John Boutselis ran his first marathon in April, 1980, when he was 27 years old. Inspired by the running boom of the 1970s and frenzied media coverage of the Boston Marathon, he announced his intention to run the following year at Easter Dinner. Further motivated by his older brother's doubt at the proclamation, he began training. This training brought him down a road in which he would never look back. Running became John's obsession- a daily ritual, a personal journey. He would run several more marathons, countless road races and 5/10ks.
Shortly after I was born in 1992, John was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. Unsure about the disease and what this meant for his future, he continued to work, provide for his family, and of course, run. He would continue to do so until his body failed him. John’s condition worsened, eventually being diagnosed also with Lewy Body Dementia. Eventually he was unable to work, drive, dress himself, live independently, and walk, let alone run. On February 22, 2017, he finally passed away.
No matter how much his health declined, John firmly believed that one day he would be cured, and perhaps run again. He told my mother that when he dreamed, he was healthy and running.
I never had the opportunity to get to know my father. We shared a brief, precious period of time together when I was very young before he became seriously ill. The illness would only show up in short, ugly flashes. I remember him those days as kind, fun, and strong. By the time I was of age to get to know the man on a deeper level, he was too far gone.
I've never really been a runner. I had brief flirtations with the sport in high school and attempted to balance an occasionally healthy lifestyle with intermittent cardio sessions over the years. Beyond running away from my problems, I’ve never committed to seeing what kind of runner I could be.
Since moving to New York, running has become an essential part of my life. It has given me discipline, therapy, and confidence. The idea of running a marathon seemed impossible to me. I’ve never believed I would be able to run as well as my father. I still don't think I ever will be able to. But running has been a way for me to get to know him. I get to love what he loved. I get to feel the pain he felt when pushing through a hard run. I get to share the reward of elation when finishing on a day when you didn’t think you would make it out the door.
In October I will feel what he felt when he finished his first marathon a year older than I am.