Every once in awhile, I come upon a very special run that has nothing to do with the pace or times. Rather, somewhere between the first and last tap of my GPS watch, I manage to capture a moment that perfectly distills the meaning of running.

Nearly two weeks ago, our family gathered in Santa Barbara, California to say goodbye to my grandfather who passed away this past June. He was a runner – in fact, I wrote about him after his passing, and described the times we had trained together when I was younger and still playing hockey. Unfortunately, our running lives never really crossed paths. By the time I turned my focus to competitive running, his own running days had come to an end.

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I think I’ll always wonder what it would have been like to go on a run with him along the stunningly beautiful California coastline. I thought about this during my time in Santa Barbara, where I was fortunate enough to get to look through my grandfather’s running stuff: race t-shirts, medals, running books, shoes, and even one of his training journals (of which I totally geeked out over). Some of these items are now my cherished possessions and reminders of my grandfathers determined, resilient spirit.

On the morning our family gathered on the pier to say goodbye to my grandfather, I made a point to remind myself to get a run in later that same day. Deep down, I felt that he would know I was running for him – and that maybe, just maybe he might feel the joy of that run with me.

So, in the late afternoon I set out running towards the towering bluffs of El Capitan Beach with my grandfather’s running sunglasses atop my head. It was a warm, calm sunny October day – a perfect afternoon for a run. I climbed to the top of the bluffs and found my stride as the terrain levelled out. As I cast my eyes out towards the ocean’s body, the sun’s sparkling glare reflected back upon my face. I moved my grandfather’s sunglasses down over my eyes and thought of him with every step.

From high above, I could see the coastline wrapping its way towards the pier where my family had gathered hours before. My mind rested on the thought of the waters directly beneath me touching the very place we said goodbye to my grandfather. In that moment of clarity, I felt the presence of my grandfather. I stopped, and looked out as far as I could to that place where the water and sky seem to converge and spoke to my grandfather: “Some day, we’ll run together.”

It’s in these special moments of running that I’m reminded of the transcending power of this sport. It’s so much more than a competitive activity – it’s a way of life, a place of discovery, reflection and connection. I’m truly grateful to be able to step out the door every day to feel the joy of the earth beneath my feet, sky above my head, and horizon open wide before me.

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