When I was eight years old my family was hoodwinked by our local newspaper.
The journalist decided that he wanted to do a story about a runner and his family, so he collected three different families for interviews. It sounded fairly innocent, benign, but the first warning sign should have come to us when he had us pose for a front image for the story.
He had me and my little brother sitting on a curb, holding a sign (I believe it said “Go Dad”) and looking sad as my dad ran by in a blur.
A few days later the story came out with our sad expressions filling up almost a page. The journalist cherry-picked quotes, creating an image that runners when they run take time away from their families. Personally, we were all disgusted by the story, and to this day I like to imagine there is a ring in Dante’s Inferno for journalists like that. (I imagine it would involve them all interviewing each other and seeing their own words taken out of context.)
The fact is I never lost anything by my dad being a runner. If anything it taught me the importance of being healthy and exercise. Yeah, running was not my thing and my dad had to begrudgingly accept that (I lean towards biking more), but at least I do exercise. And as a teenager I would bike alongside him as he ran and talked. My dad was always known for talking while running.
No, seriously, that was his thing! His running friends have spoken to me about it numerous times. His capability for doing it is extraordinary, but each of his running friends has their own unique quirks.
I like my dad’s running friends, always have, even though there is a sense of crazy about them. How so? They used to this thing called the “Ludington Legend” where they would bike from Grand Rapids to Ludington, take part in a running race, and then bike back. When I picture this I always imagine this big group of bikers behind a van, with its door open, blasting Pink Floyd at them.
You see, crazy… okay, a little awesome… but still crazy.
When I first thought of the runners at the Boston Marathon I immediately thought of my dad and his friends.
My son is very much my dad in miniature.
They are both compassionate, funny, wicked smart and love to run.
How much does my son love to run?
He was Dash from The Incredibles for Halloween when he was three, and The Flash for Halloween last year. Also, he goes to bed each night embracing a cheetah. Not a real one, of course, but this really great stuffed one from FAO Schwarz. He even has a little baby one. Well, it’s actually a leopard, we all know that, but we all still call it “Cheetah Cubby.”
For years, I would see my son race with his friends at day care or school, and even though he didn’t win every race, he would still claim that he did. In his mind he always wins.
A few months, ago when I was dropping him off at school, I got into a conversation with him and one of his friends. They were debating who was faster and they were pulling out all of the stops. Superheroes, animals, rockets, falling things from space, they were faster than all of them. I didn’t correct them, I just smiled and pretended to be impressed, curious to see where their imagination would take them next.
When I imagine the audience at the Boston Marathon I think of my son and his friends.
Fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends… we all are tied to each other in one way or another. And as I get older and tragedy upon tragedy continue to occur caused by someone’s desire to hurt another, I get more and more muddled.
I have never been able to understand a person’s desire to hurt another or to even own something that could potentially do harm, nor do I think I ever will. And as parent that confusion grows louder each year.
Every few years or so, a pair of running shoes seem to sneak under the Christmas tree for me from my dad.
I always do my best to thank him, pretend to be pleased, but, honestly, they never get used in the way they were meant for.
I don’t know.
Maybe I should go running.
Scott Southard is the author of A Jane Austen Daydream (a novel coming April 30 from Madison Street Publishing), Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, My Problem With Doors, and Megan. He can be found via his blog "The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard" at sdsouthard.com