Run, baby, run
by Jon Worley
Largely at the urging of my wife, our son Max ran his first 5k last May. He did pretty well, finishing third in his 10-and-under age group with a time of 25:25.
I should note here that any running genes he has did not come from me. My knees have pained me almost since birth, and while I could bike 50 miles in my sleep (well, if I did a bit of training), running even a mile would put me out of commission for at least a week. Yes, my daily walk from the Metro station is more than 3k, but that's a walk. You want me to run it? No way.
My wife would like to be a runner, and at 5' 9" and 120 pounds she has the runner's physique, but she doesn't really like running all that much. Soccer is more her game. But she got Max to run last year in hopes that he would make her train. That didn't work out. Nonetheless, she finished in under 33 minutes.
Max doesn't train for his runs. But he plays soccer, baseball and basketball. And when he's not playing organized sports he's on his scooter, skateboard or playing roller hockey with friends in the neighborhood. I've mentioned before that our kids are active, which is fine by me. I would be perfectly befuddled with kids who are content to be slugs.
Last fall, we visited my in-laws for Thanksgiving. My wife signed Max and her up for the annual day-after 5k. She signed our younger son up for the mile-long "fun run." All Max did at that race was run 23:59 and win the under-18 division (there weren't many kids, but a win is still a win).
So he was pointing at this year's local 5k with the hopes of winning his 10-and-under division. By pointing, I mean that he was counting the days. He didn't train much, though he did join an afterschool running club at his younger brother's school and ran a half-mile or so every Friday. And he played soccer, baseball, street hockey, etc.
This morning broke foggy and damp. No rain, but plenty of humidity. Our younger son and I waited at the start/finish line for Max and my wife to arrive. Max appeared first, and he finished in 24:20, more than a minute lower than his time from the year before. We didn't see any kids younger than him come in earlier, but you never know. Max is about five feet tall, so there might be another ten-year-old out there who looks like he might be twelve.
My wife rolled in a few minutes later, finishing in less than 32 minutes--her best time of the three races she's run in the last year. Pretty good for not training. Our younger son ran the one-mile fun run on his own, and finished in less than eight minutes. He had enough energy to sprint to the finish. Asked how he felt at the end, he said, "Awesome." Next year, he's running the full 5k.
I don't pretend to understand where our sons get their athletic ability. My wife and I are in good shape (particularly for decrepit 40-somethings) and not terrible athletes, but neither of us could be considered particularly "athletic." Our kids, however, exhibit athletic ability in just about anything they try. This isn't just grit and determination, though Max certainly relies on that much more than his younger brother. There's something else going on. It seems apparent that Max has a lung capacity that most kids (and adults) don't have. His endurance levels are astounding. He's never winded at the end of races, though he does complain about leg pain. I can sympathize--my knees hurt just watching him run.
But who cares where it comes from? Kids always have talents and abilities that make no sense to their parents. My wife and I have instilled a love of sports and physical activity in our boys, and they seem to have responded well to that. Maybe that's the whole story. And it's a good one if it is.
The easy truth for me is that it is a joy to watch my boys enjoy life. Whether that's playing sports, reading a book or getting interviewed by the local cable-access station after winning a race, I'm good with it. Life's too short to skip over the good parts. Savor them whenever you can.
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