Pittsburgh Marathon Morning, 2016.  Photo by Karen Novak

Sometimes we think things are meant to be, and they are. Just not in the way we think.

In 2009, I started running. Previously, my running experience was limited to doing suicides on the tennis court, and laps around the gym for back row attacks (if you’re not a sports person, that’s okay.  Suffice it to say in my life running was punishment for when I messed up.)

But as I said, I started running. I was long past playing high school sports, and sitting in an office all day wasn’t doing much for my body.  I enjoy long walks after dinner, but decided to step up my efforts and joined a gym.  Overwhelmed by all the free weights, machines, and Pilates classes, I started running on the treadmill.

It was easy. It was effective.  I was hooked.

I trained for races. I adhered to a strict schedule.  I skipped work happy hours.  I took my running outside.  I ran a 10k, then another.  I signed up for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon.

I did what most beginners do: I pushed too hard, too fast.  I started feeling pain in my foot a week before the half marathon, but I pushed through.  Finishing the race was one of the proudest moments of my life.  Then I spent the next two months in physical therapy rehabbing the stretched and strained ligaments in my right foot.  And if you’ve had a stretched or strained anything I probably don’t have to tell you that seven years later I still feel the pain from time to time.

After the race, my love affair with running burned out as quickly as it began. Oh sure, I tried to rekindle the romance a few times, but eventually I had to face the facts.  Running had been a one-night stand.  I went crawling back to walking and yoga and we’ve been happily married ever since.

But this isn’t where the story ends. My half marathon inspired my dad to take up running.  After a few scary heart episodes, he needed a way to exercise.  He started running.  We talked about how we’d train together.  We even ran in a few small races together, times I treasure.  But I stopped running.  He didn’t.

I hung up my running shoes, but my dad has run eight half marathons and scores of 5 and 10ks. He’s in the best shape of his life and my mom and I are there to cheer him on every May when he lines up at the starting line of the Pittsburgh Half Marathon.  If he keeps running, we’ll get to keep him (and his heart) for a good long time.

I thought running came into my life for me. But I was wrong.  It came into my life for my dad.