Raising a runner

I’ve never been a runner. I played a lot of sports growing up, mostly with an overwhelming lack of enthusiasm, and the one through-line is that I hated running of all kinds. I can remember the side aches, meandering my way through the one mile “run” in middle school gym class, dreading running as a punishment during every sports practice. Once I was in college I eventually decided to try to get in good enough shape to run a 5K, and I did, and that was enough for me. I’m someone who goes to the gym and does cardio but long stretches of running have never factored in heavily.

Recently Jonah’s gym teacher has had them doing “fitness runs” at the start of class. One day he brought home a slip of colored paper stating that he’d run for three minutes without stopping or walking. He was proud of his accomplishment and we were thrilled for him. The next week the slip said that he’d run five minutes, and then six. He never had much of a story to tell, just pride that he’d done it. Around this time, as I was walking out of school after dropping Jonah at his classroom, his gym teacher called me over. “I need to tell you a story about Jonah,” she said. “We’ve been doing these fitness runs and every time we do it, within the first minute, Jonah gets a cramp, and he starts to cry. The other kids come up and tell me, “Jonah is crying” and I always tell him, “Jonah, why don’t you stop and rest, you can try again next time.” But he won’t stop. If someone were to come into the gym and see it, they’d think I was torturing him, but he insists on finishing the run, even when he’s hunched over and crying.”

Her story made me so proud of him. We want to raise the kids to be resilient and determined, but I haven’t personally always felt that those are strengths of mine, so it’s hard to say how we’re doing. And maybe this isn’t our doing, maybe it’s all him, but it’s so wonderful to see (or rather, hear).

Last week he brought home a slip saying that he’d run for seven minutes, and today it was nine. He got a cramp, he told me, but it wasn’t bad enough for him to cry this time. I told him that it’s always OK to cry, but that I’m so proud of him for what he’s accomplished. When I headed out for the gym tonight I admitted to him that I don’t run much and that I only ran for five of my thirty minutes of cardio the previous day. “How long should I try to run today?” I asked him. “Ten minutes!” he said. When I hit ten, I texted Kristin from the treadmill and told her to tell Jonah I’d made it, and as soon as I got home he ran up to me and threw his arms around me and said, “Mama D! I heard that you ran for ten minutes!” It was the sweetest burst of enthusiasm.

My dad pointed out recently that I’m always worried and sad about the kids growing up too quickly, but that it’s worth noting the cool moments that happen when they do get a little bit older. As I was laying next to Jonah at bedtime tonight I told him, “Maybe we can sign up for a run together soon.” For the first time ever, I can’t wait.

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