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  • Written by Swell

My father was my best friend and hero in so many ways. When I was 6 years old, he was in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. I remember him coming home from work with a suitcase in hand. He would change his clothes and go out for a run. I would usually race around the block with him towards the end of his run and he would always let me win!

As I got older, he would take me to neighborhood fun runs. We always had so much fun together. One of my favorite races was the Father’s Day run in New York City (NYC). Whether it was running or life, he always made me feel that I was good enough and when I was sad he wouldn’t allow it. He taught me that in life, there was no time for regrets.

As I continued to run, his health began to decline. His last marathon was in 1990 when I was 10 years old. He ran the Marine Corp Marathon and ended up in the hospital. I don’t remember much of the details, but I do remember hearing the story. I now realize that his running career was ending as mine was just beginning.

I ran in high school for Teaneck High School and he would always pick me up from track practice. Eventually, I would drive him to his hospital visits once I got my license.

Justine and her father James (Image Courtesy of Justine Galloway)

Running for Teaneck High School and being part of that team was so important to me. I built life-long friends and it made me the person I am today. Running also made me feel very connected to my father because I was also able to share my running journey with him.

When I arrived at college I never thought I was good enough to make the college team. Freshman year, I went to practice but never showed up on the day of tryouts. By sophomore year, I decided to give it another try and I made the team! I was definitely in the back of the pack but I was running and that is all that mattered to me. This served as a reminder to never underestimate what is possible!

After leaving for college, I visited him whenever I had the chance. He received Deep Brain Stimulation (electrical stimulation to treat movement disorders) when I was in my senior year of college. His health continued to decline and he eventually needed a cane, a walker, and then a wheelchair. I still remember getting ready to run the Philadelphia Marathon and visiting him in the hospital in the days leading up to the race.

His last few years were spent living at a rehabilitation care facility. When I visited, I would tell him about my running and the next marathon I had coming up. He would tell me stories of people in the care facility telling him their kids won the Boston Marathon (even if they hadn’t). I think that was the good and bad part, my dad never lost his mental capacity.

The day he passed away; I went for a run. I got lost even though I had run a million times before in the same area… I think I just got lost in the moment.