He died five weeks before the race. But I needed him that morning. I needed his encouragement. I needed his care.
In the predawn race day darkness, I listened to my dad’s voice, to the voice message he’d left me just before I’d run the Boston Marathon the year prior. “Run well and take good care.”
Because, you see, I couldn't run another marathon by myself. Oh sure, endurance sports can be solitary affairs. But the truth is, we all need one another. We need community.
Now even more than ever.
I'm not a "bumper sticker" or "name on my race bib" kind of guy. But at the Mercedes Marathon that day, I wrote "R.I.P. DAD 1/17/09," purposefully on the back of my racing shirt so it could be seen by the runners.
The compassion shown by my fellow competitors during that marathon, and not the 26 rolling miles, nearly brought me to my knees.
One runner patted me on the shoulder and said "you're making your dad proud." Another remarked "you're brave to be out here so soon." Yet a third said, with tears in his eyes, "nice shirt...makes me think of my dad."
Uplifting. Restorative. Comforting. Empathetic.
But then again, isn't that what a real "community" does? Isn't a vibrant community all of those things? The word "community" comes from the Latin "communitas," or fellowship. And this was on full display that wonderful morning in Birmingham, AL.
Bubba Watson won the 2010 Travelers Championship, his first win on the PGA Tour and the only one his father saw before passing away. Bubba won the Travelers again in 2016 and 2018, donating a combined $300,000 from his two winning purses back to the Greater Hartford community. In 2019, Bubba said "my only event my dad ever saw me win was the Travelers. So this city, this town, this community, is so great to me and my family, and that's really why this love has started."
What community has been great to you? If you have lost touch with it, rejoin it. If you haven't lost touch with it, ratchet up your engagement. If you have no community, look for one, as it will tightly embrace you.
Stay connected to, and involved with, your community. The running community has never let me down. And most assuredly, your community has not, and will not, let you down.
So "take good care" of yourself AND your community.
Carl Ficks helps busy professionals and their teams get back in the fitness game to reduce stress and increase productivity. He practiced law in New Britain for many years and is a proud member of the Generale Ameglio Society. He has run and cycled thousands of miles and competed in dozens of races, so when you're ready to get back in the game, email him at email@example.com.