“I run… because it’s hard!” G.D.
Newly minted Whippet Lauren Passell is a social media maven and professional blogger currently employed as Social Media Editor at Barnes & Noble, while also blogging for NBC News’ OpenHouse TV. In addition Lauren is the editor of Loop, a storytelling blog and newsletter, and has instructed me to let everyone know to “subscribe here, read here, and submit a story here!” Below, please find Lauren’s recollections of her times running: alone, as part of a team, and with her father, the impact it had on their relationship, and her life going forward…
When I was in Middle School my dad forced me to join the cross-country team. It was a good call; he was so good at sports and surely dreamed of having a child who could throw footballs or make baskets or kick things at the right trajectories, etc… alas, I had absolutely no coordination. Running is where parents throw kids who can’t kick a soccer ball. “Fine,” I said. “I will join cross country, but I’m not going to any of the meets and I’m NOT going to practice if I don’t feel like it.” I remember being scared after saying this to him. I never talked back to my dad or told him how things were going to go. But he was just like, “okay.” I ended up being sort of good at it and I loved it. So I kept on doing it.
In high school I was part of a small team that competed against much better schools, however, we surprised everyone by becoming one of the better private school teams in the area. For the huge invitational meets on the weekends that took place over sprawling fields all over Ohio, my coach, Rock, would make sure we would arrive an hour before any other team. I was always annoyed that we had to do this, but by the time the other teams would arrive it would seem like they were on our territory. “Welcome to our field, opponents; allow us to kick your asses now…” Before each 3.1 mile race as we toed the starting line, Rock would come over and look us straight in the eyes and heartily shake each of our hands to wish us good luck. I still wish I could run in one of those meets: get up in the dark and drive in a van with my friends to a muddy course, smell the grass, get scared, get exhausted, celebrate.
Before our championship meet, my physics teacher Mr. Dimitrov looked me squarely in the eyes and put his first two fingers in my face, pointing them down and moving them back and forth like they were a set of running legs. “If you’re running like this,” he said, “I want you to start running like this.” And he moved his fingers ridiculously faster. It’s actually the best advice you can get in running. Just run faster. Don’t think about it. I think about that when I run half marathons today. Can I move my legs faster? Yes? Then I do.
I still run all the time. I generally don’t like running with others, but there is one exception—my dad. Once on a run in Central Park, I thought we were just going to take a nice run together around the 6-mile loop, talking and catching up. But Dad was on fire, competing with all of the other runners. Each time we’d pick off someone, he’d set his eyes on someone else. “Look at those girls with their stupid ponytails,” he’d say. “We’ll show them.” We ended up sprinting around the park, and when we got to the end, he said “how about another loop?” And that’s what we did. In Mexico, we got off the trail and I ended up with stinging slashes on my legs from jumping barbed-wire fences, and cactus needles sticking out of my calves. I was in pain, but dad was excited. “You don’t get cactus in your legs running in New York, do you?” In Ohio we run in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a huge 900 square mile area of intricate trails that my dad has tattooed in his brain. He has run them every weekend by himself for 20 years and knows the land there better than he knows his own hands. In Sicily, we would run up the mountain along the sea every day, and every day we would go a little bit farther and a little bit faster. On the day we left Sicily, I was relieved. I didn’t know how much longer or faster I could run, and I knew that running with my dad, there was no option but to push ourselves more and more. On those runs, we’d always end by running straight into the sea, with our clothes on, floating in the water as the sun went down. Our runs in Colorado always leave me out of breath because of the altitude. We run up mountains, trying to keep the same pace we have at sea level. We run the 1,000 stairs up to visit the Mother Cabrini statue in Golden, near Buffalo Bill’s grave, and we say a prayer. And then we run right back down. And when you’re running trails so steep, running down is never a reward, it’s much worse than running up. I remember Paris and Milan and Las Vegas and Costa Rica because I remember the runs there I did with my dad. It’s how we get to know a place. It’s how we make sure we never forget it. Recently we ran the 300 miles from Miami to Key West on a relay team. We froze and traveled in cramped vans and were filthy and peed on the side of roads and never slept—all things I usually hate doing. And I wouldn’t have wanted to do those things with anyone else. On one of the legs, I was alone on a stretch in the Everglades at about 2 in the morning. I could hear the Florida wildlife rustling in the trees and the water below. It made me kind of nervous. But I was running toward my dad. I feel like he’s running with me even when he isn’t there.
Once my boyfriend was like, “what do you guys talk about on your runs?” We are sometimes gone for hours. We talk about everything. Since there is nothing to do but talk, it is the most quality use of my time. He tells me stories and we remember all the amazing things we’ve gotten to do together. We dream of a day when we will both live in the same place. We talk about music. We talk about running and how it saves us. He gives me work advice. He makes me laugh. Time never goes so fast.
This post is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Dashing Whippets Running Team, its board, or its captains.