Once a week, my morning run strengthens more than my hamstrings and lung capacity. It nurtures my relationship with the man from whom I inherited the running gene in the first placemy dad.
We've been running buddies for as long as I can remember, crossing the finish line together at kid-friendly fun runs, then grown-up marathons. Roughly a decade ago, when I was 20 and Dad was 48, we began a tradition: Rise early Sunday morning, drive to a trail situated halfway between my Seattle apartment and Dad's home in Stanwood (40 miles away), and ease ourselves into a steady 10-miler.
We were unstoppable, Dad and I, although not in the sense you might expect. We talked about everythingfrom family to politicswhile we ran.
Then, two years ago, I moved, resettling nearly 2,500 miles away in New York.
Not surprisingly, some things have changed. I've learned to navigate the New York subways, decipher a Queens accent, and actually consider a 250-square-foot studio apartment enough space to live in. What hasn't changed? Sunday-morning runs with Dad.
East Coast, 11 a.m. West Coast, 8 a.m. A final chug of water for me. A last gulp of Gatorade for him. In one time zone, a car door slams shut. In another, an apartment door locks. And we're off, our respective cell phone headsets firmly in place.
While Dad lopes past a quaint diner and grazing farm animals, I jog by a few bodegas, a block of crowded tennis courts, and the Brooklyn Bridge. We're running together, united by wireless communication.
"So how are classes going?" I ask. (Dad's getting his Doctor of Pharmacy.) "Good, good," he replies between breaths. "Got a fair amount of reading to do. How's the new job treating you?"
Our tireless chattering makes the minutes tick by like seconds, and before I know it, it's time to turn back. The conversation sobers as I share a friend's struggle with cancer. Dad's quiet while I talk, and I can picture his forehead creased in thought.
As we wind down, it occurs to me that for the majority of this run I really wasn't seeing New YorkI was seeing clusters of cattails and overgrown blackberry bushes...as I ran with Dad.
"So what do you say? Brunch?" I ask him. Minutes later, it's flapjacks for him and a tuna melt for me, just like the old days. Perched in the window of a crowded cafe, I fail to hear the waitress ask, "More coffee for you?" And it's no wonder: I'm almost 2,500 miles away.
How to steal this fit trick
Thanks to cell phone-headsets, you, too, can have a long-distance exercise buddy. Ask your provider about a headset for your phone, or check out Bluetooth wireless technology. If you crave music and conversation when you run, try WiGear iMuffs ($130 to $150): The earphones wrap comfortably around the back of the head and sync up with an iPod and Bluetooth phone, so you can jam to music, pause your player, and answer incoming calls all with a touch of the easy-to-reach button on your right ear. So call a partner and get moving!
Writer Kristen Elde lives in Brooklyn, where she does a lot of running with and without her dad.