Fathers & Sons
As told to Knox Robinson
Photography Emily Maye
I was showing my son Ezrah my goals on Strava: 3000 miles by December.
He said, “I wanna do 100 by December!”
Well, how do we do that? I asked.
“I just run with you. Right?” he replied.
That’s when I went to my coach. He suggested doing three miles with Ezrah on top of my easy days. I asked Ezrah would that be OK with him – would that be something he would maybe want to explore. And without hesitation he did it. So two to three times a week that’s what were doing: three miles of easy paced running.
I took a very organic approach and I haven’t been influenced by any parenting literature. There’s a local moms group here that called me out saying, I don’t know if it’s healthy for you to be running with him, he’s so young, he hasn’t developed yet. I don’t really listen to that. It’s no different than running on the playground all day. If he wants to stop, he stops.
It wasn’t always like this. I was living in Australia, running in the early part of the day and then doing the music thing at night. It was a whole lifestyle: the drinking, the smoking, not taking good care of yourself... But more than anything it was the hours – being out all the time and with gigs every Thursday and Friday I wasn’t getting home until three or four in the morning and then sleeping in.
Having that artist’s life I wasn’t involved with Ezrah as I would’ve liked, so moving my family from Australia to the US I cut out the musicianship. I wanted to focus more on my family and have a healthy transition for my wife as well. I stopped smoking cigarettes and drinking as heavily and focused more on running, my mind and my body – which in turn helped me focus more on my child.
During that time I was grinding hard, man. I was holding down three different odd jobs – anything I could do to stay above water while trying to maintain my health, make sure I ran everyday and stay present for my wife and my child. I woke at 4am to meditate then ran, then cycled to work and then cycled to the next job and maybe then ran to the next job after that. No matter how hard it got – no matter how many jobs I had to work – I held myself accountable to maintain this everyday thing, that program in order to be a father and a husband. I needed to set up some extreme program for myself and continue to beat that program. And I made it extreme; it was almost borderline unhealthy. I was doing 18 mile days, every day, no recovery. But I needed to prove to myself I could do that and then some more.
Through this process I gained a crazy discipline. I wasn’t training for anything. I was a free runner at the time so I didn’t wear a watch or any of that stuff. What drove me was a sense of accomplishment – my biggest competition was myself, and that comes from lack of examples on the male front. My father wasn’t really the type to show that, so I wanted to check off that box – maybe that’s what it was. But also I did it for my child. I needed to show him something, even if he didn’t notice it. I don’t know, maybe he did – maybe he saw me grinding, maybe he saw me carrying my bike up to the house, looking exhausted after a long day of work and still spending time with him.
It’s not just one foot in front of the other. I wish people would stop saying that. It’s a process, man. I didn’t just get up and say, Oh, I’m gonna run today! This has been an ongoing process for me full of ups and downs since I was a child. I didn’t just start running; it’s always been a process: a means of getting into a steady flow and discipline and dedicate yourself. It’s something this country doesn’t believe that the Black man has: discipline, if you will, or the ability to get up and go and do something every day. So I’m trying to smash all those stereotypes... Not only [stereotypes] America puts on us, but those within the Black community to show that this is an option as well. This is an everyday mindful, healthy, spiritual option you can take. Look: my son’s doing it too – you can do it with your son or your daughter. It’s another way.
Running with my son is power. It’s a symbol. The broader audience doesn’t expect to see a Black father with a Black son; it’s already a power statement for me to be running, but for me to have my youth with me crushes all Babylon’s belief and views of the Black man.
It’s not illegal to run while Black. And more of us need to run to show that. We can’t hide. As Black people we have to still live our lives no matter how many Black men and women are being killed. You have to continue to live your life. You can’t hole yourself up in your home everyday. Our ancestors, they persisted.
And that’s with running too, right? You have to persist – you have to keep going.
There’s strength in that courage. We have to do this for Ahmaud Arbery. We have to do it for him. This is our way of life.
Ezrah’s been telling me that he’s going to be a runner and I’ve left it at that. Still, when we go out together it’s all beautiful affirmations for himself that are flowing off to me. He’s constantly talking the whole time: Ah! you can do this man, you did this last week! You got this! He’s repeating things that I’ve said to him before that now he’s turning in on himself: self affirmation.
So I do a lot of crying when I run. Last week when we were out he asked me, “Dad, you ok?” Yeah man, I replied. It’s just sweat. I promise.