Readers Roundtable: Got Daddy Issues?

A few proud, wonderful Salty dads to whom we wish a very Happy Father’s Day!

Depending on your history, Father’s Day is either that warm and fuzzy holiday celebrating the man who makes you feel like a princess or it’s a day that highlights an emptiness, rather than a fullness. I’ve alluded to my own daddy issues before and how running has helped me cope, but I’m not alone among the Salties or my larger group of running girlfriends whose fathers were disinterested, abusive, gone too soon, or never around in the first place.

Carl Jung took Freud’s Oedipus Complex idea a step further, and coined the term the “Electra Complex,” where girls develop attraction to their fathers and competition with their mothers. If those feelings are not resolved, say the psychoanalysts, big problems with self-esteem and choosing sexual partners can persist throughout life. The modern equivalent term, perhaps is the commonly-thrown-around “daddy issues.” Now, of course there is widely-varying opinion on whether having a troubling relationship with one’s father actually leads to repetitive unhealthy relationships with men, but we do that know that girls with healthy relationships with a strong father figure do have better self-esteem as adults.

Lots of us, like the Salties in the photos above, have great relationships with our fathers, but for those of us with difficult or nonexistent relationships with our dads the act of running itself seems to be used as a coping mechanism. In fact, running even helped Ginger heal her difficult past with her dad, and now they have a positive relationship!

We thought we’d ask you which camp you’re in. How has your relationship with your father impacted your running? Does running help you deal with a negative past, or is your dad your number one cheerleader and fan?

I'm an elementary P.E. teacher with a long-term, ongoing marathon addiction.The next big goal? Keeping up my BQ streak while aiming for a 3:10! I write about the not-so-glamorous side of running and fitting in serious training with a family while staying sane(ish).

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  1. My grandfather, who passed away last year, was the most important, loving father figure in my life. He came to every race that he could. He was indeed my biggest fan. He died too soon at age 66 from pancreatic cancer. I actually ran my first marathon during the last days of his life. He couldn’t come to the race, and he cried on the phone to me, expressing his pride over my hard work and his sadness at missing the finish in person. That is a moment I will never, ever forget. I drove two hours home the next day on completely stiff legs, just to show him my medal and tell him my “war stories.” I always think of him when I run. I think of how strong and how brave he was.

    On the other hand, concerning my father figures, my actual father was not in my life until age 23. He has still yet to come to a race or support me in any way. My step father (that I no longer speak to FYI) has been married to my mother since I was 5, yet somehow never managed to support me in ANY thing I’ve ever done in my life, and he has no excuse. He had many options. Volleyball, softball, basketball, track, distance running, musical theatre, concert band. And not a single gd one. LOL. Jokes. I can sum the relationships by saying, “I got 99 medals but my dad ain’t one.” Hahahaha okay I’m done.

    And that’s exactly why running is so sacred to me. My Papaw was my hero, my angel, better than any of these chodes. 😉 And running was something he never did, but completely understood. He just got it. Running is ours. <3

    1. Love that you had such a great relationship with your gramps. What a great marathon story, too. My grandpa was also there for me growing up. Cheers to GRANDFATHERS!!!

    2. Cheers to grandfathers indeed! Salty and I aren’t shy about saying we lost our dad when we were kids, but we were really lucky to have our maternal grandfather in our life. He was one of the warmest people I have ever known, and so much of the creativity that drives me comes from him. He died about a month before my first marathon, and I really think having the time during marathon training to process his death helped me cope much better than I would have otherwise!

  2. My Dad attended every athletic competition during my childhood and is still one of my biggest fans. He lives a bit too far away to come to every race, but he is always awaiting my call with my results and re-cap.

    He did make it to my most recent marathon and every time I passed him, I could hear him cheering from many blocks away.

    His Lions service group raises money by allowing members to buy ‘bragging time’ at the beginning of their meetings. He claims that I cost him a lot of money at those meetings…and he loves it.

  3. I remember very clearly watching Joan Benoit lead and win the 1984 women’s Olympic marathon (the first!) with my dad. He explained to me how special and amazing this was 🙂 I’ve never thought about that moment too deeply until just now, but it must have been a formative moment for me.

  4. My dad and I weren’t always as close as we are now. Running in fact, used to be a problem for us. My parents felt in HS and college that I took track more seriously than education (probably true at some times) so it was always an argument. But when running became a different part of my life, and when they were able to see the impact its had on me over the years they realized how good it actually was for me. A few years ago a bunch of stuff happened and my dad and I finally were able to start mending and growing our relationship. He may not come to many races, but supports me, asks about it, and is never too shy to brag about my accomplishments to anyone who will listen (including but not limited to an entire crowded bar or airplane of strangers. He also runs now occasionally, as a way to stay fit. But it has been a good way for us to connect and have another thing we can talk about.

  5. I know A LOT of runners with daddy issues, including me. I think, in a way, I became so driven to achieve success to prove my value as a person because I lacked that feeling of unconditional love and support a dad is supposed to give his child. I looked for external approval anywhere I could get it, and with running being fast and trying to get ever faster, at least in part, was motivated to get that feeling of worth. Sometimes I think all my recent setbacks are just reminders not to fall back in that trap and to do what I love and achieve what is really meaningful to ME.

  6. My dad is incredible and I feel so lucky to have him. When I started running he was the first to be there at the finish to celebrate with me. He is also the first to comfort me when I have a terrible race. He started running as well and now we can run in the same races sometimes! Love my dad!

  7. My dad and his entire family are all obese. I was heading that way too. At 24 my doctor told me I was pre diabetic. I decided I didn’t want that life so I started as a distance race walker and worked my way up to running. That was 12 years ago and I’ve been able to reverse the damage done. Then when my dad ended up making poor choices 3 years ago and I needed to cut ties, running was how I coped with that stress.