By Lisa Talbot Lundrigan, MAMe and Dad after the 2013 Boston Marathon
One day, out of the blue, my dad showed up. I was about 8 years old or so. He’d been there all along actually, living in the house with us, caught up in a gambling addiction that financially and emotionally decimated our family. But that is not the man I think of as my father. That man was living a lie, was overweight, was smoking, and was focused on feeding his addiction. That man hit rock bottom and began a twelve step recovery program. And the man who was born at that time decided that running would be part of his plan to change everything about his lifestyle.
And so, this new man, who was still living in the body of a 35 year old overweight smoker, began a running program at our local track. My mother and I would go with him, joining in as he ran a lap, waiting while he smoked a cigarette, and then joining him again for the next lap. It was as simple as that. And over time, day after day, the cigarette breaks became fewer, the laps became bigger, and my dad, athletic and disciplined, emerged. In his first road race, even the town ambulance finished ahead of him. It didn’t matter. He kept running. In the running boom of the 70’s he found his passion, he found his truer self. He became the man I most admire.
I spent my childhood and teens in the company of runners. Dad raced often. He marathoned twenty times; including six Boston Marathons. He achieved success as a runner, and remarkable success as a man. He rose to prominence in his profession. He became a leader in our community. He helped countless people at the beginning of their journey to be better versions of themselves. One of those people was me.
A sweaty mess after my 10k, with my Dad and Son.
In the early 90s, after having been overweight myself, I lost a significant amount of weight in mostly healthy ways before becoming caught up in the devastating disease of anorexia. I had no desire to follow in my father’s running footsteps at the time. In fact, he and I had become distant, our relationship strained by his divorce from my mother; a divorce that was likely inevitable and healthy for both of them in retrospect. Almost accidentally, I began running and I liked it. I was living in San Diego at the time, where nobody knew me as Ed Talbot’s daughter. I ran pre-dawn, just like him. I preferred longer distances, just like him. And miraculously, I found a path out of self-destruction in running, just like him. Running became important enough to me that I had to eat enough to continue to do it. And that, it turned out, was enough to keep me alive. After a couple of years I began fantasizing about running a marathon and turned to my dad, who was still in Massachusetts, for guidance. Conversations that began about a training plan turned into conversations about our lives and goals. After an overuse injury derailed my first marathon plan, I regrouped and set my sights on the 100th Boston Marathon, the people’s race. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to run my first ever marathon in Boston that year and my father was waiting for me at the finish line. As I hugged him I blurted out “I want to do it again!”
And I have. I’ve run other marathons since then, including this year’s Boston. I’ve also had two perfectly healthy children in my 40s and I ran until the day they were each born. For the past twenty two years, running has been the most stable thing in my life; the thing that grounds and soothes me. I love watching new runners get caught up in the joy of the sport. I love that my kids know me as a person who gets up before the sun does to run. And I love that I am a part of a running community; that my solitary pre-dawn footsteps are connected with every one of your footsteps. And it all began with that overweight man on the track who one day decided that enough was enough.
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