California is a state of both tremendous mileage and support. Although my distances in California were not intentional 5K in 50 States runs, they marked the first instances of combining running, travel, friends and family.
The first time I ran in California was a half-marathon in San Francisco with my dad. We have a photograph of us holding hands running across the Golden Gate Bridge. It is a powerful moment both as a photograph and a running memory. It was the first time I thought about how much fun it is to travel and run with people. It was also the first time my dad and I had ever run together. We’d been runners in our own right but having lived in different states as we became runners, we’d never actually gone out for a run together. Sure, we’d talked about pace in preparation for the race but we’d never run side by side. So there we were, father and daughter, standing next to each other at the beginning of 13.1 miles of hills, bridges and fog. I didn’t have a time goal but I did have a personal pace. While climbing a grassy cliff overlooking the bay my dad said he needed to walk for a bit. I was in a good speed zone and bummed to slow down. I had to stop and think that yes, absolutely, one of the greatest joys of running is to speed up to push your limits, to go beyond what you thought was possible and lose yourself in the musical moment. But slowing down for my dad on that cliff on the San Francisco bay showed me an entirely different side of running that is the sole reason many runners take to the streets each day: togetherness. I could have kept on going for my personal best but then I wouldn’t have that photograph of my dad and I holding hands, running across the Golden Gate Bridge. I also wouldn’t know what a gift it is to a fellow runner to slow down, walk or wait. Without that first race with my dad I wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate all the times after that friends and running group teammates slowed down for me– to say nothing of the times friends and teammates slowed down for me and I didn’t know it.
Speed, strength and musical highs are the reasons I get out there. Knowing when to slow down is why I have stayed, and why others have stayed by me.