Every time I step onto a treadmill, I think about my grandpa. Each time, it brings a smile to my face.
“Poppy” as I knew him, was a unique man with whom I shared a passion for running. We both know the thrill of testing one’s physical and mental limits. He was someone who I could step onto a treadmill machine side-by-side with and know he was going to make the same demands of himself that I do. At the height of my hockey career in my late teen years and early twenties, I always looked forward to visiting him in Santa Barbara and training with him and his personal trainer at a local gym.
At that time he was well into his seventies and fully immersed in the runner’s lifestyle. He was running everything from the 5K to full marathons, and he even had some sponsorship deals. Indeed, his strength and determination were an example for many and he was an inspiring man to a lot. During the height of Poppy’s running days my focus was on hockey, but the runner in me was always there– as was the competitor. When the two of us took to the treadmill you can bet that we went for it.
In his later years, he took precautionary measures to stay safe. His innate tendency to test his limits was monitored by his trainer, which is why the majority of his training took place inside a gym. He still ran outside, but the intense work had to be watched because the concern was that he’d likely destroy himself otherwise. I share the same DNA as him and I know all about the destruction I can bestow upon myself if not checked…
On June 4th, Poppy passed away at his home in Santa Barbara, California– one day before his 91st birthday. He had been holding on for quite some time as his health had been slipping away over the past couple of years. Over the past six months, that began to decline even more so. As I remember him, I have no doubt a less determined man would have passed much sooner.
In the wake of his recent death, I reminisce on those intense workouts with Poppy. It was assuring to look at the person running alongside me and understand where a good portion of my drive and self-determination comes from.
On the morning Poppy passed away, the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon was underway to the south, and just outside his door, runners were racing the State Street Mile. It was a timely occurrence with the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon being the first one he ever ran. As for the State Street Mile, that hometown event is one which he graced several times. With his wife, granddaughter and son surrounding him in his final hours, he was reminded of these special races. They assured him he had run so very strong and could now cross the line for one final finish.