I am Dinosaur Man

On the day we left for Potawatomi, my five-year-old daughter gave me a gift, rolled up and rubber-banded, that she and her classmates had made for me at school: a banner on a length of brown kraft paper which, when unfurled, revealed a pink constellation of Disney princess stickers and loosely traced hands, all bulbous and impossibly shaped.

There were crudely drawn hearts and chaotic spirals and awkward lettering like a beguiling brand of cuneiform. There were shapes that looked like ghosts and a pair of paper mittens—only one of which had been colored blue—secured to the center by Thanksgiving stickers and scotch tape.

The banner read, Mom. The banner read, Dad. The banner read, alsI—my daughter’s name, which—for whatever beautifully free-spirited reason—she chose to spell backward. Our little family scrawled sweetly in crayon.

If you could have seen her face when she gave it to me—she was so proud. 

Across the top, in distinctly adult handwriting, was written: Don’t ever give up. And along the bottom: You Got this Dinosaur Man! When I asked my daughter why I was Dinosaur Man, she shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said. “Because you’re crazy.”

My daughter is too young to understand distance; too young to grasp why someone would choose to run a hundred miles. She was, however, deeply aware that I was attempting something difficult, something other people seemed to think was odd or absurd, or crazy. Whoever coined the term Dinosaur Man—whether it was her, a classmate, or the teacher—it made sense to her. It gave her the ability to contextualize what she thought I was doing: Dad is doing something crazy. Dinosaurs are crazy. Dad is the Dinosaur Man.

I laid the banner flat in my tent when I set up camp. I wanted to see it between loops. I wanted it to have power and magic, and help usher me through when things grew dark. I wanted it to be the answer to past failures. All my previous DNFs were simply because I didn’t have my daughter’s swirling, chaotic, confused love in writing.  

At the pre-race meeting, in the simmering grey stillness before dawn, surrounded by strangers and vaguely familiar faces, watching people double-knot their shoes and tighten the straps on their hydration packs, I thought to myself: I am Dinosaur Man.

When, during the third loop, the temperature climbed into the 80s and the humidity made molasses of the air and the sun beat down on my neck and I began to worry about dehydration, I whispered: I am Dinosaur Man

When, in the early evening hours, lightning stabbed the earth and sky with such violence and regularity that I questioned whether I should turn back towards camp, I instead put my head down, kept moving forward, and said: I am Dinosaur Man

When, in the hours before sunrise, rain made sloppy rivers of the trails and my rain gear failed and the temperature hovered in the low 40s, threatening hypothermia, I raged against the shitty turn of weather: I am Dinosaur Man.  

And, hours later, when I rang the bell and my daughter ran out to join me on the homestretch and I sobbed as I took her small, smooth hand and we ran together toward the finish line of my first 100-miler, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt:

I am Dinosaur Man.   

Photos: Tim Roberts @forbydigital

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