How Running Has Made Me a Better Dad

90 percent of being a dad is just showing up 
-- Jay, Modern Family

I spent last weekend with my oldest daughter at the San Diego 100 Miler. We left Friday, which was the last day of school for her, and even though her friends were going to the beach to celebrate the last day of 6th grade, she still wanted to leave early Friday afternoon to go set up camp in the Laguna Mountains and help out wherever we could.

As we drove to the mountains, we sang, made jokes, talked about school, talked about the heat and how difficult it was going to be for the runners. For the first of maybe 100 times over the weekend, she thanked me for bringing her camping.

Dads have it pretty easy, we really just need to be there for the soccer games, skateboard competitions, ballet performances, and occasionally take the kids out for a frozen yogurt. You do that stuff, and your kids will look back at the important moments of their life and they will remember that you were there for them. Of course there's more to it than that, but that's what kids remember.

They'll also remember what dad was passionate about. My dad had his work, and when I was growing up, he devoted most of his time to it, but he also involved me. I saw him speak on stage and I would work for him on the weekends, setting up chairs, and various other odd jobs that at the time seemed important. I'm grateful for those memories, and I'm grateful that I was part of his world on those weekends.

My daughter shone last weekend. We hiked a small section of the course on the Pacific Crest Trail, and I told her some stories of my experiences on it. The next day, at the aid station, she poured a welcome stream of ice and cold water down the backs of the struggling runners, made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and cheered them on as they went back out on the hot, dusty trail. It would be too much for most of them.

My friend, John, asked if I could pace him for a short section during the night. Sophie had already made a friend, and I didn't hesitate to leave her in the care of her new friend's parents, Russel and his wife. She helped make chili for the runners who were coming back, tired and defeated, and she was so excited to be there at the finish when Jeff Browning came in for the win just after midnight. She sat with Paul as he continually updated the results page and she followed the progress of the people she had met. Her eyes shone (or maybe they were just bleary from lack of sleep) as she gave me the blow-by-blow accounts after I made it back from my pacing duties.

As we drove home the next day, she thanked me again. And, really, I didn't do much except to expose her to my passion, trail running, and to the kind and generous people who inhabit that world. I can honestly say I don't care if she ever runs an ultra, but I do hope that she remembers the trails, the people, the courage, the lessons, and the energy that surrounds these races. If she does, then I think I've done the other 10% of my job.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Father's Day.

A little video I shot with the family at Elfin Forest Preserve. Thanks to Teva for providing the gear to test out.

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