Sometimes I think I run for the competition....with myself and with others... and sometimes I think I run to socialize with friends. I could also rationalize that I run to enjoy nature. There are many good reasons to run, but today I was reminded of why I really run. I run for health reasons. Sure, many people run to stay healthy and in shape. It makes sense, right? I think my health reasons are specific to a concern I've had for years now, and I was rudely reminded of it today.
Today, unfortunately, after a great 3 hour run at the reservoir with some friends, I was soberingly reminded of why I run when I received a voicemail from my Mom indicating that she was on her way to the hospital with my Dad. He had chest pain and had lost feeling in his arm. After some tests, it was confirmed that he had experienced a heart attack. Fortunately, it was not severe, but the doctors have indicated that there is some muscle damage. The pain and numbness are gone, but he's going through more tests to determine the next steps.
My first reaction was anger. Anger because his father, my grandfather, had several heart attacks and strokes and was paralyzed on one side for the last 10 or so years of his life. I worked at my Dad's shop in those days which was at my grandparents house, so I had lunch with my grandparents on many of those days. It was hard to watch my grandfather struggle and eventually decline. It was hard for everyone involved, and those memories are etched in my mind forever. I decided I didn't want to have the same experience in my life, and I know my Dad didn't want to go through that process either. Unfortunately, I think our approach to dealing with that concern has been very different.
I really started to pay attention to my health and stress level in my early 20's when I would get stressed to the point where it would affect me physically. I knew I was wired like my Dad and his Dad, and I also knew that I needed to get my stress under control before it killed me. So, I started running. I had run in high school, but did not have the discipline, ability, or desire to perform at the highest level on our track team, so I did it more for the socialization. Now, I was running to stay healthy and keep my stress under control. It worked, and I was hooked. I started runing by myself, then with a neighbor. After awhile, I joined some friends at work for lunchtime runs. I was getting faster, and stress-induced physical pains were no longer an issue. I was having fun, letting go of stress, and feeling good about life. It's become part of my regular routine, and my quality of life has been better because of it.
In the late 70's and early 80's people really didn't know all the reasons for heart disease. My grandfather's generation didn't worry about eating healthy or getting exercise. Only recently have we realized that heart disease can be avoided through serious diet and exercise.
Unfortunately, my Dad does not take diet and exercise seriously. Part of him knows the right thing to do for his health, but he also grew up in the generation that thinks there is a pill to cure everything. To make things worse, he's the type of person that cannot be told how to do something.
So, I knew I would be getting that phone call someday. I've dreaded the day I would get the call, and was actually happy that this one was just a warning. I hope and pray that this is a wake up call for my Dad, and this will bring on a lifestyle change for him that will keep him with us longer.
I love my Dad, and will love him regardless of whether I agree with his decisions. I just hope we have more time together. He recently became a great grandfather, and it would be great if he could get to know my granddaughter, Maliyah, and watch her grow.
As for me, I wonder whether there is a life-limited part inside me that has been passed down from generation to generation or whether all my running and diet will help extend my life a few more years. It would be nice to stick around a bit longer, but I will run regardless. Running has improved my health and quality of life. It has enabled me to form bonds with people and accomplish more than I ever imagined.
So, my dear friends, enjoy your run this week or do whatever helps keep you stay in balance, and take a moment to put my Dad in your thoughts and prayers. I appreciate it.