While Joseph Bates waited for a lung transplant at the University of Minnesota hospital, his daughter went running.
Emma Bates wasn’t able to talk to her father that last week of his life before he passed away at age 56 almost a year ago, as he was unconscious and needed help breathing from a ventilator. But those countless treks along the Mississippi River kept parent and child close, in a way.
The trail was part of the same path Bates followed a month earlier in last year’s Medtronic TC 10 Mile where she set a personal-best time of 56 minutes despite learning of her father’s rare interstitial lung disease just a week before the race.
“I went for a run the day we found out he wasn’t going to make it, and there was just such a lightness that came over me, that washed over me,” Bates recalled. “Running along that path and running along the river, he just loves fishing, and he’s such an outdoorsman, and I just felt so much more connected to him after he passed running there.”
Now almost a year later, Bates will run the 10 Mile again Sunday, part of the Twin Cities Marathon weekend, as a way to pay tribute to her late father.
Bates’ said the last time her dad saw her compete — and also the last time they were really able to spend time together — was at last year’s 10 Mile when he watched the race online. Bates, an Elk River native, went to Boise State for college, winning the 2014 NCAA title in the 10,000 meters, before signing professionally with the Boston Athletic Association.
Michelle Bates, Emma Bates’ mother, said her husband was quiet and didn’t often show his feelings unless it was his sense of humor. But he couldn’t quite remain stoic when his daughter raced.
“He got very emotional when she ran,” Michelle Bates said. “He was very proud of her. Not always the best about showing it. But if you knew him well enough and could watch him watch her and just to see the tears kind of well up behind his eyes, he didn’t like anyone to see that side of him, but you could just see the pride swelling in him.”
Emma Bates called her dad her “buddy,” as both were more introverted in big crowds and liked to stick together in those situations. Like at church, the pair would always sit next to each other and poke each other until Michelle Bates had to tell them to behave.
Emma Bates said she will always remember her dad dancing around the kitchen wearing his cowboy hat and cowboy boots — he was originally from Texas.
Just learning of his illness ahead of last year’s 10 Mile gave Emma Bates more drive to run as hard as she could. And while this past year has been hard — her grandmother passed away three months ago as well — these losses will help motivate her to run faster, said her boyfriend and coach, Kameron Ulmer.
Initially, Emma Bates said she thought it might be too tough to run this same race again. But while home for the past month helping her mom sort out the house, she found time to run that same path by the hospital a couple of weekends ago.
“I thought it was going to be really hard. I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it. But it gave me more strength, somehow,” Emma Bates said. “Even though that was where I was my saddest, that was where I felt like he was able to be free.”