A blog by runners. For runners.

Runner’s Column: time to be thankful

Rob Haneisen and his son Isaac, 10, high-five before their races on October 31 in Ashland, Mass.

Rob Haneisen and his son Isaac, 10, high-five before their races on October 31 in Ashland, Mass.

Thanksgiving is one of the most popular times of the year for running. Nearly every community has a 5K (or longer) turkey trot either on the actual holiday or in the weekends that frame it.

Many of these races raise money for charities and local scholarship funds. The first race I ever ran in was the 2012 Slattery’s Turkey Trot in Fitchburg, Mass. – a semi-tough, hilly 5-miler that usually gets 600-800 runners each year, including some pretty talented athletes (winning time is usually sub-25 minutes!) lured by prize money. The race also raises money for a local scholarship fund.

I think it’s no coincidence that Thanksgiving races are popular with runners because we have so much to be thankful for. We race and run to feel alive. To feel a sense of connection and accomplishment. And – if we pause between rapid breaths to realize the significance of what we are doing –we will see that each step is made possible by so much more than our training and will.

As runners, it’s time to give thanks. So, here’s what I am thankful for. I ask that you leave comments about what you are thankful for at the end of this column so that others in this community can be inspired and encouraged.

  1. FAMILY: Every dad wants to connect with their child in a common and bonding experience. Often this means the child taking up the father’s hobby or sport, to follow in his footsteps. Fathers relish this, we crave it. Our role as fathers is to serve as an example for what our sons aspire to be on some level, especially with sports. When my son was born with Down syndrome and was also later diagnosed with autism, I thought that many of the preconceived notions of what my fatherhood would be like would not come true. My inner vocabulary was flooded with all of the wouldn’ts and couldn’ts attached to my son. The truth is, no parent gets their dream child and your child will find ways – with your help – to connect and impress you. On October 31, my 10-year-old son ran his first race in a public event (a mile fun run on a day that I ran a half marathon in Ashland, Mass.). I cheered him at finish lines for Special Olympics sprints before but this was an event that he received a bib number and a prize for running – just like daddy. We put on our bibs together before the race and I could see in his eyes the connection he made about what he was doing as he gave me a high-five and set off for his start line with my wife and sister-in-law. I’ve written before about how important it is to have family support as a runner but on this day I saw what the real culmination of family support can do for a runner who had plenty of doubters in front of him. I am thankful for the lessons in perseverance my son has taught me.
  2. COMMUNITY: In the course of writing these articles for WalkJogRun and connecting with other runners on social media I’ve gained an immeasurable amount of knowledge. Many people have been generous with their time and eager to share. I am thankful for the openness of the community of runners, the support by many who forgive my newness to the sport, and those that welcome my insights.
  3. HERITAGE: I am not built like a traditional distance runner. I’m short and slightly heavier built in my upper body than is considered normal for distance running. I attribute this to my Scottish and German ancestry and I believe that this stock has given me the ability to tackle hill running with strength and willpower, and to run in the cold damp conditions that tend to dominate the weather in north-central Massachusetts for much of the year. I imagine my ancestors trudging along Scottish moors or traversing Bavarian highlands and can’t help but think their struggles and gained fortitude has trickled down into the blood that pumps though my body when I run.
  4. TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION: I’m not sure what wave we are currently in for running popularity but this wave, I believe, is the best one. The volume of information available on the Internet, through running clubs and other runners, mass media including magazines and books is staggering. The development of apparel and footwear, electronic gadgets and support devices means one thing: anyone can run and anyone can improve their running.

So what are you thankful for?

Written by Rob Haneisen.