Before kids, Hubby and I imagined that we would breed athletes of the year. He played hockey and tennis; he loved the fast twitch sports. I was into endurance events – running, cycling, and swimming. So, we figured that our children would be jocks.
Our thoughts were confirmed when we watched our toddle, Skipper, kick a soccer ball . When I took him to a local park, he had an awesome kick and ran after the ball, giggling the whole way down the field. Everyone, it seemed, commented on his super-toddler skills.
The next year, though, things changed. When he played with his first soccer group, he stood on the field, clueless as to what to do and cried; this lasted all summer. We also dreaded the tears that came before every swimming lesson. Teaching him to ride a bike was tedious, back-breaking work. At the end of the summer that Skipper finally learned to ride on two wheels, he crashed, and cracked his helmet; but he wanted to buy a new one the next day so that he could ride his bike again. Hmm, maybe we did have an athlete after all.
Over the next few years, we raised a child who loved his bike and would ride it anywhere and everywhere. Slowly, he has also grown passionate about swimming; now, every time he gets to the end of a pool lap, we see a smile on his face; he is eager for his lessons and asks me to take him to the rec. centre so that he can swim lengths before school! Running – that’s a different story.
Like any child, Skipper loves to be included, to feel a part of the action and, so, he has done many kids’ races over the years. He has run many of them well (clocking a 4 minute km.) and others very poorly; with Skipper, and as with so many of us, how well he runs depends on what is going on in his mind at the time.
This summer, when I mentionned the cross-country season, Skipper announced that he didn’t want to run. I was crushed! Watching his stride and his gait when he plays tag and runs with his friends and brother, I see such potential in him. Knowing that he has run 2K in 8:07, I know that he can be a phenomenal runner if he wants to push. But, I’d rather see him develop that interest on his own than force him into it and turn him off for life.
However, we did have “the talk”. I told him that I was a slow runner in high school; I told him the story of my devastating last place finish in the 1500 metre run at the track meet. We talked about how I have had to work to build my mileage this summer and the dedication that I’ve put towards it. We discussed how it is hard to push your body to do something new and different. Skipper listened and understood; after all, he has lived through most of it while riding with me.
To my surprise, he brought home a permission form to run cross-country this fall. I signed away, relieved that he wasn’t quitting and feeling fairly comfortable that he will run solidly, but not stellarly, by the day of the October meet. But I wasn’t really sure why that form came home – to please me, to do something his friends are doing, or for himself; perhaps, it’s a bit of everything.
Yesterday, after school, I asked Skipper about his first practice. How far did you run without stopping? How fast do you think you are compared to others? How long did you run?
He answered nonchalantly, “Oh, I ran 4 – 5 laps [each lap is the perimeter of a soccer field].”
“Yeah, and it took me about 2 minutes to run one lap.”
I looked at him, and he answered, “I timed it with my watch,” before I could ask the question.
“Were you tired?”
He, then, asked if he could run with a friend on the weekend and picked up the phone.
“No, we need to go on the trails because it’s different,” he explained. “You’re running on dirt and on gravel. You’ll see. 2:45? I think that’s okay. Let me check.”
It seems that Skipper has become a runner – overnight. He and friend are hitting the trails.
“You’ll come with us? Right, Mom?”
“Um, honey, I’m running 17 miles in the morning.” And, I cut myself short. “But I think I can handle another kilometre or two in the afternoon. Sure.”
“Good. I just can’t wait to run again.”
I wonder where that came from.