Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Pace Bands

"Charlie, it's a circle, a star, two rectangles, and some letters and numbers. It's not a naked lady with a snake wrapped around her."

My dad ran in the 1979 and the 1980 Marine Corps Marathons. They were the only two that he ran. The Marines were an important group to him-- He was very pro-military having gone to VMI, working in Prince William & Stafford counties, and being very involved in the Stafford Rotary Club. I imagine it was special to him to support the group and be able to participate in the event in it's early years. He was 30-31 when he ran them, and I'm fairly sure they were the only two marathons he ever ran.
So slow.

When I ran my first marathon, the 2002 Marine Corps Marathon, I had a couple of different time goals. Primarily,  I wanted to beat the time that one of my freshman hallmates ran at the Shamrock Marathon that spring. After that, I hoped to beat my dad's first time (3:34), to beat his fastest time (3:11), and to break 3:00. I wrote splits on each of my arms for the times that I needed to hit (not knowing that I could make custom pace bands using the Internet). One arm was 3:34, one was 3:11. At one point during the race, someone who I was passing/running with briefly asked me what was all over my arm. I told him the times and he told me that I was running way too slow for either of them. He was wrong and I ended up running much faster than my dad ever did that day (but not quite under 3:00).

I had a subscription to Runner's World at the time that I was receiving at college. Some time after the marathon, the time came to renew the subscription and I asked my dad if he would pay for it. I suppose I did this over email? Carrier pigeon? I don't remember how people communicated in 2002-03. I didn't have a cell phone yet. But I do remember that my dad responded to me through a card in the mail where he told me that he would renew the subscription for me because I was "a world class runner" and that I should have that subscription to help me to be faster. The greatest endorsement of that magazine ever written, to be sure. And for those of you keeping score, this statement was made to a boy who failed to make the cross country team at his college a few months prior to completing this marathon.

October 18, 2003
But my dad always supported my running. I was lucky enough that his real estate investments and my forced labor on said investments as a child allowed me to focus on academics during college rather than part-time employment. Feeling as though his financial obligations to me were complete (and I don't disagree), he provided little beyond tuition, room & board to me during those four years away at school. Yet he supported running. He supported that to the fullest extent, financially, but more importantly, emotionally. He wasn't able to come to all of my races in high school (and I was pretty terrible then anyway), but he came as often as he could when I was in school. He came to watch me run in some of the William & Mary home meets, he came to DC and Boston, he always came down for the Colonial Half Marathon in February. I was supposed to see him at the 2006 race, but he didn't make it that year.

I remember one summer I came home to run a race and he was putting down new beams on the deck. He and my brother had been working on this project for a while, and in frustration, David asked why he had to help but I didn't. My dad told him it's because I had a race the next day. Had I known that running could get me out of manual labor, I would have been a lot more motivated as a child to run fast!

My dad never lived to see me run a good marathon. In fact, he only got to see me run one bad marathon, as he didn't see me during Marine Corps, and Boston was a disaster of a day for me. I ran well in my third attempt, and he knew about it but didn't get to watch that day either. I'm sure he knows about the dozen or so I've done since then. But as I get ready for my latest, I keep thinking about numbers written on my arm. In my first marathon, they were his numbers-- the times I needed to run for each mile to do what he had done. This is the first time since that 2002 Marine Corps Marathon that I've run a marathon with my dad's numbers written on my arm.

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