I've been hearing about Smith's Challenge for as long as I've been running but have had prior engagements, been nursing injuries or have simply spaced it entirely year after year. Sounds like I've been avoiding the event, but really (and sadly), I think I've just taken it for granted and nearly did so until it was too late.
Counting today, Smith's Challenge has taken place each and every Father's Day morning for the last 22 years. It's a 10K trail race for men only (don't worry, ladies, Mrs. Smith's Challenge happens every Mother's Day) that rolls its way around Lancaster County Park, finding itself a surprising number of hills and technical stretches for what one would consider a fairly tame municipal park. It definitely lives up to its name, especially on a punishingly hot day like today. There wouldn't be a "tomorrow", however, as this was to be the final installment of the long-running classic (cross your fingers that this proves a false alarm).
I'm not going to bore you (this time) with a point-to-point race report, but I will own up to the fact that I didn't exactly set the course on fire. Yes, this was the first time that I'd actually managed a run since the Laurel Highlands Ultra the weekend prior and, yes, I was battling a pretty nasty warm weather cold all week long. But even with those excuses in hand, I really think my "problem" today was that it was one of those mornings that I was truly content just stretching my legs, embracing the effort and not finding any extra motivation to do anything more than enjoy myself.
The run was one of the most satisfying that I've had in as long as I can remember in a timed "official" event. I had no idea what kind of pace I was managing to maintain and I really couldn't have cared less. I thought about my father. I thought about my being a father. I thought about my kids. I thought about my wife. And I also did a good bit of not thinking about any damn thing except the shared efforts of the other runners and how much I appreciated cold cups of water being handed over every so often by the only women on the course.
Moments after crossing the finished line, I looked up at some of the arriving finishers and recognized a face I don't believe I've seen anywhere but in publicity photos for the book he's written. Christopher McDougall is the author of Born to Run, a fascinating account of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico's Copper Canyons and their culture of running, a scientific look at the mechanics of the human body and the love-hate relationship of modern footwear AND most importantly just a beautiful, inspirational celebration of the allure of running.
It just so happens that Mr. McDougall is also a Lancaster County local who knows a good trail run when he sees one. He also happens, like the rest of us hacks, to need a cold drink after navigating 6.2 miles and I wasn't about to stand in his way. I couldn't help myself, however, from extending a hand (while leaving a clear path to the water table) and thanking him for writing and publishing Born to Run.
I know full well that books aren't written for individual readers, but the best books, I firmly believe, make the reader think that they are. I'm glad I got the chance to express that idea to the author who left me thinking that this one might have been penned for me.
Clambering into the car for the drive home, I knew I'd already had one heck of a Father's Day and hadn't even seen the family yet. The rest of the day was a joy, catching a bit of the World Cup, playing with the girls and enjoying a cookout in my mother's and stepfather's lovely backyard.
The icing on the cake was having Lily hand-color my race bib.
I do other things besides parenting, running (and writing), but nothing else as enthusiastically. I work and sleep quite a bit and believe I'm fairly talented at both. In fact, like it or not, my abilities to parent and (certainly) to run probably lag far behind my capacity to fill my job description and put head to pillow at the end of the day. However, I still only attend to those activities because they enable me to take care of my children and get out and run.
I've also been known to enjoy (in no particular order) a long, long walk in the woods or along an open ridgeline, a good book, the miracle of bees, the mystery of birds, a cold beer, competitive facial hair growing (yes, you read that correctly), live music, recorded music, roaming the country, kayaking, dribbling a basketball and catching a kickball among other things.
I believe that once you've become a parent, it's all too easy to begin taking your partner for granted even if said partner sticks around. My wife has most definitely stuck around and is most definitely not taken for granted. Of all the things mentioned above that I enjoy, I enjoy most of them all the more when shared with Lindsay.