Design by Leah Hoogterp

I didn’t do well in sports as a kid: soccer, basketball, tennis, you name it. It wasn’t until I was a teenager in martial arts that I found my niche: running. Training there led me to find running as a new hobby. When I was hospitalized, landed in crutches and put myself through recovery and rehabilitation, I always had my family by my side. However, when I started running again, I always had one man ahead of me — my dad.

My dad actually took me on the first run of my life, when I was a primary schooler who needed to lose weight. It might have been the angriest I’ve ever been at him as he pushed me further and further. A physical therapist, a two-time marathon runner and my father, he knew exactly what my body was capable of as he guided me along. He was there to guide my first steps, my first bike ride and my first runs. Both of my parents guided me out of the hospital the first time, but my dad came to drive me home from the ER. Both of my parents helped me through physical rehab, but when I signed up for a quarter-marathon, he guided me through running again.

When I first agreed to run, I wasn’t thinking of my father. All I wanted to do was push myself to keep running. However, I ended up asking for his guidance, noting that the event actually took place on his birthday. The rest of my family signed up too; my father for a half-marathon, everyone else for the 5K. When I wrote my first blurb alongside the other Daily Arts relay runners, I didn’t really mention my dad because, in my mind, I needed to do this for myself. But on every push day, every time the sun beat down on my runs, every groggy morning, I found myself thinking of him. Just like my first steps, my first bike rides and now all these runs, he was right by my side.

The fact is, he’s beside me because my father is an integral part of me. His name — Vikas — became my middle name upon birth. He would always tell me that his name meant “progress” in Sanskrit, a testament to himself. He’s the hardest-working person I’ve ever known, from his exercising to how he runs his business. I aspire to have even a fraction of that work ethic, but it’s evident now how I’ve progressed forward as my father’s child. He’s a man who doesn’t know when to quit and when to give the people around him a break, but only because he knows he can push them to be better. Every time I found myself waning, I dug and found his trademark stubbornness within me.

I know my father doesn’t really go for materialistic gifts, so declaring this in The Daily is the best present I’ve got. My dad was ahead of me the whole race, while he ran the half and I ran a quarter. He’s much faster than me, so I knew I had no chance of catching up to him, but I still pushed my pace to see if I could. He’s ahead of me in this race but he’s still beside me, cheering me on as he did all those years ago on our very first run. I know he won’t see me, but as my father’s child, I will find him at the finish line and tell him this. I felt it every mile of this quarter.

I did it, Dad. I started this for me, but I finished it for you. Happy birthday.

Daily Arts Writer Saarthak Johri can be reached at