When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was to ride my bike alongside my father when he went running. From our rural home we would travel about a mile into town, meander around the small town, and then head back. Our journeys probably covered between three and four miles.
That was about twenty-five years ago. We probably didn’t go that often, but those rides loom large in my adult memory. Even as a kid, I think I believed that those rides epitomized a happy childhood. A time for togetherness and a time for learning lessons.
Every time we went out, my father would tell me about his childhood asthma and about how he couldn’t run when he was a boy. He’d want to run, but his lungs wouldn’t let his legs do it. He explained that that’s why he loved running as an adult. I would watch him, and to my ten-year-old eyes it looked like it hurt. Sometimes when we returned home, he would just lie on his back in the grass heaving. I learned that I shouldn’t take things for granted and that doing what you love can cause pain.
My father hasn’t run in twenty-two years. He almost died in a farming accident when a tractor ran over him, crushing his leg and hips. The story of his recovery is a long one, with physical and emotional ups and downs, but he is in surprisingly good shape for the severity of his injuries. My family likes to think of it as a miracle, though he still has some pain and walks with a limp. No running, however. His lungs are able, but his legs won’t do it.
I started running about two years ago. A number of circumstances influenced my decision to begin running, but I’m sure that on a subconscious level my adult self wanted to emulate my childhood picture of my father. When I run, I dress like he did, I don’t listen to music, and sometimes I let my daughter ride her bike with me. Usually I’m thinking about lungs and legs while I run.
This week I visited my parents for Thanksgiving. Since I’m training for a marathon, I went on a five-mile run one morning, and my father rode an old bike alongside me. We went into town, meandered its streets a bit, and headed home. For the first time in more than two decades we were running and riding again. In some ways the roles were reversed, in others it was just the same. Running and riding. Riding and Running.
I’ve been reminded of how much I have to give thanks for. I’m thankful that today both my lungs and my legs allow me to run. I’m thankful that I’ve had my father for the last twenty-two years. And I’m thankful for bike rides both past and present.