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Running for Your Life

In 1982, when I was 27 and my Dad was 55, we jogged together. More specifically he labored up hills while I ran circles around him and made fun of his effort. “C’mon, old man. What in the world happened to you?” And, “Oh, watch this…” as I sprinted just out of reach.

I was Goober to his Andy, and we both got a kick out of it.

The bigger lesson, of course, was that my Dad, who had been a jock, was still spending his free time this way. He has been a talented high school athlete, an All American in college, and then later an Athletic Director who played tennis, golf, any sport really, with my Mom. They kept up this pace late into their 80s and only quit because she tore her rotator cuff.

I kept running. I think my first baby was a month old when I ran a mile down our country road with a friend. My mother warned me that my uterus would fall out. But not so. My second child is a born competitor and the author of this monthly column. One of my fondest memories is of running the Southwest Mountains behind our house on East Belmont Farm with her. She was 12. We had walked the 2-mile loop many times, and this day, a singularly beautiful afternoon, we ran the course—one mile straight up, one meandering mile down. I’ll never forget it. My third child could only hope to stay alive in a house that demanded such action.

Now I’m 67, and until a few years ago, my husband and I ran shuffle jog intervals on any hill we could find. Ten 1-minute jogs up and ten walks down. It was a 24-minute workout that we felt good about. We took this effort on the road to Strawberry Canyon in Berkeley and, of course, our daughters ran circles around us and razzed us to no end. We loved it.

Because Lena usually does this, I’ll end with some suggestions that are lessons from my father:

Run uphill. It’s easier on your knees and better exercise for your heart. Thus the shuffle jog.

Play everything. As late as age 65 my Dad was playing a competitive game of ice hockey with our son on the lake below our house. Generally, we could convince him to play paddle ball on the beach or croquet or any silly thing we made up.

Get out there. Nothing provides scale to your problems like the outdoors. I walk the trails surrounding the hill where I used to shuffle jog—a good hour among tall trees allows my heart to race and my mind to settle.

Don’t stop. In 2018, when my Dad was 90, he had a stroke that ended his athletic career. He had played tennis twice that week. What an athlete.

Kathy Zentgraf is the mother of contributing writer Lena Jones—an event producer adventuring with her family in Alameda and beyond. Contact Lena via [email protected]. Lena’s writing is collected at

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