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

Act of Random Kindness (ARKs)

CBUS Dads blogger Matthew Barnes and his boys delivered Acts of Random Kindness in Downtown Columbus and Short North.

I try to set a good example with my boys by presenting them with opportunities for learning and moments for reflection. I want to show them what it means to be a good person and how to care for others by giving of your time and whatever extras you might have. Be that food, clothes, money, whatever. I want them to know that every little bit counts. I truly believe in the power of community and helping those in need. I also want my boys to grow up grateful for the opportunities and privileges they have.

On weekends when they’re with me, we plan a portion of our time to go out and make an ARK (Act of Random Kindness). This past weekend when I got them after school we sat around the kitchen island and wrote 60+ “nice notes”. Each note was inscribed with a heart felt compliment to another person. Things like, “you’re a gift to the world”, “The world loves you”, and “Stay awesome.”

When it was all said and done we stuffed our pockets with all the “nice notes”, harnessed up Harvey our scruffy pup, and headed out on the town. We walked from downtown to the Short North passing out our letters of encouragement to anyone willing to accept them. Which happened to be almost everyone. The boys were so poised and full of confidence. As a father, I was beaming with pride just to witness their actions. Each person that took a note quickly read it and graciously thanked the boys for it. On several occasions I watched people light up and walk away with more life in their step. I want my boys to know that with even simple acts of kindness you can change the course of someone’s day, that by being a force for good in this world you can spread the light into the hearts of everyone.

The boys handed notes to women wearing long fur coats and high heels, they handed them to popped collar college boys, to officers, to people holding signs asking for help, to people at tables inside restaurants. One of the street performers that my son handed a note to said that he would keep his letter forever. I watched a guy try to give my son a dollar for the note and my son told him that the money wasn’t necessary. They handed them to anyone willing to accept them without being selective. One thing I noticed about their interactions with the people on the street was that they didn’t choose any one style of person. They treated everyone equally with dutiful kindness and respect. I did my best to not over coach them and to keep a low profile. I wanted this to be their endeavor. And it was, fully and whole heartedly. They went out of their way to make sure that the people in their community felt welcome and appreciated. Which I believe to be a prevailing trend in the years ahead. On our way back we passed a handful of the people that were given notes, and their attitude was still noticeably uplifted. They remembered the boys and even reiterated their gratitude. Those two dudes are already at the forefront, setting an example of true leadership, backed by the service required to be seen as trustworthy and honest young men. I know they will take these moments with them for the rest of their lives, and I’m glad it’s happening right here in Columbus, Ohio.

When we got back to my apartment, we hovered over a hot bowl of steamed vegetables and some tortilla chips and shared our thoughts about the experience. Both boys echoed the sentiment that it made them feel “really good” to spread kindness.  We talked about how giving is really the true gift in all of it. We also talked about how when people reject their kindness, it has nothing to do with the person doing the giving, the other person just isn’t ready or willing to receive and that they are missing out on the gift of gratitude. We spoke about the cyclical nature of giving and receiving. When you give, it is a gift of joy for yourself and when you receive it is a moment for gratitude for the other. Both of which create love in your heart. The last thing we talked about before drifting off to sleep that night was how we wished there were more things like it happening in the world.

We’ll be sure to keep you all posted on our next adventure out. Perhaps you’ll join in on the fun!

Until then, may your Thanksgiving festivities be filled with joy and gratitude.

With love.

By Matthew Barnes, Contributor