Today is Day 2 of a series of stories about fitness and grief. Check out the first article here. Today we meet Ryan Knapp, an active Grief Relief Team member who runs in memory of his father. Ryan was 14 when his father died at the age of 42.
My girlfriend Jess is sitting across from me at our favorite coffee shop. I have six drafts of this article half-heartedly written above. I tell her of my current writers block and stare as the cursor blinks next to three words.
Running as therapy.
A runner herself, Jess throws out the oft quoted reasons for running.
- Finding clarity.
- Helping cure depression or feeling blue.
- To remember the life and honor a loved one.
I nod, appreciative of her response, but find that none of those reasons ring my proverbial bell.
Ask 100 runners why they run and you will receive 100 different responses.
Ask me why I run and you’ll receive 100 more.
August 29th will mark the beginning of my 30th year, and August 2nd marked the 15th year without my father. In my moleskin lies a list of five races and five mountain running routes that I want to complete by the time I turn 35. And the theme of my journal goes back to finding the drive to be a competitive athlete, even at age 30. I always tell Jess, “I want to see what I can do.”
“To see what I can do.” In reality, it means I want something to fight for. Running provides me the athletic outlet I need to connect with the feelings I used to have when 6-year-old me rounded third base at the Boys and Girls Club in Tonawanda, N.Y., my father cheering me on in his flat-brimmed hat. Or the jubilation upon scoring the game winning goal in a friendly game of neighborhood street hockey.
My father was far from a runner, but a sportsman he was. From a young age, he taught me how to be an athlete. Sawing down golf clubs, playing hockey in our driveway and serving as all-time quarterback, my dad instilled in me a love for being active. A new Nintendo gathered dust whenever there was daylight, and when night fell, it was just an excuse to get out a flashlight or turn on the garage light for another game of HORSE.
Those who know me understand my newfound and undying love for running in the mountains, something I knew nothing of when I began running in 2010. A move to Colorado on New Year’s Day cemented my need to launch myself headlong into the valleys and onto the peaks of Colorado. I come alive on the mountain, lungs and legs burning on the tough climbs and the gravity induced speed on long, sustained downhills.
2,000 miles and 24 years removed from the Boys and Girls Club, I’m standing at the base of Green Mountain in Boulder. 3,000 feet to climb over three miles will put me at the top. Pain awaits.
Some run to lessen the pain, but I want to feel it. Pushing myself to the limit is a constant reminder I am, in fact, alive. Life isn’t easy, and each mountain to climb reminds me of the work that is still to be done. I begin to push hard uphill, I’m moving through the world, exploring, face full of sweat, on the verge of giving up, thinking if I can continue, if I can go on. I’m almost 30, why am I pushing this hard.
Why does it matter? Why do I hurt?
As long as I am alive, as long as I know that pain is out there, I’ll be running to search it out and to remind myself that living is more than having a pulse.
Ryan Knapp is a running/triathlon coach and the founder of Miles to Go Endurance. Empowering athletes of all levels and ages to unleash their physical talent and potential, he is passionate about designing personalized training programs that uniquely challenge each individual’s spirit, mind and body. Ryan blogs at ryanjknapp.com, milestogoendurance.com and therunchat.com. You can also find him on Twitter.