Today was a momentous day for me as a runner and as a mother. My son (who just turned five) and I went for our first real run together. And he ran for eight minutes! I’ve been waiting for this day since the day he was born. I didn’t think it would have come so soon. But here we are. Hopefully, the first of many glorious runs together.
My son is a tiny and shy. Though he’s talented in many areas (whose son isn’t?), he’s extraordinarily modest. So much so, that whenever he accomplishes something, usually the first thing he says to me is, “Mama, don’t tell anyone that I …”
I’ve never quite understood his humility. But I (mostly) respect it.
But today was different.
After gushing to him about his run, I asked him if I could tell my partner about how well he did. To my great surprise, my son said yes. Not only that, but he also allowed me to tell his cross-country coach.
This week my son started kindergarten at a new school. Big adjustment, especially for someone with his character and disposition. His school is quite small and their only organized sport is cross-country. Of course, the minute I heard that even kindergarteners were allowed join the team, I signed him up. Though he’s tiny, he’s speedy. And he’s always loved to run.
My son missed the first three weeks of practices. It didn’t help that the week he actually joined the team, the weather was in the mid-30s (Celsius) and obscenely humid. Nevertheless, he did his 20-minute practices three days this week.
On our run, I explained to him how runners need to pace themselves, lest they run out of energy too soon. I told him the story of the tortoise and the hare.
He told me his trick for determining whether or not he was going too fast. “Mama,” he said, “I know the difference between running and jogging; when I run, I hear the wind next to me in my ears, but when I’m jogging, I don’t.”
My son loves running and I think he’s quite good. But even if he’s not, I don’t care. My hope is that running, both with me and with his team, will bring him out of his shell, increase his confidence, and make him excited about an activity that he can do both alone and with others, hopefully, for a many years to come. Selfishly, I also look forward to the time we can spend together running.
When I was young (though not nearly as young as my son is), every weekend I would run with my parents. When I visit them, sometimes I still do. I value the bonds that running has allowed me to build with both family and friends, and I hope this is true for my son as well.
Lauren Freeman is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Louisville. She is an avid runner and Ashtunga yoga practitioner. She has two children who, for the time being, she can still outrun.