Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Running with children

Tonight our local running club had a fun run on the trails of a local nature preserve. I didn't run with the group, and I only managed one and half miles of a run/walk - but I had the best time because my kids actually did it with me.

Now, children are some of the laziest creatures I have ever seen. Try to get them to do something they don't want to do and they will think of a zillion reasons why they shouldn't do it. Get them to do it anyway, and they will draw it out, drag their feet, and dawdle until you find a way to work through it or simply tear your hair out in frustration. By contrast, a child pursuing his or her passionate interest du jour is a whirlwind of energy, a veritable dynamo in action. My children are no different, and when it comes to running we walk a fine line between dynamo and "lazimo."

Images from another impromptu trail run this summer.
Tonight's run was a great example of how things can be when it all comes together. And, it was all the more sweet because of the distance and the location. One and a half miles is no mean feat for a six-year-old and a three-year-old, and add to that the fact that both have overactive imaginations when it comes to the woods, and I was really impressed that they did it at all.

I started out with every intention of just getting them to walk the .4-mile Esker Trail around the ponds. However, as we started out my three-year-old decided he was going to run it. Before I could even react he was down the trail and practically out of sight. My six-year-old - not to be outdone - then decided to take off after him. Well, why not, I thought. (Luckily, I had my trail shoes on.)

When we reached the first major trail intersection, they were doing so well I thought I might as well go for it - so I directed them down the 1.5-mile White Cedar loop. Sneaky, I know. But you know what? We had a good time. This despite the fact that both seem afraid of the woods, despite the fact that the little guy fell twice, and despite both pooping out on me halfway around the loop. Instead of getting whiny and suddenly being "too tired" to continue, they both soldiered on. When they got tired we made a game of looking for the trail markers. We'd run between some and walk between others. We finished with a good run in to try to pass some fellow runners. (We didn't make it, but that's okay. It was just part of the game.)

I guess you'd think running wouldn't be that big of a deal to my kids. After all, my husband and I have been signing them up for kids' runs since they could walk. However, it has been hit or miss with them if it goes well or not. Some days they have a blast with it; other days it all falls apart. We've tried really hard not to push running on them. If they end up enjoying it, we want it to be for its own sake, not because it makes mom and dad happy.

I think I realized tonight, though, that if they do end up loving running enough to take it further, it isn't going to be because of any of the kids' runs we've signed them up for. It'll be because of nights like tonight or days when they run around the park with their dad. Essentially, it will be because of those times we ran together and they got to see us enjoying doing what we love.

As it is, I am looking forward to many more experiences like tonight's. If this continues, I will need to enjoy it while it lasts. I am pretty sure that if they keep running, it won't be too long before they are leaving me in their dust. Otherwise, if things swing the other way, I will cherish this memory and try to remember it the next time I take them out on the trails and they suddenly sit down in the middle of the path and claim to be "too tired."

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