Running is technically just putting one foot in front of the other enough times to reach the finish line or desired distance, right? But I think there needs to be something or someone that lights the fire and inspires you to move those feet farther and faster, to places and heights that once seemed impossible. For me that person is my father. We recently set out to section-run the Robert Frost Trail together, and the journey has left me feeling thankful and lucky to still be able experience new adventures with the man who has been inspiring me for over 30 years.
My father paced me through my first race, which was a 1-miler, that I ran at the age of 4. Here is how our post-race conversation went:
Me: “Are we done yet?”
My father: “Yes, good job!”
Me: “Good, I am never doing that again.”
I thought that I had retired from running at age 4; this is literally the earliest thing in my life that I can remember.
My father never forced me to do anything, but he did set an inspiring example of how to pursue an active lifestyle. This inspired me to make a comeback, from my early running retirement, to run side-by-side with my father as we took on the 3.2-mile round trip from Mountain Road to the Summit House and back on Mt. Holyoke. Each time we would high- five on the Summit House deck where we talked about the run and our splits, and we always came up with a reason why we weren’t faster. Somehow this led to multiple 7 Sisters Trail Race finishes and our 11-year quest to hike New Hampshire’s forty-eight 4,000-foot peaks.
Over the years my father and I ran together less and less. His career demanded more of his free time and I pursued running times and distances that I thought I could only achieve on my own. Running fast is great but most people don’t hang a picture on the wall of themselves and their split times. The most important thing about running is whom you experience it with. That is why I was all-in when my father recently asked if I wanted to run the Pioneer Valley’s 47-mile Robert Frost Trail (RFT) with him.
The RFT leads north from the Notch Visitor Center in the middle of the Holyoke Range up to Wendell State Forest. Along the way, it traverses the eastern half of the Holyoke Range, passes through Lawrence Swamp, climbs Mt. Orient and Mt. Toby, and passes several other notable features. My father and I planned to attack it section by section.
It had been a few years since we had run together. But from the first step, it felt like we were running side-by-side just the day before. I may have had to wait for him on some of the climbs but he was still there to encourage me and vice versa. The time on the trail gave us a few hours to step out of the real world, to catch up on life, and to share an adventure once again. We now have just one section to go before we complete the adventure. Along the way we have averaged one tick per run, got caught in sudden downpours, and lost the trail a few times, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Those moments and the overall adventure are things I will remember for a lifetime.
Running is always about time. For most people that means doing it in as little time as possible. For me, I want to make this running adventure last as long as possible because the future is uncertain. Always say yes to adventure with those you cherish the most.