My Father the Runner

This is an excerpt of an essay I started recently with a specific publication in mind — and actually, it is all I have written of it at the moment. I haven’t given myself a deadline, but I probably should because of all my essay ideas, I think this has the best chance of getting published relatively soon. At this point it is based purely on my memories, although I would like to talk to my dad about it as well — what his Saturday morning jogs meant to him, and did I get the facts right, etc.

This is roughly the first third of the essay. I have a middle and an ending in mind as well, but I won’t be able to finish it until after the Utah Valley Marathon and Half this summer. Once again, much of my family will be participating, and depending on how it goes it will provide the perfect ending to this essay.

As always, comments, criticisms and suggestions are welcome.


The smell of my dad’s sweat is one of the sweetest smells I know. Some of my first, fondest memories are tied to that smell. Standing in the kitchen, taking a bite of his post-run toast as he held it for my 3-year-old mouth to reach. His gray sweatpants and matching sweatshirt carried the scent so strongly that, years later, even the sight of his jogging clothes, which he still wore religiously on his Saturday jogs, would conjure up memories of breakfasting next to him at the table, him reading the paper and eating his cinnamon raisin toast, me with my bowl of cold cereal.

It never really occurred to me where the smell came from, that he actually ran through the streets of our neighborhood, up and down hills (although he would never say that he “ran” – it was always a “jog” to him), for a few miles, and that such an activity could produce sweat. In fact, I don’t remember him ever leaving to go for a run. It was only when he came back, stretched on the front porch, and then put the toast in the toaster, that I even realized he’d been gone.

Dad was a weekend warrior for ages. It wasn’t something he talked about, or something me, or any of his 12 children, thought much about, at least as far as I know. He would take us out on bike rides, the younger kids taking turns in the seat behind his bike while the older ones pedaled along beside. He would play baseball and kickball and teach us to ride the little black bike that each of us took our turn on at the elementary school across the street, but his Saturday jogs were his and his alone. He never entered any races, never talked about going faster, or aching joints, or that guy that tried to pass him on the hill.

And so it never occurred to me to join him, or to ask if I could. It certainly didn’t cross my mind to run myself. Not until years later, when high school friends invited me to join the cross-country team (an offer I flatly refused – the prospect of running two miles on a regular basis being more than I could handle), did it ever occur to me to consider the hobby as one I might take up.

But slowly, whatever running genes Dad may have passed on to me awoke. It started with hot, humid, painful jaunts around the indoor track a few blocks away from my first college apartment. Seven laps to a mile, but I could never keep track of the laps. Then, after I married and moved to Hawaii, my husband and I took up running through our hilly neighborhood to rid ourselves of the “newlywed 19” that had latched onto us as we sauntered sleepily, dazedly around the island.

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  1. Can’t wait to read the rest!


    lizzie Reply:

    I’m excited to write it, and also a little tired just thinking about it. But I think it will be good for me to finish an essay one of these days.


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