As my training gears up, I’ve been getting in progressively longer runs, and Sunday was a beauty.
A little background: My friend Tim is a Real Athlete, unlike yours truly, a Real Schlub. Oh, I try. I run faithfully and rack up the miles. But even on my best day I’ll never be as fast as Tim on his worst, and whereas I need to run regularly to be able to run at all, Tim can go weeks without a run and then cruise 8 miles like it’s nothing.
So it was both humbling and an honor that Tim — on a lark, no less — decided to go with me (at my pace) on my planned Father’s Day 20 miler.
To celebrate the occasion, I had mapped a special course, a Eucharistic one, in fact. This route would take us to four different Catholic churches in the area, plus, for good measure, the ocean. Being sweaty and stinky, we wouldn’t actually enter the churches of course, but still, we could take consolation in knowing that inside Our Lord abides, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in the tabernacle.
And this being Father’s Day, we would say Our Lord’s prayer — the Our Father — at each stop.
The only problem was that we two fathers would need to get our families to Mass by 9:00 a.m. So, to make this work, we had to start at 5:00. Tim arrived, dark and early, on my front step.
As a special treat, Tim prepared a list of 20 jokes, one to tell at each mile marker. Of course, now I cannot remember any of them, but this really tells you more about the quality of my memory than about the quality of Tim’s jokes.
After St. Sebastian’s, we ran roughly seven miles out to our next stop, Sacred Heart, the church where I was made a godfather for the second time (thanks, Mikey!) and where I made one of my single most transformative confessions. By this point, Tim and I had really hit our stride and were having a good time. The miles just seemed to roll past. Tim had also cleverly hidden a water bottle and some Gatorade powder there the night before, which was a welcomed find.
written before, I’ve generally been a solo runner, but I have recently come to see the blessing of a running buddy. I definitely learned this again on Sunday. It’s amazing how some good conversation can make the time go fast. I was always shocked at how quickly each mile — and joke — would sneak up on us. “It is not good that man should be alone …”
After Sacred Heart, it was seven miles more to Our Lady of the Assumption, the church where we both married our respective wives, and also where Tim’s second daughter was baptized. At this point, 15 miles into our journey, Tim had the good sense to call it quits. Having never run that long a distance before, he knew better than to push his luck by going any farther, although he no doubt surely could have. So we bid farewell, and I continued onward.
ITB injury, started to complain. A few times I had to take walking breaks. By the time I reached the mission, where my family would be arriving in 16 minutes to pick me up, I knew I couldn’t run the remaining two miles to the beach and back and still make it back on time.
So, with a little regret, I scaled back the 20 miler to an 18-mile run. But I wasn’t too upset. It had been a great Father’s Day so far, and the church I was now at had been built by the father of California himself, Bl. Junipero Serra! I sat down, took in the beauty, and thanked God for the gifts of this day, my health, my friendship with Tim, my fatherhood, my own dad, and all the other fathers in my life, and my wonderful family.
And then came the best Father’s Day gift of all — a silver minivan carrying Mary Kate and the kids, who came bearing a bottle of Gatorade and a sesame-seed bagel!
Not a bad way to start a Father’s Day, not bad at all. A pilgrimage by foot, to the Father through the Son in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Two fathers, four churches, 18 miles, 20 jokes, and one glorious morning.
Thanks be to God!