In my vast experience as a blogger I have come to learn that the key to a succesful blog is letting your guard down, being vulnerable, and giving people a view from the inside of your soul. In the spirit of full disclosure, the words I am about to type may come as a shock to those of you that know me. So crawl under your computer desk, assume the position, and brace yourself for this honesty bomb:
I have not always been the world-class athlete that I am today.
(insert laugh track here)
There was a time when the finely tuned athletic machine that stands before you today would get winded because it was windy. Hell, I’d get winded eating Wendy’s. And the only “runs” I had ever associated myself with typically came as a side-effect of consuming Wendy’s.
My wife, however, is an avid runner. Shortly after our first year of marriage, in what I can only imagine was an attempt to passive-aggresively murder her new groom (It’s understandable. I would probably try to kill me too if I had to live with me on a daily basis.), she asked me if I wanted to train for and run a half-marathon with her. I was fool enough to say yes.
You have to understand that before this time I had never run much more than a mile in my life. In fact, when I was 16, we were required to run a mile for gym class. I’m pretty sure I still hold my high school’s record for the slowest time ever posted with a 20+ minute mile. Though to be honest, I did spend a good portion of that time jumping off a rope swing into a creek in the woods behind the football stadium with a fellow classmate (and no, that is not some kind of obscure sexual metaphor a la Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl. I really was just jumping in a creek.). Needless to say, running 13.1 miles was an experience I had never really prepared myself for.
My wife and I began our training about three months before the actual race. I like that I wrote “our” training as if it were some kind of benefit to her. Though I was so out of shape that at times she’d have to carry me on her back like Yoda, so she was getting her own sort of work out too. About a month into the training I had gotten to the point where I could go about three miles before having to bust out the defibrillator. I was also, dare I say, beginning to enjoy running.
Then I injured my right knee whilst playing with a frisbee.
After my freak frisbee injury, I was only able to run for about a mile before my knee would just give out. Instead of consulting a physician or a specialist, I did what any card-carrying, lazy sack of manure would do. I did nothing. I quit training, I ate Krispy Kremes, and I forgot all about my one month love affair with running. That was until about two months later when my wife (you know, the one still plotting my demise) reminded me that “she” had a half-marathon to run that weekend. When I reminded her that “we” had a race that weekend, she tried to give me some practical nonsense about how I had barely compiled 13 miles of running in my lifetime and how this was not a good idea (which was her way of tricking my pride into running the damn race… her murder by exercise plan was clicking like clockwork!). I told her Superman does not need training and at 5 am the next morning this guy was off to the races:
Here’s a free lesson to anyone whom would choose to go run 13.1 miles in front of thousands of cheering onlookers without ever training for it. If you want to take it easy, maybe jog the first two or three miles, and walk the rest (which, of course, was my plan), do not dress up as THE MAN of STEEL!!! Shortly after the three-mile mark, already tasting the salty pain of my certain doom, I sent my wife on her way and began to walk the last 10 miles. Red-faced, dripping with sweat, and glossy-eyed I limped along the side of the course as to not get in the way of the real runners. That’s when I heard a voice from the crowd of race day well-wishers that will forever haunt my dreams. A rather large, Johnny Cash-voiced woman looked right at me and bellowed, “Hey Superman! What’s the matter?! Ya’ got Kryptonite in your shorts?!?!”
The weight of public humiliation is greater than any swelling knees or oxygen deprived lungs. With the laughter of the crowd now ringing in my ears, I started to run again. Three miles later, twice as bad-off as I was before, I was ready to find the nearest coffin and/or give up. Then another voice called out. A small boy in the crowd yelled, “You can do it Superman!” Ugh, kiddie-guilt? Thanks a lot Tiny Tim. I kept on running and wouldn’t you know it, every time I tried to quit, someone would yell at Super-me to keep going. I crossed the finish line at just under 2 and 1/2 hours and I basically ran* the whole damn thing!
And then I literally did not walk for four days straight.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. That is, I know what else you’re thinking other than this guy is a dump. You are thinking, what in the wide-wide-world of sports does this have to do with being a stay-at-home dad? Well, here it is. That feeling when I was being heckled about my Kryptonite shorts, the breathless feeling of being in so over your head, so unfit to be in that situation, and yet so motivated to keep on going, is a feeling that I repeatedly feel as a father.
There are times when the 2-year-old is bouncing off the walls he just painted with crayons, while the 5 month old is turning into some baby version of the Incredibly Hungry Hulk, demanding his third bottle of breast milk in a two-hour span as he goes into berserker mode. In these moments of doubt and panic, I can see something in their bright-blue, beautiful, beady little eyes, as they are looking into mine, that says, “What’s the matter Superdad? Ya’ got Kryptonite in your burp cloth?”
I didn’t train my whole life to be a dad and, in terms of full disclosure, I never wanted to be a “stay-at-home” version. There are weak moments, glassy-eyed and out-of-breath-moments, when I just want to walk. Moments when I think about quitting. I always look at my wife like she’s the natural. The natural runner. The natural mother. I think to myself how much better she would be at this than I. In reality, she is not a natural. She just works so damn hard that she makes it look like it’s easy.
In the years since the “Superman” race, my wife has actually trained me up properly and I can now say that I do truly enjoy running. Much in that same way, it is her work ethic that helps my training as a parent. Parenting, like running, takes thought and sweat and most importantly, dedication. It’s more than just showing up and running around like an idiot in a superman t-shirt (words which will likely be written on my tombstone… here lies that idiot who ran around wearing a superman t-shirt).
I never wanted to be a stay-at-home dad. I never wanted to be a runner. Running has become a challenge that I now love. I think the same could be said for my new job.
* “Ran” might be a bit of a generous term, but you know… ran like how a zombie runs.