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A Runner’s Diary: The Last Run Before School Starts

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Like most families at this time of the year, my family and I drove my daughter up to college with a packed car and roof rack. We were lucky to get away with not having to rent a U-Haul.

Once we got up to Syracuse, we dropped off her stuff in her apartment, set it up and then went on our way for a mini vacation to Canada.

We arrived in Ottawa late in the day but noticed that there were nice running trails along the river. I asked my daughter if she would jog with me.

“I haven’t been running at all lately,” she said, “I think the last time I ran was a few weeks ago.”

“That doesn’t matter,” I said. “I don’t even know if I can go a mile at this point. I haven’t been running myself and I haven’t really been motivated.”

Hilary Topper and daughterThe next morning, I woke up at 9 a.m. and gently went over to her bed and asked her if she would go with me. She nodded. Moments later, she was out of bed all dressed in her running clothes and ready to go.

When the two of us walked outside the Fairmont Hotel in Ottawa, we thought it would be freezing. Instead it was a beautiful day. The sun was shinning. There were few clouds in the sky and the weather was in the 70’s and breezy.

We walked down a bunch of stairs, went on the trail along the river, stretched a little, and then off we went.

At first we were together and kept the same pace. Then I started to drop off and walked a bit. She kept running and got so far away from me that I started to yell out, “Hey, wait…” but I didn’t.

I almost felt as if it were ironic. Here we were driving her to college and she would be continuing with her life to expand as a person, and here I was in the background. It made me think that although she still needs me, she needs me in a different way. Her distance made me think that my little bird had flown.

I started to think about the book, Love You Forever. It was a children’s book that I loved reading to both of my children. The book is about a mother and a son. It takes place when the boy is a baby and follows the boy through adulthood. It shows the changing relationship between the mother and the child. Then one day the mother is too old and too weak and the boy has a baby of his own to care for. When the boy sees his mother, he picks her up and he sings her a variation of the song that she always sang to him. But this time. he said, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll love you for always as long as I’m living my mommy you will be…” Every time I read the book, I cried.

This run made me think about the book. This run made me cry.

However, it also made me realize how proud I am of the woman that she has become. She only has two years left of college and then she’s off on her own, getting a full time job and making something of her life.

I snapped back to reality and saw my daughter running and running and running. There was no stopping her. She was so far ahead of me and although I walked a little, I still ran a lot and couldn’t catch up with her.

When she turned around, I turned around too and finally caught up to her. She stopped running at the two-mile mark and then we started to talk.

“This is so beautiful,” I said. My daughter agreed. “Let’s go over the bridge,” she said.

I told her I would race her up the stairs. (Stairs has been my nemesis. My trainer loves to make me run up and down the stairs at the gym. The other day, I ran up and down 15 times. I asked him how many steps there were in the Empire State Building. He looked it up and we figured that if I run another 70 times, it would be like I was running up the entire building!)

We both were exhausted after running up the stairs. We crossed over the bridge and she said, “I told you this was worth it.” It was. It was so European-looking, with castle-like buildings in the distance and lovely walking bridges over the lake.

When we got closer to the hotel, she wanted to know if I wanted to cross these small foot bridges that were big enough for one person and extremely scary. I said, “Sure.” Then the two of us noticed that there were boats docked in between the foot bridges. They were actually locks.

As the lock personnel were about to open the bridge, my daughter and I walked across. When we asked the other attendant how to get upstairs, he told us we had to walk back over the bridge. It was one of those 30-second scares that you have in your life. I was panicking but it was over quickly.

After the run, we went back inside the hotel and had breakfast where my daughter ate the “best pancakes she ever tasted in her life.”

It struck me that I had a great summer with her as my running partner and at that very moment, I realized that our bond changed from a “mommy-daughter” relationship to a strong friendship that will continue to flourish as the years go by.

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About Hilary Topper

  • I can relate to your feelings as a parent. That love is forever, and even with my Mom gone now, it is still strong. It seems like you have such a great bond with the running. Good for you, Hilary!

  • Hilary Topper

    Thanks Victor! Appreciate your comments and your support…