At the Stillwater Marathon, where I did my 34 mile birthday run on my 34th birthday, I had the pleasure to once again play witness to a wonderful story. The long hours of sitting in expos, putting up with flight delays and then getting my tired body out to run 26.2 miles fairly frequently is almost always made up for by just one of these stories. Here is one of my most recent of such tales.
Near the end of the expo, I met Jeff who told me how he and his son Hayden (H.D.) would be running Grandma’s Marathon together just a few weeks hence. I don’t talk too much about my personal life, but if you know me you know how much this tears at my heart strings. As my father was crippled in a hunting accident before I was born, I will never be able to run down the street with him, let alone run a marathon by his side. So, when I see children running with a parent, I always feel both remorse and happiness for them. However, the twist with Jeff and H.D. is they live nowhere near each other. Also, Hayden is only 13.
Jeff and H.D.’s mother split when Hayden was young, and now Jeff lives in Minnesota and H.D. in Idaho. Every summer, H.D. and his siblings spend time with Jeff in Minnesota, and they often watch the Grandma’s Marathon. In 2009, H.D. mentioned he wanted to run the half marathon the next year. When Jeff said “sure” he didn’t tell H.D. that the half marathon at Grandma’s was by lottery alone. So when H.D. followed up in January about his plan to run the half, Jeff had to break it to him that with the lottery system there was no way to guarantee they would both get in. H.D.’s response?
“No problem Dad, I will just run the full Marathon with you.”
And thus began a bonding experience over the next few months. H.D. in Boise and his father in Minnesota would trade workouts back and forth over emails and check on each other’s progress from thousands of miles away. At a time in life when father-son relationships can be strained, Jeff and H.D. had their bond strengthened through a common goal.
When I finally got to meet Hayden at Grandma’s Marathon last weekend, I was impressed by both his poise and maturity, things rarely seen in a boy so young. I impressed upon him the seriousness of what he was undertaking and wished him the best of luck. I cannot tell you how happy I was to receive word from Jeff that they had not only finished the race but had done so together, step-by-step the whole way. Having run a time of 4:39:20, Jeff and H.D. showed what can be achieved by putting together a plan and sticking to it.