if you don’t use it you lose it” mentality, and with his condition, carrying extra bodyweight meant less mobility for him. So, I don’t ever remember him being much overweight, if any, my whole life. (I remember him talking about being overweight and having to do something about it, but I don’t actually remember that.) He walks miles and miles on the job site (he’s an engineer), and nowadays he’s keeping up with men half his age.
He has always been very supportive and interested in my running adventures. When no one else wants to hear about another race or training program, he would listen with enthusiasm. One of the races he loved to hear about the most was the Peachtree Road Race. A 10k in his hometown of Atlanta. He grew up not too far from the start line of this race, and since it started, he has always wanted to run it. But, given his mobility issues, he didn’t think he could.
Last year, when I was giving him a run down of my race, I told him he should run it. Seriously, there are people who walk it for the tshirt and the beer. He could totally do it. I offered to gift him a membership into the Atlanta Track Club and a guaranteed entry into the PRR as his Father’s Day present. All he had to do was train for it and run a qualifying race so we got a decent coral. No X coral with a 9:30am start time in the Georgia summer heat.
He could have listened to all the voices he’s heard throughout the course of his life telling him he would never be an athlete, that he would never run. He could have listened to the aches and pains he faces on a daily basis. He could have been self conscious about the way he (thinks he) looks when he runs. He has real legitimate excuses, but when it would have made all the sense in the world to say no, he said yes. He committed to the training. He pushed through the uncomfortable starting period. He read some books I gave him, and found that he loved running. He also figured out that all those voices telling him he couldn’t do it were wrong.
This man has long been my hero for so many reasons, but watching him overcome so much to accomplish this goal and run the Peachtree with me, it warranted sharing.
He is now a runner. My dad is a runner, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to be able to say that. Now when we talk about running, it goes both ways. We can both talk about our training and our races and our plans… and our injuries.
Thank you, Dad, for your example and your support. You really are my hero.