My Kids Can Run!
When I took up running earlier this year, I had no idea my kids were paying any attention. After proudly boasting of my own mileage for weeks to my husband, my 7-year-old KM came home from school and surprised me with a request. She wanted to compete in her school's then upcoming 1.2-mile race. The flyer advertised various prizes and I was sure that was the reason.
I signed her up and immediately planned a trip to the local park where she could practice running a track. Having recently embarked on this adventure of running myself, I felt pretty enthusiastic about getting her out there on her running legs and would never throw her into any sort of competition without practice. I like to tell my kids that "If you're going to do something in this family, then you're going to do it 100%." I certainly don't mean that they have to excel at everything they do, but they will prepare and they will try their best. In this particular case this meant that she needed to practice running and work up to the race, in the right gear and the right shoes.
Everybody Joins In!
So my hubby and I put her in some running shoes and marked a ¼-mile stretch to go back and forth on after she stretched. We both figured the other kids would just watch or play with each other elsewhere on the grass.
KM started her laps and within a minute our other three kids were running to catch up with her. I couldn't help but encourage them to continue just as KM was doing and soon enough this was a four kid race. They spent a good 10 minutes following KM back and forth with breaks in between laps and then suddenly they were running in all directions, in search of other adventures. I had KM work on a slower pace for 15 or 20 minutes with many breaks. Obviously, she needed some more practice and we saved that for another day.
After several trips to the park in similar fashion, KM finally arrived at her school for the real race. When the race was set to begin, about 18 kids lined up, ages ranging from 1st to 4th grade and the majority being 3rd and 4th graders. KM looked small compared to most of them but she didn't look worried. I could tell by the stone look on her face that she was confident with her practices leading up to the event. I could tell, also, that she had the competitive bug in her. We reminded her to keep a nice, steady pace and not to wear herself out for the first lap.
KM ran without stopping for the first loop of the race and when she passed by us the first time, my husband went crazy and hollered her name, encouraging her to keep going. Yes, we were the only parents making any noise for their kid. What's that about? KM smiled, ready for the next lap. She remained in 7th or 8th place for that first lap and we noticed half the kids walking by the time they reached the second lap. KM easily made it well ahead of several kids that had worn themselves out by sprinting too far and too soon.
With the end of the second lap closing in, KM seemed to befriend another runner on the track and suddenly they were both walking and chatting. "Nooo!!!" Hubby and I whined. Of course, Hubby can never stay quiet in situations like this so he hollered for KM to get going and she did, but not before her buddy sprinted ahead of her, straight for the finish line and grabbing 3rd place and the last of the prizes.
KM ran in to the finish line at 4th place and Hubby and I erupted into applause and support. She grabbed her medal proudly, forgetting about those silly prizes and hugged us before finding a suitable place on the grass to get some rest and some water. Next, LT, our four year old tugged at my shirt, asking if he too, could run the race. So we pointed him to the track and Hubby ran alongside him for one whole lap.
The kids put together their own "races" in the back yard for days afterward. It was super amazing to see them so engaged with a sport I was just getting into myself. Of course, Hubby and I want to keep their attention so we're going to try out some 5K races in the near future with the kids. What's cooler than kids interested in fitness? In a world preoccupied with video games and television, I'd say nothing is cooler.
EJ Curran is a Delaware mom. This post was adapted from her blog, Four Little Monsters.