Whether you’re an Olympian or hitting the pavement training for your first 5K, becoming a parent changes you as a runner. For dads the shift happens rather suddenly, some might even say they weren’t prepared for how becoming a father would change their perspective and others discovered running because they became a parent. For many lacing up and hitting the roads and trails has been a way through and forward many challenges. In honour of Father’s Day, we rounded up dads who are elite runners and ones who came into running later in life to find out how being a dad changed everything. In fatherhood, and running here’s what they had to share and how they are all finding joy every step of the way.
“Being a dad has changed my perspective of myself and my running. Before having kids my identity was very much tied to being a runner. Kids live very much in the moment and can really help provide a good perspective. For me now, I can really separate my running from my family life when I need to. Prior to kids I would dwell a lot on the finer details of training; my exact splits in workouts, the total mileage in a given week, etc and sometimes that would greatly impact my mood and my overall outlook on things. Being a dad when you walk in the door from a workout, good or bad, it doesn’t really matter to the kids. They simply want to hang out with their dad, regardless of whether I ran 3:00/km pace or 6:00/km pace on my run. But it’s also nice to be able to share the sport with my kids. Getting back to the simplicity of the activity of running and enjoying movement is really what running is all about. And when I run with the kiddos I’m really reminded of that. They get such joy from just running; it’s not about the time on the watch or the place you finish.”–Dylan Wykes, Canadian Olympian, Ottawa, Ont.
“As a dad who battles chronic illness (Diabetes and Crohn’s Disease), I offer my boys a perspective in life that I hope they can continue to carry forward in their own lives. My boys support me on my bad days where a weekend can be spent resting and healing. They also know that a few days later, I am back on the road, pushing myself and making them cheer, wonder in awe, and give high fives all around. I am a firm believer that a happy parent makes for the best parent. For me, happiness includes running and it gives me time for myself, to recharge and approach single parenting with renewed energy. Through my running and cycling, I hope to set a great example for my boys and to teach them about dedication, perseverance, and that our struggles in life do not define us or set our limits. To all the dads out there, Happy Father’s Day. Let’s continue to be amazing examples for the little people in our lives.” —Mark Hanlon, Kewsick, Ont.
“As someone who was not very active prior to starting to run three years ago, running has helped me become a better parent in a couple ways. Joining the vibrant & supportive Toronto running community later in life, my family and I are amazed that in three short years I have already run several races ranging from 5K to 42.2K. This level of physical activity helps me keep up with my energetic nine-year-old daughter and be a positive role model for staying active and working towards a goal. My daughter refers to my finisher medals as gold medals. In her mind I am an Olympian. As a parent, one of my fondest running memories was my daughter running the Oasis Zoo Cubs Run because she wanted a gold medal of her own. Last year at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, I could hear my daughter’s voice so clearly over the thousands of people in attendance cheering me on as I crossed the finish line of my first marathon. As my interest in running has evolved, I read more frequently it be a more informed runner. It’s common for the two of us to relax at the end of the day and read together. I can say with certainty, that running has helped me become a better parent by inspiring my daughter to be involved in sport and to continuously learn.” –James Durling, Toronto, Ont.
“Becoming a parent has changed my running for the better. Having little ones running around like dinosaurs and constantly asking you to play with them or yelling for a snack, forces you to be more organized with training, meal prep, sleep, and mobility. With children, you are forced to have it planned or it doesn’t happen. Before becoming a dad, missing a run or having a bad workout would have put me in a bad mood. Now I am happy and thankful just to be out there. If I can’t get a workout in, I don’t let it ruin my day. I have also found my motivation has changed. I was always focused on goals and races and while that drive is still there, now the focus is more on my physical and mental health and being a positive role model for my boys. This new focus makes running easier to lace up even when the weather is bad or when I don’t have a race to train for. When I am running, I am more organized, I can let go, I feel better and think more clearly! Being well and being a good parent go hand in hand. I think many would agree, without running parenting would feel a lot tougher.” –Kris Sheppard, Co- Founder The Runner’s Academy, Toronto, Ont.
“Being a distance runner I’ve learned patience, which is great to have when raising kids. Having kids has helped me put running into perspective. Running isn’t as high on my importance list anymore, that helps take some stress away. You can’t dwell on a sub-par race when you get home to a busy house.”–Reid Coolsaet, Canadian Olympian, Hamilton, Ont.
“Running has created a forum for me to spend time with my girls, to teach them life lessons and to lead by example. When my girls were young, we ran all summer in anticipation of the upcoming cross-country season. Running on the trails together was a shared growth experience I will always cherish. As the years moved on, running served the purpose of cross training for other sports. Teaching my girls grit and determination while doing hill-repeats at Sunnidale Park in Barrie helped them understand how to push forward in other areas of their lives. I was lucky enough to run shoulder-to-shoulder with my daughters as they learned that a dad who practiced what he preached. They saw me always work hard and run the road less travelled. Whether in my running shoes or corporate dress ones, my girls always knew I’d go the extra mile. This Father’s Day, I’m thankful for running but I’m even more thankful for the time it gave me with my girls.”–Mark Gray, Waterloo Ont.
“I found running in the past 7 years and my biggest motivation for starting were my two girls. Running, fitness and play is at the core of how we hangout as a family. From bike rides to hiking to family runs to playing organized sports like volleyball and basketball, we are a family that has trouble staying still for too long. Running helps me to stay focused on a healthy routine and make consciously better decisions for myself and my family. I want my girls to look to my running pursuits and accomplishments as proof that no matter when you start something, if you apply yourself and work hard, you’ll find success. I’m thankful every Father’s Day for the opportunity to celebrate being these amazing girls father.–Jay West