“Mommy, catch my hand so I can run faster!”
This was the unique stringing of words my three-year-old yelled to me years ago as I ran by his side at one of his first foot races. He had to run an entire kilometer on his little legs and he was feeling fatigued. I grabbed his hand, or “caught” it as his vocabulary requested. We ran together for the first time that day and I count it as one of my life’s greatest blessing that we’re still running together today.
Running with my son, Judah, has had many ups and downs. I’ve nearly lost him in big crowds as he jack-rabbits a start. I’ve lost my patience with him when he’s given up because it’s gotten too hard. I’ve also had the pleasure of watching him push himself to victory.
Since my Dad and I share the love of running, I was hopeful Judah would want to follow in our footsteps. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from running with him is that you can’t push your kids to enjoy your hobby. If you push too hard, the experience will just be miserable. I’ve tried to be a very gentle, yet persistent, nudge for Judah. I’ve had to learn that he is a little kid and wants to have fun when he runs. He has no interest in competing, generally, and I just have to be thankful that he wants to participate with me at all.
To make things fun, our whole family has dressed up for races or sought out races with great after parties. Judah loves the races with pancake feeds. The promise of pancakes seems to get him to the finish line with a faster pace. He and I ran in this summer’s Color Run and are signed up to run the Glow Run, too. These non-traditional themes get him excited and I’m stoked to see him running, no matter the pace or atmosphere.
He and I have run side-by-side through countless 1 and 2 mile fun runs, we’ve moved up to 5Ks and even the triathlon. However, there’s been no greater thrill in my life than when he said he wanted run a one mile alone. Typically I’ll race the longer event and then join him for the one mile. A few years ago he declared he was ready for his first solo race and I had to oblige. He had been working hard all summer with his dad and me to get a good time. The particular race also ended with an uphill and he said he was ready for it.
With parents and grandparents stationed all over the course, my little boy took off all by himself. I stood atop the hill with a gut full of nerves waiting for him to come in view. When he finally was visible, I lost all my timidity and began cheering at the top of my lungs. It might as well have been the Olympics and he was going for the gold, because that’s how proud I felt. He met the hill with one last surge, managed to still give his mommy a wave, and then charged all the way to the finish line. He had a fan club of parents and grandparents screaming and running behind him. He had set a new personal record by a whole minute. Proud doesn’t describe the feeling of watching your child run their little heart out.
Running has given me so much. I’ve learned to be strong, to endure, and to never ever give up. These are the traits I pray my son will inherit as he walks out his life. Judah has taught me that running also has to be fun. If it’s not fun, what’s the point?
Our bond has strengthened as a result of running together. Our commitment to staying healthy has grown as well. Whether it’s racing or light-saber fighting with Daddy, we both agree, life is not meant to be spent on the couch.
Running with your kid is kind of like going through a battle together. It can be really challenging at times. However, despite all the tough times I think he knows I’ll always be at the top of his hill cheering him on and my hand is always there if he needs me to “catch” it.