TORONTO July 10th 2014. Amanda (Mandy) has been running since her track and cross country days in elementary school. She picked it up again in 2010 after a rather lengthy break, inspired by her marathon-running dad with whom she ran her first full marathon – STWM in 2011. She is a trail running enthusiast and recently completed her first 50K ultra-marathon. Mandy’s next distance goal is a 50-mile trail race, which she aims to complete before the end of the year. STWM 2014 will be Mandy’s third 42.2K. Besides running, she is a fan of the mental and physical benefits of regular yoga practice, walking everywhere, fuelling a day with a near-absurd amount of good coffee, and having one-sided conversations with her animals. Connect with Amanda on Twitter @amandalea_b
Running in the Family. By Amanda Bond.
Not too long ago, when organizing some closet space at home, I found an old cookie tin sitting on a shelf. Inside, chronologically organized with a corresponding cue card list in my preteen printing, were ribbons and medals from years of school and regional track, cross country, and runs organized by my dad’s work. The memory that came back the strongest was that every year for regional track, my dad took a vacation day from work and came to cheer me on. Every single middle school June, no matter how hot, not matter if I was running in one event or three, he was there. He celebrated with me when I was happy with the results and made it easier when I was unhappy with them, offering advice or a plan or some words of experience. Which, really, is not so different from how things are these days, twenty years later.
My dad found running as an escape originally – from a very small, busy house; from a stressful job. It soon became a passion of his, a part of his day where he could reflect and brainstorm and just generally release stress. “Be ready when I’m back from my run” was not an uncommon time frame in our home when I was growing up. And his races, when he started running them, were family events. We would go and cheer him on, in the heat and in the rain; in Toronto and throughout Ontario and Quebec. My dad began running marathons yearly or more often, and this continued for him until he wasn’t enjoying it anymore, when injuries and general life made training feel more like a job than like something enjoyable. Around the same time, when I was in mid high school, I had stepped back from running as well – I was working part-time for the first time, homework was increasing, and it wasn’t something that fit for me then.
Much later on, when teaching a contained special education class and working with teaching assistants, I discovered the escape factor of running on a cold, snowy lunch hour. It was tough and it was also exhilarating. It built “alone time” into my day, which I didn’t have otherwise. And it was almost immediate love. I began running regularly, and when I wanted more out of it – wanted to try racing – I went to my dad for advice. I explained what I could do at that point; would it be reasonable to run a 10K in April? Dad said, for sure. And I asked – would he run it with me? My dad, with more than a decade off of running even casually, said he would. And he started running again. He was there to keep me calm at the start of my first official race. When we saw each other on the course, he had encouraging words and advice. And he was there to celebrate with me at the end, when I was elated and when I had finally discovered what all of this was about.
My dad and I registered for the upcoming 2011 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon soon after that. I didn’t know what I was getting into. When I would get discouraged, or injured, or when I was having a rough time with my goals, I would call my dad. When I’d phone for my mom and he’d answer, we would always have a run chat first – “How was your run today? What’s your mileage like this week? Everything feeling okay? Okay, I’ll get your mom.” When marathon day arrived, freezing cold in beginner’s-mistake too few layers, long socks pulled up over my arms, standing at the start with butterflies, waiting to begin, my dad was there. My dad had words of experience, and advice, and he told me, “More than anything, enjoy it.” And I did. I loved it. When I finished, in the crush of finishers and spectators, I somehow managed to find him; those moments are a blur in the happiest sense of the word. My dad and I ran a marathon together. We had the same finisher’s medal.
I found out afterward that my dad had a tough time with his training leading up to the marathon. For him, it was less than enjoyable. But he did it to be there for me, to run with me in the kind of race that I had gotten to cheer him on at when I was young.
While we’ve race together since, we haven’t run another marathon together. Instead, he’s been there to cheer me on much like when I was a middle school kid at track means. When I had a disastrous fall marathon last year and limped much of the last 12K, my dad, in jeans, walked and jogged alongside me, there to help me make it across the finish line. When I ran my ultra this year, my dad waited for me where the trail came out of the woods and jogged with me up to the last 300m of the race, there to celebrate a new accomplishment.
My dad, marathon runner, my biggest fan, source of the best advice I could ask for, recently wrote this about the marathon we ran together: “The training for STWM 2011 was difficult as I had to force myself to train and I relate it to the aging process. However, I can say it was the proudest day of my running career. We are headed to Gaspe in a few weeks to attend a wedding and my daughter is excited to get some distance running on the coast and maybe in the mountains. I am hoping I can do a run with her on the coast. I cannot do the distance she does due to lack of training and maybe age, but will go as far as my body will allow and let her know when my running is ending so she can continue on by herself.”
But I am never really by myself; not with my dad’s support of all my running endeavours.