About 15 years ago my husband, Brian, got tired of taking our energetic dog, Molly, for walks. He decided to run with her instead.
Brian figured that running would take less time and burn more calories.
Once Brian started running, he couldn’t be stopped. Accustomed to competitive sports, he decided to run 5Ks, which led to 10Ks, which led to half-marathons and, of course, culminated in marathons. To date, Brian has run eight 26.2-mile marathons, including Boston, in 2018.
Inspired by their dad’s enthusiasm for running, our sons Brendan and Thomas decided to forgo football for cross country, and in ninth and seventh grade, respectively, joined the Larimore High School team. The two also went out for track and field.
Ellen followed in her dad’s and older brothers’ footsteps, running elementary mile races when they were held at her brothers’ high school cross country meets, and joining the high school cross country and track teams in seventh grade.
During the summers of their high school years, all three children ran training runs with Brian and entered 5K races in their age groups. In the fall, Brain ran with their cross country teams and, in the spring, did running workouts with the track teams.
This past spring Brian was the assistant Larimore High School track coach, focusing on the distance runners, including Ellen. He led by example, running speed workouts on the track and more than a hundred miles on the gravel roads with the distance runners.
Ellen, who was the youngest when Brian started running, has logged the most miles with her dad, and the two have been a common sight for the past six years on the gravel roads in our neighborhood . This past winter, except for a cold spell in February, Brian and Ellen ran at least three miles, and as many as 10, four days a week. On days when the wind was brutal, they ran with it until they reached their mileage goal, then I picked them up in the car and brought them home.
The dedication my husband, sons and daughter have to running has paid off in many first-place medals for Brian and successful cross country and track seasons for Brendan, Thomas and Ellen. I am proud of their outstanding accomplishments, but what makes me even happier is the bond they have developed.
Over their years of running together, Brian has given our children one of the most important gifts that a father can bestow on them – the gift of time. The thousands of hours they have spent together in all kinds of weather on surfaces from gravel roads, to tracks to state park trails, has made memories that they never will forget.
Brian’s examples of hard work, perseverance and the fortitude to overcome the mental and physical challenges runners face also are invaluable lessons, as is his humble attitude. Running with their dad also has made our children aware of the benefits of being fit, which is an important lifelong health lesson.
Meanwhile, Brian lives his belief that success should be made evident by showing, not telling, and Brendan, Thomas and Ellen emulate that in their own lives, by not verbally overestimating how well they expect to do when asked before an event about their chances of winning, or afterwards, bragging about how they did when they placed high or won.
During this month of June when we mark Father’s Day, I’m blessed that I married a man who our children and I can wholeheartedly celebrate. In the race called life, that makes Brian an even bigger winner in my eyes.
Ann Bailey is a Grand Forks Herald reporter who also writes a personal column twice each month.