Monday, April 04, 2016

Shared pastimes keep treasured memories fresh

From Saturday's Briefing:

Around the same time I gave birth to our first baby, my husband started running. And, in typical Steve fashion, he wasn’t content to run a little: He started training for a marathon.
At the time, I found it slightly inconvenient. I was a brand-new momma, home all day with this tiny person who needed constant attention. Brand-new dad would come home from work, trade his suits for shorts and his Allen Edmonds for Asics, and sprint back out the door.
The more Steve ran, the more I realized that he needed to run. He needed time and space to think through problems — or think of nothing at all. He needed an identity separate from the office, separate from home. He needed to set a goal and accomplish it.
Cooper and I were his biggest fans. We’d wait for him on the front lawn, ice water in hand. We watched him finish many races — a whole bunch of 5Ks, a couple of half marathons, a full marathon.
A few years later, when Steve was no longer able to run, I started running instead.
I didn’t love it as much as Steve did, but every time I laced up my shoes, I felt a little closer to him. I understood his passion for the sport a little better. And I regretted that I had waited too long to actually run with him. I didn’t start until after his cancer diagnosis, after his body was too unstable for sustained walking, much less a 3-mile run.
Steve watched me finish a couple of 5Ks and a half marathon before he died.
More important, he watched his Cooper finish a 5K.
Cooper’s first race was in January 2009. He was 7. He ran some of the course, walked the rest. He finished strong, with swift feet and a huge smile despite a biting wind.
We’ve lost count of how many races he’s run since. A whole bunch of 5Ks. Couple of triathlons. Cross-country meets. Track meets.
He gets a little faster every time.
Back in the fall, my 14-year-old set a goal to run a half marathon. So we looked at calendars and local races and registered for the Rock ’n’ Roll Half in Dallas.
For the past three months, he’s added half-marathon training to his already-full plate of freshman classes, band, track, Boy Scouts and chores at home. He would wake at 5:50 a.m. some days to fit in a long run before school. Other days he’d bike home from school, trade his blue jeans for shorts and his sneakers for trainers, and sprint back out the door.
Two weeks ago, on a brisk Sunday morning, we woke long before dawn to drive downtown and join thousands of others prepared to run 13.1 miles — or cheer from the sidewalks.
I hollered, “Go, Cooper!” when the race began. I walked a few blocks over to cheer again at mile 4. I obsessively checked the Find iPhone app to watch his progress as I meandered to the finish line.
I wiggled my way to the front row of spectators and craned my neck, watching for Cooper to turn the corner and sprint toward the finish.
Cooper, March 20, after 13.1 miles
When I finally spotted him, I was speechless. Literally, I could eke out no words of encouragement or congratulations. One word from me and I would have been a blubbering mess. There’s no feeling like watching your child accomplish a lofty goal.
I thought of his daddy’s first race and his final race. I remembered Cooper’s first 5K and the small crowd of friends and family who had gathered to cheer for him. I recalled him training for weeks despite fatigue or cold weather.
Cooper finished strong, with swift feet, a huge smile and a strong time — like he was born to run.

Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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