by Todd Shatynski
My first memories of the Stockade-athon were of my father running in the early 80s. I remember his very simple race shirts with the “runner” logo in the middle and simple block letters. I always wondered about the race and its scenic, varied terrain. Growing up in the area, I was very familiar with Schenectady and its unique downtown and large, stately neighborhoods. “Someday,” I had told myself.
After relocating back to the area in 2008, I finally ran the Stockade-athon in 2009, several months after recovering from my first knee surgery. I remember it being the typical November upstate New York weather – cold, blustery. At the time it was staged out of Schenectady’s Central Park. I also remember it being a triumphant return to racing longer distances after a challenging injury. But the most significant memory was of my family coming to watch and cheer me on. They were cold but energetic – my four year old daughter, Sophia and 2 year old son, Ben – probably more enthusiastic for the playground than for watching dad. I was proud but realized quickly that the shine dimmed as the kids got cold and cranky. From then on, I went to the race either alone or with a friend. Hour long races in November aren’t the easiest on the family!
I went on to run the race 5 or 6 more times, getting my course personal best down to 53:50. I had to take one more hiatus after another knee surgery in 2014. Times have slowed but I have always been able to break an hour. The race represents a manageable distance that is a challenge but doesn’t take hours of training.
This year, I asked Sophia, now 16, if she wanted to run the race. To my surprise, she said it sounded fun! “You’ll run with me, right dad?” She had recently finished her cross country season and so was in great shape but was a little nervous as she had never run farther than 8 miles. I assured her that I would happily run it with her.
Race morning was typical, overcast and cool. She was nervous but after running several races over the past few months, she was more accustomed to the pre-race nerves. We discussed a goal pace and went through the first 5K on time. Our pace fell back slightly for the next 5K and when she realized we weren’t on our goal pace, she said “I’m sorry, we aren’t going to make our goal, dad…” I quickly replied, “I don’t care about, pace, Soph. I bet there are a lot of dads out here who would cut off their pinky finger to run a race like this with their daughter!” She smiled, and a runner near us (of dad age), exclaimed “So true!”
She dug deep for the last 5K and then proceeded to outkick me down the straightaway!
Every race and experience is an opportunity for growth. I am proud to say that afterward, Sophie turned to me and said, “Ok, that was pretty fun. Thanks for running that with me!” I am happy to report that not only did I have a great day and experience with my daughter, but I think she may even do it again with me someday; and I didn’t even have to cut off a finger!
What is Even Better than Personal Success? A Shared Passion!
Click above to read article Todd wrote about running the Thacher Park Trail Festival 10k with his son who came in 18th.