My daughter handed me a slip of paper, a wry smile crossed her face as she placed it in my hand. Unfolding it revealed my mission for the next 8 weeks, I had no choice but to accept. In the corner, it was stamped with a Spartan helmet, the note thanked me for my entry into the Spartan Super which is an eight to ten mile race through the woods, fields and mud pits ,with 22 to 29 obstacles to navigate.
This was my Father’s Day gift. One part of me was excited the other hinted of suspicion. Cathy and Russ ,my two kids had just recently finished running the Spartan Sprint, which was 4 or so miles with the 22 obstacles, they ran as a team. I was proud that my kids, Russ at 35 and Cathy at 33 could enjoy something like this together. I had said "Wouldn’t it be cool to do something like this as a family," the suspicion came at my entry in the ten mile race rather than the sprint.
There, would be very little time for me to get ready, I am 20 pounds overweight, and it has been years since I have trained seriously for anything, at 57 I had my work cut out for me.
I had pushed my kids when they were growing up, both Russ and Cathy were good athletes both were very accomplished, it was my turn now to get pushed and they pushed back hard.
Cathy grinned when I mentioned my concern about my weight, “Dad it is just a couple of pounds a week, with eating right and working out, it’ll be a piece of cake.” I realized right then and there that there was not going to be any cake for me nor any cookies for another 8 weeks. I did not realize it at the time, but turned out to be one of the more difficult things in my new training regimen.
I started out with enthusiasm and confidence as I prepared for my first run down Catherine Trail. Figuring to keep it simple I would do 4 miles to start out. I normally jogged a couple of miles casually a few times a month, I would just take my time and get some easy miles in.
Stretching at the entrance to the trail a beautiful young blond came running down the path. I was just getting ready to leave so asked if she minded if I ran with her. I told her as we ran down the path about what my kids had done, and that I was old and worn out, but wanted to get back in shape, she smiled and we chatted. She asked what year my kids graduated, I realized after a few moments that she thought I was much younger than I was. I told her it had been many years since my kids went to school and that my son was more than likely twice her age, I was not far off the mark. April was 18. She set a fast pace, with an easy stride as we ran down the path. She chatted easily, after half mile or so I struggled to breathe. My pride and my ego where soon to be badly bruised as we neared the end of mile one. Twenty three years earlier, this used to be a gentle run… today it was killing me. As I panted and gasped for breath, I told April I was going to have to walk and catch my breath. I apologized profusely for holding her up, and told her to just run ahead. She patiently walked with me and said it was fine. We repeated this process a few times during our 3 miles together. She had run track and during each walking spell she would offer me advice about breathing and how to place my feet, passing on the wisdom of her coach. I apologized each time for having to walk using my age as an excuse. April looked at me after hearing me apologize one time too many times said, “My mom doesn’t run and your way older than she is.” I thank her for both making me feel old and better at the same time. While I still had my enthusiasm, my confidence had been rocked, it was the going to be the beginning of a long journey.