Over our repeated trips to the Twin Cities Marathon + 10 Mile, we love meeting so many amazing #motherrunner and hear so many inspirational stories. As we cheered for the marathoners at mile 24 this year, Alana Siebenaler-Ransom, who had just finished the 10 Mile, told me about her running with her dad. I immediately wanted to know more—and am pretty confident you will too. Enjoy!
I do not have the best memory.
To wit: I attended a Cher concert in the late 90s and have no memory of it. I have a college roommate to remind me of the concert and a ticket stub that proves I was there.
No, I was not drunk; I just have a faulty memory.
I do have random childhood memories of my dad, likely because I saw him a lot more than I saw Cher: watching Star Wars in the theatre multiple times (my dad is a sci-fi geek at heart and passed that gene along); barfing in a giant yellow plastic cup in the back of a four-seater airplane while he flew us to Florida; sitting on his shoulders and running up the down escalator at Sears, much to my mother's chagrin.
Then there is one memory that is burned into my brain as an almost daily occurrence: my dad coming home from the base where he worked, changing his clothes and heading out for a run.
When he turned 30, my dad started running almost daily. It was 1971, the same year I was born. I am the younger of two girls and was certainly not the easiest of babies. I don’t like to think of myself as the catalyst for his running career, although, from the sounds of it, he needed the running to keep his sanity.
To understand my father, you need a bit of history: while not a thrill-seeker, Kirk Ransom has lived a life that can only be described as thrilling. He is a retired Air Force pilot (yes, he was Captain Kirk for a period of time) who flew 180 missions in Vietnam, has pulled 8.5 Gs three times, and was an Advance Agent for Air Force One for Presidents Ford and Carter. He has survived blood poisoning twice and was hospitalized with pneumonia for 26 days. He is 77 years old, and he still runs almost daily.
It should be noted that my dad is a runner, not a racer. He has a story about being the last to cross the finish line in a race - complete with the ambulance bringing up the rear - yet pinning on a race bib was never really the point.
My life is less adventurous. I have been threatened by exactly zero medical ailments (knock on wood), and my definition of flying excitement is turbulence over the Rockies with no yellow cup required. I did move to Fairbanks, Alaska having answered a job posting that asked for "someone dynamic enough to make it on a team in the last frontier." I spent two years as a residence hall director in the most stunning of weather extremes because it sounded like fun.
My personal thrill seeking comes in the form of running marathons. I've run six, finished five. The DNF? The 1996 Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks – one of the world's most challenging marathons that happened to fall on that year's first day of snow. I was wearing shorts and a long sleeve cotton t-shirt (oh, the 90s). Around mile 12, there was a hill covered in ice. My marathoning cohort and I were tenuously working our way up the hill on hands and knees cursing our lack of ice-climbing equipment. I think this is how it all played out. (See my previous statement about Swiss cheese memory.)
The miles of my races, however, became a bit more cemented—as did our relationship—when my dad and I started to share running.
At the 2006 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, my dad was there with his camera, just as he is at all of my races. While I remember only pockets of that day, I will never forget my dad saying, "Wow, Alana. I'm just so impressed with you. And I'm so proud."
Five years later, he suggested we run the marathon together. My dad was 70; I was 40. Who trains for their first marathon at 70? My dad. He puts the badass in BAFR (that’s BadAss Father Runner for the newbies).
During that training cycle, we talked mileage, injuries, water consumption and commiserated about running in the hot, humid Minnesota summer. We didn't train together because we're runners of convenience: I lace up just before or after work; he runs when the spirit moves him. We compared notes every chance we got.
Lining up in our corral, I was equal parts terrified of what might happen and excited to see what he could do. I promised to stick by his side the entire run. At mile 10, I knew he was already in trouble. My dad talks a lot while we run and, at that point, the chatter slowed. He explained that he couldn't always feel his foot hit the ground and had to trust it wasn't going to suddenly disappear. By the time we hit mile 12, he made a hard and smart decision to stop at the halfway point. Neither of us can remember if he watched me finish that year (the memory thing runs in the family), but we both fondly remember those first 13 miles.
Ever the persistent runner, my dad gave the Twin Cities Marathon another go the following year, at 71 years young. I was his packhorse and followed him every step of the way on my bike. When he crossed that finish line in 5:48:07, I have never been more proud to be my father's daughter.
We've run a race together every year since. There have been 5K Turkey Trots, a scorching hot 4th of July half marathon, and, my personal favorite father/daughter race: the Medtronic TC 10 Mile which we've run together the last two years.
There are a few certainties at every race: my father sports a bright yellow visor (my mom put his name on one so people will cheer for him); he carries a PB + J and the kitchen sink in his waist pack; he tells me about Dr. Kenneth Cooper and the conditioning effect of running for the four hundredth time; we take a pre-race selfie; and I give thanks for another mile together.
We don't plan our race schedule terribly far in advance. I don't know what 2019 or 2020 hold, but my dad says he has one more marathon planned: the Air Force Marathon in 2021. Why 2021? He'll be 80; I'll be 50. Seems fitting, right?
Here's what I do know: Even if the details of each mile are forgotten, I will always remember the time we have spent together with our running shoes laced up and the finish line up ahead.