Dad needs medal after lifetime of help

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 9, 1999

Two years ago I ran my first 5K. Well, &uot;ran&uot; is not the word for it, but I finished. Apparently I then needed a 23-month recovery period.

My dad called me up a couple weeks ago and asked if I wanted to do a 5K with the family over Labor Day weekend.

&uot;I’ll run with you,&uot; he promised.

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I figured it had been long enough.

I have quickly become the artery-clogged black sheep of a very fit family. Everyone runs, subscribes to Runner’s World magazine and watches what they eat.

I’m extremely proud of them. They have more energy than I’ve ever seen.

My parents’ refrigerator – long the display of &uot;A&uot; report cards and my columns – has been taken over by newspaper clippings of my mother’s race times and photos of my sister crossing finish lines.

In the week between my foolish acceptance of my dad’s offer and the actual race, my training schedule was rigorous but sensible. I chose the &uot;tapering&uot; method to conserve energy, which meant I parked my car a little bit further from the office in order to get my daily exercise.

So when race day arrived, I knew I was ready. When we got to the park where the race was taking place, we walked up a big hill to the starting line. People were milling around, stretching and chatting.

&uot;There’s Mr. Goldsmith,&uot; my mom said. &uot;You’ll be OK.&uot;

I soon learned this was my cue that I wouldn’t be last. Mr. Goldsmith is a sweet, energetic, but somewhat slow man of 82.

&uot;Ready?&uot; my dad asked.

And we were off.

The first few steps were easy – they were downhill. I can do this, I thought. Piece of cake.

Then we came to the first hill.

True to his promise, my dad stayed with me, as he’s done throughout my life.

Only this time, instead of teaching me how to ride a bike or how to drive, he gave me tips on how to breathe. It’s amazing how you can forget that skill so quickly.

Finally, I had to slow to a walk. But my dad wouldn’t let me stop for long. As soon as we were over the next hill, I had to run.

We had barely made it past the first-mile marker when the eventual winner passed us, going the other way.

He waved.

Not long after we passed the winner, we passed my sister.

She waved too.

I simply marveled at how they could do two things at once.

We were almost to mile 2.

&uot;You can go on without me,&uot; I offered, feeling like I was reading a script from a movie about people lost in the wilderness. &uot;I’ll be OK.&uot;

But my dad insisted on running with me, so he could push me along.

It paid off. By mile 3 I knew I was ahead of my original 5K time.

We were on the home stretch. The finish line sat at the top of what looked to me at the time like a huge hill.

But I decided to sprint (sort of) that last leg. I’d barely reached the top of the hill when my energy ran out.

I could see the rest of my family cheering me on, but I had to stop.

When I finally crossed the finish line, weak and confused, my dad let me go first.

Because of my fantastic time and a lack of entrants in my age group, I earned second place and took home a trophy.

My dad, who runs with a lot more people in his age group, didn’t win anything.

But without my dad, I wouldn’t have made it – kind of like a lot of things in my life.

Kerry Whipple can be reached at 446-5172 ext. 262 or by e-mail at