Dave Griffin On Running: Surrender the Debt

Dave Griffin On Running
Surrender the Debt

I paced in front of the starting line knowing that I was about to run the most important race of my high school career. As I moved to the line, I looked at the runner in lane one, a reigning state champion. We settled onto the line, the gun fired and I was on his shoulder.
We were racing a mile, four laps around the track on a warm, windless day in May. By the time we hit the backstretch, we had already separated ourselves from the rest of the field.
The first lap ended with the starter holding three fingers into the air, but it didn't matter how far we had to go. I was focused on staying just off the lead. I don't remember much about the middle laps, except that I became aware that the entire stadium had stopped to watch. No one was throwing or jumping.
When we entered the final turn, I was still on his shoulder. By this time, he knew exactly what I planned to do, and he made his move earlier than I expected. He had pulled ahead by the time we came off the turn.
When I remember the final straight, I relive it in slow motion. I was wide open, straining to catch up. The roar as we passed in front of the crowd helped me maintain my sprint, and we were stride for stride with twenty yards to go. I felt it when he broke, and my momentum carried me across the line a half a stride ahead.
I lingered near the finish line congratulating my competitors, and then moved toward the infield where I had changed into my racing flats and left a t-shirt behind. As I moved in front of the crowded stands I heard a voice call out above the others, "good job, Dave. Well done." It was the voice of my father.
We all need fans, people who stand up and cheer when we win and stand by us when we lose. Maybe I didn't really understand it then, but the most wonderful thing about that moment was finding the faces of my Mom and Dad in the stands, and sharing it with them.
Like most of us, I had to become a father myself to appreciate my own parents. Now, I know how deep my feelings go. I've learned how much I'm willing to sacrifice for someone else. And, I've come to understand how much they sacrificed for me.
I can't fully explain the impact that running has had on my life since then. I could never be as productive, content, balanced or loved if not for running.
And yet, on the eve of my father's eighty-first birthday, I finally understand that I would never have been as successful, in running or in life, without my greatest fans.
It's impossible to surrender the debt I owe, except to return it to my own kids, and I've tried to do that. Still, I want my parents to know that they have fans too. So today, let them hear a voice calling out over the dim roar of life, my voice, saying "good job, Mom and Dad. Well done."

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