Full disclosure: I am not a runner. I long tried to be, I wanted to be a runner. I saw people exhausted but happy, having completed their first marathon, I saw their determination and strength; but alas, whenever my feet hit the road I was miserable, counting every minute, every second until I could just walk again. In no-uncertain terms: I hated it.
Such was not the case for my father. Ted Swain, like me, had long tried to be a runner. But instead of my inherent laziness, it was often injury that interceded, forcing him to stop. Throughout my childhood I remember his excitement when he returned from a run, his enthusiasm to get out again, and the eventual upset that was caused by an injury that would force him to stop.
This changed when he finally reached out to the running community. Beginning with several courses on running at the Kenaston Running Room, I watched my normally introverted father socially and athletically flourish. He made friends with new and experienced runners, all of whom encouraged and supported each other. Eventually he became a pace bunny and a regular instructor himself, completing two marathons, and dozens of half-marathons. For Ted, it was never about the time completed: he always said that the only person you were competing against was yourself. Instead, for Ted, running was about community, was about support, and he found that in the Winnipeg running community.
He even tried to extend this to me. Although I certainly inherited Ted’s academic inclinations, he strove to see me running with him as well, and I (grudgingly) acquiesced. Two weeks before Ted died in May 2009 I ran my first and only race with my dad.
My father’s death was sudden and traumatic for those of us he left behind. Dad was a wonderful father who raised me and my sister to believe in ourselves, always offering quiet support that told us in a family full of over-achievers, it was okay to have failings. He instilled in us a love of literature, of learning, and of language. I sometimes think that, had he survived, he might have worn down my defences and may have made me into a runner as well.
He did die, however. Where that was a clear loss for me and my family, it quickly became apparent that the running community had lost something as well: a friend, a mentor to some, and a familiar and supportive face during race season to all. Nine years ago Ted’s Run for Literacy was established, and every year that I could, I have attended. Seeing a growing community of people (specifically young people) becoming active and involved would have made my father very happy. In a greater sense, even though most of those running will never have known my father, it allows him to continue to support a community in which he found so much happiness.
By Natalie Swain