Today was my son's first, official 5K race. And he finished!
We were dead last but we were also the happiest, proudest pair of 5K runners in the world this morning.
If you have been reading along the last few months, you may remember that my 8 year old handsome prince has been very determinedly training for his first 5K. He did a 2 mile race in June and couldn't wait to again experience the feeling he got from racing.
As we have trained together the last few months, I have tried to teach him what I have learned over my 13 years of running. Things about pace, form, training schedules, what to eat, what to wear...just the basics. But what I have learned and been reminded of in return through this experience was been priceless.
Here are a few of the lessons running with my son has taught me:
1. As adults, we think too much about running. We think too much about why we can't, shouldn't, won't, or don't. Kids...kids are still programmed to think about how and why they can. We need to be more like kids when we think about running- and life.
It was June of 2007 when he told me that he wanted to run a 5K with me. It was right after finishing his kids run at the end of one of my races. I was really excited to hear those words - words I have waited for since he was born. It was one of my greatest dreams to run with my kids. And of course I said "That would be great!" But in the back of my head, I was thinking, "you are too young", "you won't stick with it", "you're built like me - not like a runner", "you have too many problems with your feet", and on and on. Because at this same time, we realized that Tucker's feet problems weren't some passing phase, the pain and issues were serious. At that moment in June 2007, I truly didn't believe he would run, any distance, for many, many years. And even though he was the one dealing with that real pain daily, he never once thought it would keep him from running a 5K.
This experience has really shown me how many times I count myself, or my running out, before I even give it a chance.
2. The phrase "I can and I will..." can get you through more than a few miles in life.
In June when we started our training, he was fresh off his left foot reconstruction surgery and trying to get it stronger. On those first "long runs" of only a mile or so, he was very tired, very sore. In addition, the right foot which hadn't been fixed, still carried a continual case of Plantar Facitis and tendonitis. It was a pretty ugly site at times to see him running down the trail. But as we did our walk/run training, in the run parts he would be in total concentration and he would tell me later that he would just keep chanting in is head, "I can and I will". His attitude has driven him through all of his training miles. Since then, I have pulled that trick out of my box more than a few times in long runs (and in life) and it has amazing power.
3. Being able to "see" where you are going is very motivating.
When we started training, I used the Couch to 5K program. Great program! The only issue for him was that he couldn't "see" the end of 60 seconds or 90 seconds. He wanted to know where we were starting and ending, he would get frustrated at every interval because he didn't know what to expect. After a few runs, I switched tactics and we ran telephone pole to telephone pole. This was a turning point for him. He found that when he could help choose the milestones and he could see where we were going, he could run longer than before. I find that this is true with running and life, when I choose and visualize my goals clearly and keep them in view, it is much easier then when my goals are unclear.
4. "Run your own race", is one of my favorite sayings. I think the nonrunning translation is "Be your own person".
You just can't be good at all things. You can't be like other people. And who would want to be anyway?!? :} Sure, there is a part of me (and Tucker) who would love to be like the other kids in the race today who easily pulled away and finished the race with good times and with no pain. As a parent, I can't help but sometimes wish that Tucker was as fortunate as other boys and ran carefree and happy down the street. But what he lacks on the physical side he makes up for with heart and determination. Through this training, I have seen him already understand the power of dedicated effort, working through challenges, and understanding his god given strengths. I couldn't ask for more from my 8 year old.
And so tomorrow, we take these life lessons with us on his next adventure. It's "righties" (right foot) turn for surgery. It's been just long enough to forget most of the last 7 months and for the left foot to gain strength back. And if you ask him about his surgery and hospital stay, he's not worried. In fact, he will tell you that he's done it once, he knows what to expect and he is looking to get through the rehab faster and stronger.
In fact, last night while we were out for a quick bite, a Des Moines Marathon advertisement was sitting on our table. He looked at for a few minutes and noticed that is was favorable for walkers and it had a relay. Without missing a beat, he asked if he could do a 10K in the summer and then if I could help him find a relay team. He told me it was an important step if he was going to run a half marathon by 10 and marathon by 13.
I just smiled and said, "That would be great!". Lesson #1 strikes again.