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Runner stories

Dads on the run

A man running with his child
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Five fathers share dad wisdom, running tips, and their dream runs.

Dads can be heroes. Dads can be single. Dads can be gay. Dads can be everything to their kids and their families. To celebrate all that Dad can be, we spoke with five cool dudes about running, the ideal Father’s Day gift, ultimate dad jokes, and more.

Francisco smiling at the camera

Francisco Pons rebuilt his body after a devastating accident

Running has become therapy for Francisco Pons. The 58-year-old father of two was unable to walk for three months after a car accident in 2016. Francisco was a self-employed, Mexican immigrant and didn’t have the resources to seek professional help.

“I never saw a professional physical therapist. Instead I practiced everything I learned from books and videos, and I healed my body. When I felt ready, I began racing and found a new love for running,” he said.

Since the accident, Francisco has finished more than 20 running trail races, 20 triathlons, and has taken part in seven 70.3 Ironmans.

What he loves about running:

Running became my therapy. A way for me to remember what I had forgotten — that life is precious. The simple act of running is hard and challenging for the body. So challenging that the mind goes into a meditative state. I realized if I could run ‘x’ number of miles, then I can do anything!

Francisco smiling on the trail
Francisco putting his shoes on

Dad wisdom:

Things don’t happen to us. They happen for us.

Favorite running / training tip:

One of my focuses is to keep good form during the run. It’s very important to be a little leaning shoulder to the front, landing always with a little knee bended, and always over your body’s gravity center.

Best Father’s Day gift received or given:

Good running shoes are unforgettable!

Dream running destination or race:

The Western States 100-mile Endurance Race

Francisco on a run outside

Favorite Dad joke:

Que dijo el número 1 al número 10? Para ser como yo debes ser sincero. Translation: What did the number 1 say to the number 10? To be like me you need to be honest. Sincero means to be honest, but sounds like “without zero.”

Must-have running playlist songs:

Fireball by Pitbull, Legs by ZZ Top, Thunderstruck by AC/DC

Amir smiling at the camera

It’s the small stuff for Amir Figueroa

For Amir Figueroa, who lost his dad when he was 4, being a dad means paying close attention to the little things.

“I’m creating a lot of traditions and experiences that my son will remember. Maybe he’ll pass them on to his children and his children’s children,” he said.

Living as a good dad also means being a supportive husband to his wife, Alison Desir. The couple are known for their activism and community leadership, and for founding Harlem Run, a strong, diverse run club and movement based in Harlem, New York.

“We’re a great team when it comes to raising our son.”

What he loves about running:

When running solo it’s a mindfulness and meditation practice for me. When I’m with others, it’s great for making connections and building community.

Dad wisdom:

There’s no limit to the amount of kisses and hugs your children should receive. Give them out daily.

Favorite running / training tip:

Lose the headphones. Always stay in tune with your breath and how your body is feeling. I’ve learned so much about mindfulness and meditation through running and I like to share that with others, because far too often people miss out on the experience.

Best Father’s Day gift received or given:

This will only be my third Father’s Day, but the best gift is some sort of spa package. My priorities with being a dad are often taking care of our son and doing whatever my wife needs, which means I rarely think to take care of myself.

Amir running with a stroller
Amir running with his son

Dream running destination or race:

I’ve been to South Africa twice in the past 10 years and I really want to run in the Comrades Marathon. I’ve heard so much about it, it’s a point-to-point race (note: every year the direction you run changes), and it’s really an ultra-marathon (90 kilometers, or 56 miles).

Best dad joke:

What did the biologist wear to impress his date? Designer genes!

Must-have running playlist songs:

Eye of the Tiger by Survivor, Energy by Big KRIT, Freedom by Beyoncé

Denis smiling at the camera

Single dad Denis da Silva is full of love for his small family

What does Denis da Silva love about being a dad? EVERYTHING (yes, all caps).

“I love watching my daughter grow up and become herself. Learning her likes and dislikes, having our talks, our soccer time. It’s just me and her. We are a little fam, with our small group of friends as an extension,” he said.

Denis is now training for his second marathon, and his daughter is his biggest cheerleader.

What he loves about running:

Challenging my body, staying healthy, finding limits, and the community.

Dad wisdom:

Let them be what they want to be. Expose them to health habits but let them decide what they want to do and become, support their choices, and get involved with them.

Dennis running on the beach
Dennis and his daughter playing basketball

Favorite running / training tip:

You want to be the tortoise while training, not the hare. The crane over the hummingbird. It’s all about showing up and enjoying the running you are doing, over and over again!

Best Father’s Day gift received or given:

In 2019 my daughter painted a scene of me kiteboarding in the ocean. It was an amazing surprise!

Denis hugging his daughter

Dream running destination or race:

I have a few dream destinations: Boston marathon as a starter. Then all the other 5 marathon majors (NY, Chicago, London, Berlin, and Tokyo). I am not too particular about the order they will happen. As they say, your dream is waiting for you, just outside your comfort zone.

Best Dad joke:

How was your last camping trip? Intents!

Must-have running playlist songs:

The Last Bell by Bill Conti, Hills and Valleys by Buju Banton, Going the Distance by Bill Conti

Denis hugging his daughter

Kirk Wheeler finds acceptance later in life

Eight years ago, Kirk Wheeler came out as a gay father, and his children were incredibly supportive.

“They wanted me to find my way and so they loved me. And then they researched groups that I could join and make new connections. Top of the list that my son sent me was Seattle Frontrunners. It took me a while to get up the courage to go, but I did, and my life has never been the same. That’s love! And it meant the world to me. They saved me.”

Kirk loves being a dad — it makes him a humble, better person and reminds him that family matters most.

What he loves about running:

It’s an amazing social connection. I love the feel of flying down the road and the challenge!

Dad wisdom:

Never underestimate how important it is for children to hear that your love and support is constant and unconditional. It can be easy to forget the weight of our words and actions.

Kirk stretching before a run
Kirk on a run outside

Favorite running / training tip:

I used to think the only way to prepare for longer races was to put in the miles, but I’ve learned that by focusing on my pace I can prepare for longer races effectively. By picking up the pace, I focus on form and stride which make such a difference in how effectively and efficiently I run.

Best Father’s Day gift received or given:

My best Father’s Day gift must be Leon the Lady Bug. My children were much younger when I got this stuffed ladybug, and I suspect that they fell in love with his bright red, polka dotted fuzziness and really wanted him for themselves! I am not sure how this all started, but soon after receiving Leon he began to show up in random places. A cupboard, in the bed, on a shelf. Now, many years later we all take turns hiding him for someone to find.

Kirk stretching

Dream running destination or race:

I would love to run a half marathon, one per month for a year, in many cities and states. And I am setting my sites on attending the next Gay Games. That would be an amazing experience.

Favorite Dad joke:

When does a joke become a dad joke? When it becomes apparent.

Must-have running playlist songs:

Anything Cher!

Ben smiling at the camera

Ben Brown loves adventure, both in fatherhood and running

For seasoned trail runner Ben Brown, the best parallel to his challenging runs through the Alpine Lakes wilderness in Washington State (FYI, he owns the FKT for the Alpine Lakes Loop) is being a dad.

“It’s the greatest adventure of my life. I love the cuteness of my kids, watching them grow, and trying to be a greater model for them. It’s a real challenge. Like running, the bigger the challenge the greater the reward. In this case, the reward is seeing my kids become who they are and learn to become kind people.”

What he loves about running: It makes me feel at home. It’s full of adventure, beauty, and the most wonderful friendships. I also appreciate how it brings my mind and body into a healthy balance.

Dad wisdom:

Brush all the sides of your teeth. Top front, back, and sides. Also, brush the bottom front, back, and sides.

Ben sitting on stairs with his kids
Ben running by the beach
Ben with his son on his back

Favorite running / training tip:

Find what you love most about running and spend a lot of time doing that. Even though I love running in the mountains and trails there is a warm spot in my heart for running long rhythmic flat roads. I regularly mix up both extremes of the running experience — with mountainous climbing and flat roads.

Best Father’s Day gift received or given:

The best gift I’ve given is probably an illustrated card with meaningful words. And, as it turns out, receiving an illustrated card with meaningful words is the most special gift I’ve received.

Ben watching his son go up the stairs

Dream running destination or race:

Running the Comrades Ultra Marathon (89k) between Durban and Pietermaritzburg is something I've dreamed of running.

Favorite Dad joke:

Which kind of trees get no presents for Christmas? Knotty trees.

Must-have running playlist songs:

Holding Poison by Foo Fighters, Wildflowers by Tom Petty, Tiny Little Life by Okeedokee Brothers

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