My dad taught me about running at a young age. He was an incredible athlete during his prime of life, but then at the age of 24 he was diagnosed with Lupus. It’s an autoimmune disease that predominantly affects women. It is very rare in men and therefore, the symptoms are extremely worse. My dad’s doctor gave him until the age of 30 to live. He told my dad not to get married or have kids because he wouldn’t be around long enough to enjoy any part of it. My dad, being the stubborn man he was, didn’t listen to his doctor. He married my mom and had my sister and me. When he lived passed the age of 40, we knew that Lupus wasn’t going to beat him. Unfortunately, the medication he took for the disease made it difficult for him to walk and impossible for him to run. He lived vicariously through my sister and me as we ran track and field throughout high school and college. He often told me how much he would give to be able to run with me again. My entire running career was centered around making him proud.
When I moved to Los Angeles in 2016 after graduating from college in NYC, I signed up for my first marathon, the Los Angeles Marathon. My dad was so excited for me that he bought a plane ticket to come watch my race. On the morning that I was going to pick him up from LAX, I got a call from my mom saying that he had suffered a massive heart attack in his sleep and died that morning. Instead of going to the airport to pick up my dad, I was flying back home to Chicago to attend his funeral. I missed the marathon because his wake was on the same day. Instead of him meeting me at my finish line, I was meeting him at his.
After his death, I stopped running for months. I was too devastated to even move. When the registration for the 2017 Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon surfaced, I decided to sign up on a whim and run the 26.2 miles in dedication of my dad’s memory. I pasted a photo of him on a t-shirt and wore his ashes on a chain around my neck. I ran the entire race with him. Since that day, I’ve taken my dad’s ashes with me on every single run. I came to realize that running is really the only constant in my life. People come and go. Existing in this world is so difficult at times because life is so unpredictable, but the one constant I know I’ll always have is running. And that’s why I run.