Running With My Dad: On Miles + Memories

Alana + her dad, Kirk, smile + stride across the TC 10 Mile Finish Line.

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.

Captain Kirk D. Ransom hanging out with his RF-4C Phantom II aircraft.

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.)

One of many pre-race selfies. (Love the spam hat!)

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.

Kirk + his best fan after his 2012 Twin Cities marathon; look for another marathon finish pic in 2021!

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.

Do you—or have you—run with a parent?

29 responses to “Running With My Dad: On Miles + Memories

  1. OMG, Alana! This story just made me cry. My dad died when I was 20. He was the most amazing person I’ve known and I so wish I could’ve run a race with him or had him be at the finish line for mine. I wear the same shirt for every marathon I run. It says I LOVE MY DAD on the front and his name and birth/death dates on the back. That’s how I carry him with me when I run. I’m so glad you get to have these experiences with your dad. You are very lucky to have each other!!!!!

  2. I can’t love this enough! My daughter started running and asked me to help her train for her first marathon roughly six years ago. That was the start of something very beautiful. There is an intimacy in running partner chat and a randomness and I had that gift while we ran together. It was a thing of beauty watching her get stronger. I’m so glad you shared this story with us.

  3. I have run the Air Force marathon, half marathon, 10k and 5k… it usually falls around my birthday, so I ran the half on my 40th birthday and also on my 45th birthday. Sadly, my dad passed away when I was 12 years old of a heart attack. It’s one of the reasons why I am a runner. I love your story, I am hopeful that my sons will run with me someday. ☺️

  4. Awwwwww….loved loved reading your story about true adventure and time with your dad. Your gift of writing will inspire us all to grab a close relative and get moving making memories. Thanks for sharing this and giving readers more things to smile about today.

  5. Oh geez, happy tears! I was a swimmer all through my youth (intense club!) and high school. My dad started running after he quit smoking and inspired me to start in my late teens. We ran the “Sound-to-Narrows” in Tacoma Wa many times. Even though he no longer runs, he is very active. Fishing weekly in Puget Sound, golfing and walking a very energetic min-pin. And being my biggest fan at many of my triathlon races. Happy memories!

  6. This is sweet. Makes me teary. I think many of us long for a father that understands our running. You’ve got a good one on your hands!

  7. I am the parent that has run with my daughters, so I have a bit of a different perspective. I have run two half marathons with my middle daughter, and I would not trade those moments for anything. I had run minis before, so when I had the privilege to run her first with her, I was overjoyed. I was also blessed to run two of my nieces’ first half marathons with them. Just the fact that the younger generation looked to me for advice and companionship as they took on these challenges was so special. I was excited that they wanted to spend the time with me, and as runners know, much is shared when we pound the pavement together. This past summer, I ran a 2-mile race with my six year old grandson, and I hope to run more races with him in the future (until he can beat me!). These races run with family are at the top of my favorites list!

  8. Great post! “Captain Kirk Ransom”?! *swoon* “Swiss cheese memory” LOL Your dad saying “Wow, Alana. I’m just so impressed with you. And I’m so proud”? Ok I’m not crying, you’re crying. And at 71 he finished his first full in under 6 hours?!! So now I’m jealous! Thanks for sharing!!! You both are awesome. And many happy miles together!

  9. Man, is this great! Your story inspires me to keep running with my kids, so that we can have memories like this together, too–next year, and 40 years from now!

  10. I love this so much! You and your dad are truly amazing and this story is now written for you and many to remember. You are both so inspiring!

  11. I love this story!! When my sister and I both decided to become runners, our mom also wanted in on the fun! Granted it was more of a slow shuffle than a run, but for many years it was the three of us gals on the road. I would usually run loops and circle back then use the excuse of catching up for a few minutes to get a well time rest break in! My mom and sister both moved to Utah a year and half ago, and I’ve been solo since. But I still have all those amazing memories of races and our own little three person turkey trot, and more. Now that I have my son doing half marathons I think about the legacy I’m carrying forward by him now running with his parent just like I ran with mine! ❤️

  12. What an awesome story! Can’t wait to hear about 2021!

    My dad and I recently ran a 5K together – he said he wanted to get under a certain time and his “coach” was going to get him there! While it is no marathon, it was fun pacing my dad and getting to spend that time together! In that same run, my brother and sister-in-law ran, my husband ran with my niece, and my two boys (12 and 15) ran on their own! Thanksgiving morning was definitely a family running event this year!

  13. This brought tears in the best kind of way. What an amazing testament to the power of running and the father – daughter bond. Thank you and your Dad for inspiring me this morning.

  14. I’m not crying, you’re crying!!!!
    What an incredibly lovely and inspiring story! So heartwarming to read it! Honestly, it brought me heartwarming memories of running with my grandfather who passed away eight years ago. Thank you so much for sharing your story – and your love.

  15. This is lovely. Thank you for sharing. I hope that I can encourage one or more of my kids or grand-kids into running and biking with me. 🙂

  16. Love this, my friend! Makes me sad and wistful for my dad. He never ran with me but cheered me from afar. Enjoys every mile and minute you have with him!

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