Dead Last Has Never Felt Like Such a Victory

My road to last place started on New Year’s Day.  Even though I wrote about the importance of being active, I wasn’t, and it ballooned (literally and figuratively) into a big problem.

I could blame running around with kids , driving to Athens and a host of other things. The fact is I wasn’t disciplined or accountable to me, my wife, the kids, or anyone else for that matter.

During one of those drives to Athens, I heard a podcast that addressed pain. Pain stinks. Pain is also inevitable. Would you rather be in pain waking up early in the morning and taking care of yourself or be in pain from the health challenges of inactivity and fear of not being there for your kids one day? One will happen. Which will you pick?

On 33 East near the Lancaster bypass, Project 200 was born. I was going to get to 200 pounds in 2018 for me, Leah, William, and everyone else who mattered in my life.

  • How much would I have to lose?
  • How long would it take?
  • How would I do this while still being the same parent to Leah and Will?

I had no idea.

The first question was answered on New Year’s Day when I stepped on scale. I needed to drop 60 pounds to make Project 200 a success. 60 pounds. Seriously, how did that happen?

The pain I felt from seeing that number motivated me to move; the pain of complex division then motivated me to open Excel. If I lost 1.2 pounds per week, I would meet my Project 200 goal in December. I had no clue how to lose 60 pounds (seriously, how did that happen). I thought I could find a way to lose 1.2 pounds per week.

Hello darkness my old friend.
I didn’t want to sacrifice time with the kids; so, my first plan to was to wake up an hour earlier and run. This plan stunk. I had no energy, could barely run a mile without stopping and felt terrible. That’s when a concept from Heather Whaling popped up on my feed and changed my perspective.

Design your day.
We live in a 24/7 world; make it your own. I still woke up early but worked for an hour instead. This freed up time in the afternoon to run and spend the same amount of time with Leah and Will. As an added plus, I also didn’t walk around like a zombie. My time with the kids has higher quality.

Weight started to come off, until our family trip to Disney where a combination of sugar, meat, sugar, beer, and more sugar erased my gains. I lost it. Then I went to LoseIt.

It’s 40 bucks a year, and I’m a cheap parent who would prefer to spend that money on Pokemon cards and Power Ranger accessories for the kids. I didn’t want to spend the money on me but realized the financial pain (which really isn’t that painful) was more tolerable than the number on my scale. Tracking what you eat makes you accountable. Being Type A hyper-competitive made me want to beat myself.

I quickly learned what to eat and not eat and realized my diet best resembled a grease fire inside of a dumpster fire. We pack healthy food for our kids daily. Why not do the same for ourselves? Changes took place. I didn’t stop eating food and rely solely on kale smoothies; I did make sure I ran a few extra minutes if I was going out for wings and beer because wings and beer are delicious. Nachos too.

Results started to show on the scale and clock; I started running longer and faster distances. The kids noticed and made sure I kept going. I could be better and healthier parent at the same time. Plus, results arrived in ways I didn’t expect.

Paying It Forward
I run faster with other people around; so, I started signing up for races. Project 200 helped support food pantries, breast cancer research and kids with Down Syndrome. Dads always complain about a lack of time. Racing helped me help others while helping myself.

It also gave me a chance to show Leah and Will how activities can help others. They saw kids with disabilities achieve and learned how cancer impacted our family. I even pushed Will for one 5K, and Leah (at 7) ran with me the entire way. Plus, both went to sleep on time that night. Double bonus.

Pounding Pavement
Project 200 is way ahead of schedule, but it’s not complete. The latest stop on the journey was a Thursday night 10k in Dublin. I beat my goal by 3 minutes and immediately went to a computer to see where I placed. The results were telling.

  • Dead last in my age range!
  • Next to last overall!

I had three immediate reactions. The first involved words I can’t use in this blog. The second was “Good for me.” Hundreds participated in the event. Less than 20 did the 10k. The final thought was how I needed to block a few hours to write a blog about this.

I haven’t told anyone about Project 200 prior to this post. Wife, parents, friends, kids, random strangers. Nobody. I was embarrassed with where I was and didn’t want anyone to know. That pain now motivates me to do more, and if it helps one dad think about ways to better himself, even better.

I always tell my kids the only race you ever really run is against yourself. Even though I finished dead last, Leah and Will said they were proud I finished. They listened to my advice. Shouldn’t I? I may have finished dead last, but when you considered where I started, this sure looks like a victory.

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-By Dan Farkas, Contributor


Inside the Mind of a Dad Turned Runner

Are you ready? (Not really)

Get set! (I’m still not really ready)

Go! (Like now….)

There’s who you are in life and what you do. I’m Leah and Will’s dad. When in doubt, they take priority. It’s what parents do, right?

This commitment comes with consequences. In my case, it was a lack of commitment when it came to exercise. In short, I stopped.

So when my wife asked me to run a Turkey Trot, I played the “avoid the question and hope she would forget” card. Ten days prior to the race, she informed me that we were signing up for the race, even though I hadn’t ran in months. So much for avoiding the question.

Thank goodness my ploy failed. The immediate time before, during and after the race reminded me a great deal about the realities of being a dad.

The Before:

One of these things is not like the other. My sister-in-law usually finishes second or third in her age group. My nephew can hit a baseball 350 feet and tech me about SnapChat. My wife has fashion sense.


This photo made me realize I really am turning into my dad. I never had much fashion sense, but good gracious what was I thinking?

  • The jacket is from my last television job in 2007
  • The ear warmer came from the trunk of our minivan

Then there was the fake TV anchorman smile. Deep down I was horrified. I crammed like a college student during exam week in the hopes to boost my running acumen, only to realize I somehow lost it in the midst of having two kids, driving an hour-and-a-half to teach twice a week and trying to keep consulting work in check. It’s easy to let yourself go. It’s important to get yourself back.

Was I ready? (No)

Did I know how to get set? (Not particularly)

Go. (Here goes nothing)

The During:

As parents, we learn to expect the unexpected. This helped deal with the realities of a rookie runner.

I had no idea cold air could impact a human this much. Running on a treadmill at the gym is boring but predictable. I have a hot shower 100 feet away and can hop in the sauna at a moment’s notice.

Running outside made me feel like I was being stabbed in the lungs for two miles. And while the water station was nice, I felt more frozen than Olaf on the North Mountain.

That’s said, sometimes you just have to let it go. You can’t control what you can’t control. Hills suck. I couldn’t fix that problem. I could spend a mile of the race looking at people’s yards and feeling better about the mulch situation at our home. Really, I’m turning into my dad.

You’re also never alone: About 400 people participated in the race. I believe 384 may have passed me. I was floored by how many people encouraged me to keep going and how I thought of my kids being proud of their dad for doing something different. And as I felt like pure goo in the final quarter mile, this song came on my phone and made me realize a higher power had my back. Of all the songs that could pop up, this is the one. Seriously.

The After:

The first thing I looked at was the clock. I bet my nephew I could beat his time if he gave me 10 minutes. I didn’t realize he could haul through one of these in 23 or 24 minutes. I lost by 8 seconds. Eight stupid seconds. Leah and Will were convinced I had no chance and got a kick out me losing.

They also got a kick out of me trying. As parents, we just want our kids to try. Soccer. Asparagus. Sleeping without a light. If they like it, great. If not, at least they know it’s OK to try something new.

We tell our kids to try things all the time; as parents shouldn’t we live that notion? Running this race made me feel like my best wisdom comes from actions, not words. Even my teenage nephew, who hasn’t stopped mocking my jacket, hair and car, congratulated me on the effort.

I ran two days later, inside of course. I knocked four minutes off my time with the hopes of avenging my holiday loss. The only difference was I wore an Homage shirt to feel a little cooler in my skin. Am I born to run? No. Am I here to be a dad? Yes. If running and being active makes me better at that, then I guess there are some new answers to old questions.

Am I ready? (We’ll get there)

Get set! (If you say so)

Go! (OK)

By Dan Farkas, Guest Contributor