Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Fri, 03 Jul 2009 12:27:14 -0400

Dad's Day


[Photo by Michael Lebowitz: 2:40 marathoner Stephanie Rothstein slowed down and sat down in tribute to her father.]

On Fathers Day I kept a promise made last year. Once I'd taken care of personal prostate-cancer business, I would start urging other runners to get tested for this disease, start supporting men who were new to it, and start celebrating with the veterans who are winning their medical marathon so far.

My first public role in this effort came at the Prost-8K (one of the great race names, by the way) in Springfield, Oregon. I appeared officially as "master of ceremonies," but really as a beneficiary of early testing and treatment. This was the cause for which folks were running and walking -- and in one case, wheeling: to raise funds for men who couldn't afford the screening.

I spoke briefly about losing a grandfather (on my mother's side) and a surrogate dad (George Sheehan) to this cancer because such testing wasn't available to them. And I told of an uncle (Bob King) and a good friend (Paul Reese) outliving the disease because they took advantage of screening.

During the race I thought of helping the announcers call names. But they were pros who didn't need any help.

Instead my effort was more hands-on. I stood at the end of the finish chute and shook the hand almost everyone, while saying a simple "Good job" or "Thanks for coming." Most knew me not by name but as a PC veteran, identified by a special blue shirt that this brotherhood wore.

One of the last finishers went little noticed, though she normally would have been the fastest woman by in this field. This time she traveled by wheelchair.

I'd seen her at the start with a handwritten message on her shirt: "I love you, Dad." Nothing unusual in that. On this day many entrants carried these sentiments in their heart if not on their shirt.

Only as this woman exited the chute did I see the name printed on her race number and connect it to the runner I'd sometimes seen going four times this fast: Stephanie Rothstein, a 2:40 marathoner and 33-minute 10K runner, who that same week would receive a Roads Scholar grant from the RRCA.

Her father had died, possibly of prostate cancer though I didn't ask, while she was still in high school. She honored him here by going the distance at perhaps her slowest pace ever. For doing this, she made me her fan for life.
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