Remember back when I started running?
Remember when you had all this wisdom for me? You’d be all like ‘yeah it was that way for me when I first started’ and I’d get all annoyed at you?
And then you’d offer me advice on how to make my run easier? I’d think that you totally didn’t get it. That you were in shape already, or close to it when yo started running, and there was no possible way you could understand what it was like for me, at 250 pounds, to be a runner.
Yeah, I remember that. You didn’t say it, but I felt it.
Well, I get it now. It was just difficult to listen and believe that you really knew where I started. Thank you for your patience.
That’s an imaginary conversation that I had with Bradley a few minutes ago. I don’t need to have it in reality, but it was nice to reflect, a little and realize what difference has transpired in the last few years. I know that I am constantly looking at the before and after contrast of my life, but today I went on a run with Gigi that really made me consider what I was like when I first became a runner because that’s kind of where she is at. The compare and contrasting behavior serves to remind me of who I am now (a strong, capable, healthy person) versus who I was then (a weak, insecure, sick person) and helps me to continue to make wise choices that keep me on track.
Guinevere is blowing my mind, lately. Her New Years Resolution was to run more often. Her goal was to run once a week, and she asked to sign up for a few races this year in order to keep training at the forefront of her mind. Kids say stuff like that but the follow through is not always there. I expected the same kinds of behaviors as previous years: a commitment to run followed by a series of offers to run met with guilt ridden excuses as to why she couldn’t. Why would this year be different? But with the age of 12 also seemed to come a new sense of independent responsibility, kindness and aspiration. She clearly sees herself on the precipice of adulthood, is making plans about the kind of adult she wants to be, and the kind of adult she has decided to be is a healthy one who can get around like a bada$$! Today she ran six miles. Six miles! I never ran more than a mile until I was 38, and even then, it was one, tortured mile in ninth grade. She’s out tearing it up! But what I am really loving about watching her begin to train in earnest is seeing, now through experienced eyes, the life of a beginning runner! Here are some of my observations of her running today that were also true for me when I just began:
- Distance is intimidating and impressive. Running a distance that you’ve never run before is alluring and terrifying. You want the bragging rights of mileage but you’re pretty sure you’ll fail, so you don’t get past a certain distance without a push. Gigi wanted to run a 10k in the worst way today. She wanted the sense of accomplishment, but also worried that she wouldn’t be able to make it back. I just assured her that we could walk or call Daddy at anytime to pick us up if we needed. We made it back just fine. Of course.
- Running far is hard. I’ve often said I can run forever if I just run slow enough. To some degree, after the half marathon, I can say with some level of confidence that it’s a little true. But after 13 miles I was so worn out that I couldn’t imagine going further. Gigi has no problem running a mile or two, but she hadn’t pushed herself past 3 miles until today. Like me, she assumed that her legs would carry her with confidence for all six miles, and she even encouraged me to make the run longer. Well, we live on a hill and by the fourth mile she was done and irritable but still wanting to make 6.2 miles. By five miles she asked to go straight home with no more side streets to add mileage. Whatever we had completed at this point was plenty to her! She learned that endurance is built step by step and being able to run a specific distance doesn’t necessarily mean you can double that mileage easily. Training is authentically important.
- What is a snot rocket? Mommy blows snot rockets. Today I cleared each side three or four times. It’s when you hold one side of your nose down and blow all the contents out over your shoulder into the grass or bushes, preferably when you’re as alone as possible. Running in the moist PNW air means that the humidity breaks down everything in your sinuses and it all comes rolling out during a time when you generally don’t have tissue boxes nearby. I’ve used hankies, sleeves, wrist bands and more, but nothing cleans me out like rocket power. Today I taught Guinevere this disgusting skill. And modeled it. Lucky kid. She didn’t foresee a use for the skill, but I know. When you run farther than three miles, the rocket can be your best friend.
- Why don’t we run in the deep grass on rainy days? The deep grass is often where the muddiest and nastiest water is. Especially if it borders a puddle. She learned this lesson almost exactly at 3.0 miles, halfway, today.
- Don’t talk to me anymore. I’m tired. During the last 1/4 mile Bradley used to ask me about dinner. What should we have? White rice or brown? What do I think of this or that or anything? I would get so annoyed as I was pulling up the last of my reserves to make that last bit of mileage. By then, my lungs were burning, my heart was racing, my legs exhausted and my body was stressed! Not the time to think. I find that near the end of an arduous workout that I can’t do math easily. My conversation comes out in odd fragments with the wrong words. I’m literally exhausted, worn out and ready for a break. I can’t think! Gigi was the same today. I was chattering on, giving advice, sharing stories, asking questions and , in general, trying to keep her entertained when I saw an expression of absolute irritation on her face. I suddenly realized that I was doing that same thing to her that Bradley used to do to me! I immediately shut my pie hole and let her just RUN without my yammering!!!
- Unknown paths can be unnerving. Near the end of the run she started freaking out about when we were getting home. The adventure of the run was fun until she was worn out. When I first started running I would go around and around the same loop, over and over. I didn’t want adventure, I wanted security and predictability, and my little mile loop was predictable, close to home and therefore super safe. She started panicking about when the run would end at around four miles, then we turned the corner into our immediate neighborhood and it was alllll good. She smiled and finished the six miles strong.
- Races and events matter and motivate regular training. When I really pressed her about why she is dedicated to running, she cited the races that are scheduled and promised. She’s running the Better Half 10K, the Autism Awareness 5K, the Bubble Run 5K, and as soon as registration opens, were signing up for the Beat the Blerch half marathon. She doesn’t just want to finish, she wants to compete and compete well. That’s why she’s running. I find that I’m extra motivated to stay in condition, too. Having public opportunities to fail (and I use that term loosely as I see no shame in walking if I need to) really help me to stay focused.
- Running is boring. Music helps. Eating gels mid-run is mind-blowingly interesting (seriously, give it a try!). Having a friend to chat with is the best.