Article Archive >> Community

On Running: A Nice Surprise

On Running
A Nice Surprise

I didn't recognize the name of the sender, but the postmark showed that it was from Pittsburg. Whatever was inside, it had traveled more than 200 miles to reach me.
The card contained a hand-written note from the Mother of a runner I coach. She told me that she enjoyed my column and expressed appreciation for my support of her daughter's running. It was a nice surprise.
I first met her daughter, Danielle, when she joined the Flying Feet Summer Running program this year. She had been running for a while, but not as regularly and she wanted to. Through the summer, her mileage increased every week and she surpassed her own goal. It was a pleasure watching her fitness improve and her love for running grow.
When Danielle joined the fall program I was impressed to learn that she wanted to run a ten-mile race. It was a lofty goal for someone with her limited running experience, but it didn't take long to realize that she was up to the challenge.
When I told Danielle about the note, I began to understand why her Mother had such appreciation for my running programs. Danielle's father had been diagnosed with lung cancer when she was just sixteen years old and from her Mom's perspective, running was a means to a long, healthy life.
Her father had been a strong provider - a driven man. He worked long hours to achieve success. It was only in the months of his illness that Danielle had gotten to know him well. She came to admire his strength and his sense of humor, and then he was gone.
To avoid the pain, Danielle immersed herself in the hard work of a student. It was only after college that life forced her to slow down and deal with the loss. That's when she started to run.
Running gave her peaceful time to reflect. She began feeling better physically and emotionally. And, most surprisingly, there were times when she felt her Dad running beside her, as if he were finally there again, encouraging her along.
I have to wonder if he somehow planted the idea - to run ten miles. Maybe, he understood that his daughter needed a goal to pursue. Maybe, he wanted her to discover her own full potential. Perhaps he wants her to experience life, in ways he never could.
It traveled 200 miles to reach me, a note that delivered a story I didn't understand at first.
We all have a story, don't we? For most of us, it speaks of challenge. Life is never easy, even for the most fortunate among us. I've come to realize that this is how it's supposed to be. It is only through struggle that we grow.
Danielle has discovered what many runners have learned before her - running strengthens a spirit. It builds courage. It prepares a person for the challenges of life.
As she crossed the finish line, the soul of a man with nicotine-black lungs breathed once again to whisper a message of love into the heart of his daughter. Now, she runs on with a sense of satisfaction, finally knowing how proud he's always been.

Dave Griffin writes a bi-weekly running column and offers coaching to high school and adult runners of all levels. Contact Dave at

Printable version

<< back to Articles on Community
<< back to All Articles