In a fun, adult role-reversal, I had my parents over last night so I could finagle my father into a 10k run in Golden Gate Park today. The three of us slept in my V-shaped attic room and crashed down the stairs early to make chicken-apple sausages before the race. I wasn't expecting it to be such a clear day--it hardly feels like winter.
We got to 8th and Lincoln by 8:10. The race started adjacent to the recently renovated Academy of Sciences. Dad and I jogged straight to the starting line just as the announcer was winding down. We were told to line up according to our approximate mile splits.
"We can do 8:30," Dad said.
He's a seasoned runner, and my favorite running partner. We did the Bay to Breakers this year (my longest race, and my first B2B), plus a number of 10ks and a few Turkey Trots back in my hometown. This is the man who woke up with me four days a week to jog around the village green when I was an insecure eighth-grader, the same one who followed our racing shells after regattas to make sure my rowing team and I made it in okay off the Sacramento River. He's got a ponytail and usually runs in board shorts.
"Let's start at 9," I suggested. "We can always up it as we go."
The start was anticlimactic, as every race start is, requiring us to jog in place for a few minutes until the elite runners (I've always hated that word) left a clear spot for us to follow. The sunlight was clear, yellow; autumn light. We circled the 7th and Lincoln baseball field, the one where I've taken Kaplan Aspect soccer clubs, and looped out MLK drive all the way to the Panhandle.
Here's the reason I like to run with my father: because we are built the same, mostly legs and arms with long-twitch muscles that don't make us particularly fast, but do make us goddamn stubborn. Many times when we run together, there's no time or distance goal, but rather a personal challenge, usually involving an unknown fellow runner.
"See the guy with the obnoxious red-white-and-blue shirt? Yeah, the one about 100 yards ahead? We're gonna pass him. Now."
My dad is strong and powerful, and he had to take a brief hiatus from running this summer because of some particularly unruly vertebrae in his back. I signed us both up for the 10k a few weeks ago, somehow forgetting the 8 weeks this summer he spent off the track. And yet, today he was just as strong and determined--if not more so--than ever.
The real reason I am writing about running tonight is because it mirrors what I am thankful for. Quiet mornings with my family. Being outside. Functioning limbs. That sensation after exercise when one feels absolutely able-bodied. Whatever chemistry it is that brings friends together inside and outside, at all times of the year.
Dad and I both completed the 10k in good time, after cruising up above the Conservatory of Flowers and around Stow Lake. Mom was waiting for us at the finish line with our border collie Taj, and there was music, water, and goodies waiting for us between the de Young and the Academy of Science.
We weren't the fastest runners, nor were we the slowest. But we were the most goddamned stubborn. And thank goodness for that.