Why? Why would anyone do that? Especially a guy with a busy family?
I’ve heard a lot of dads (and some moms) try to answer this question. None have been all that satisfying to me. My own attempts to answer, perhaps representative, are no less so.
Obvious (non) answer: Marathon training. Okay. Again. Why?
Sanctimonious answer: To raise money and awareness for my cause.
Meh. While both Hand to Hold and Colin’s Hope are amazing charities that deserve whatever money and attention Team DadLabs can generate (I wish it was more: donate here), that’s not even remotely an honest answer. For me, anyway. There are some people performing athletic feats that garner media attention that might actually benefit a cause, but over half a million people completed a marathon last year. Mine will not be in any way remarkable, I hope. It’s not about the charity.
Smug answer: To model for my kids that you can accomplish even seemingly impossible tasks through discipline and perseverance.
Nah. Though my oldest son has taken careful note of my training. He and I have found a great topic of shared conversation — shoes, workouts, gear. He seems to be proud of what I’m doing. My daughter is mostly mortified that I sometimes wear running tights to drive carpool (I never get out of the car, but she is nevertheless utterly horrified). My youngest likes that I’m gone on weekend mornings so he can play Skylanders, undisturbed. I think that some positive impact on my kids might be a consequence, but it’s not about the offspring.
Self-pitying answer: To compensate for my sacrifice of all exercise when my children were little.
Pure bullshit. I didn’t feel like running in my 30s. It seemed narcissistic and shallow. Sitting was more comfortable. The kids made me laugh. All good. Maybe having babies around for all those years lowered my testosterone like the studies show. I also thought being fat was kind of funny. It fit with my teacher gig. It’s not about making up for lost time.
Semi-honest answer: Vanity.
I like long-term challenges. I geek out on the data, training plans, gear. I like solitude and have found a genuine pleasure in the longer runs. Pinning on a number and standing in a starting gate is an adrenaline rush, even if you know you’re busting ass for 1462nd place. I like that it’s helped me lose weight.
Given that semi-honestly you may ask: Is it legit for a dad to pursue and almost entirely vain pursuit that consumes 10+ hours a week? Especially one that is far from risk free? I’d say the balance sheet is pretty good. Despite sketchy motives, I’ll still raise a bit of change for a good cause (come on, people), set a reasonably good example for the kids, and lose weight. As long as I continue to do 80-90% of my training while everyone is asleep, I think I can claim “no harm, no foul.”
And the fact that this all feels just the slightest bit defensive. That’s cool, right?