When I was eight months pregnant with my second son, I started having the conversation in my head about what I needed to do to get back in shape after he was born. I was finding that those Hagen Das bars weren’t reeeaaally helping the baby grow, they were helping ME grow. I knew the fastest way to get in shape was to start running, so I committed to the Oktoberfest Half Marathon in Leavenworth.
I started talking to my dad about this fight to get into pre-baby shape when it occurred to me that he too needed to get into fighting shape. You see, my dad has prostate cancer. Eleven years ago he was told the average life expectancy for someone in the trials he was about to embark on was ten years.
My dad has had a roller coaster eleven years. He underwent target radiation treatment, hormone replacement treatment, and countless other experimental trials, all because he knew that he was helping further the science to fight prostate cancer for his two sons and for my two sons.
At 66 years old he agreed to do the race, making this the longest distance he had ever run in his life. While my dad is an athlete, he had some side effects from his treatments that he had to combat. One of the biggest ones was loss of motivation – he had been fairly sedentary for the last eleven years, so the prospect of running 13.1 miles was daunting. The other was weight gain. Each time he started a trial, the typical weight gain was in the 15% range.
In March, he was so proud that he was able to walk a mile at a brisk pace. Soon after, he was able to run a mile, then two, then three. He quickly shed 25 pounds by changing his eating habits and he kept slowly working at increasing his mileage. By July, my eldest brother and I ran the Torchlight 5K with him so that he knew what a race was like. He thought that he would have to walk part of it, but he ran the whole thing, including the nasty hills at the end.
After that race we started training hard. Every Saturday I would meet my dad at the trail where we ran our long distance runs. We would start at the same time and I would wait at a picnic table to congratulate him when he finished. His first six mile run was huge, but then we went to 8, then 10, then 11, and finally 12 miles. And each week he would look back and laugh at how hard he thought that first mile was and now look at what he is doing.
While the running is difficult, my dad had other issues to contend with from the target radiation treatments. What he had to deal with would make most people hang up their hats and say, “This is just too much.” My dad wouldn’t do that. His motto became, “Don’t let the bad guy win.” For him, the bad guy is cancer and he refused to let it impact his life in a negative way. Gritting through any discomfort, it was a reminder that he was alive and he was living his life.
On October 15th, my dad did it – he ran his first half marathon. Our family and friends wore shirts that had, “The Old Man’s Running Team” and his face printed on them to show our support. My eldest brother, his wife, my best friend and I all ran the race and jogged along that last stretch with him, cheering him on.
Dad, you are an inspiration. I can only hope that I meet the challenges in my life with as much determination and grace as you. I love you.
My Dad Added this to his shirt:
Rounding the corner towards the finish line here are my dad and Denise, my best friend – she ran that last full mile with him:
My eldest brother Scott, my dad, and Denise on the last stretch:
And the Old Man Crossed the finish line!
Me, Denise, Scott, my dad, my sister in law Kim, and niece Taylor after the run: