I look at my 7-year-old son Ellis, and this kid has got it. He’s lean, he’s keen (well as keen as you can be at 7) and he wants to be an Olympic runner when he’s older. My heart aches with proudness when I relive the first time he shared his dream with me.
And I have to face facts – one day – probably in the not too distant future – he’s going to be faster than me, as I sadly get older (and slower). So right now, I just love this opportunity to hold his hand and tell him funny stories – and hopefully create a sense of enjoyment while he runs.
Now for as long as I can remember, Brian and I were always amazed at how much Ellis could run and walk and just keep going and going and going. Miles on miles – from 2 years old onwards. He was a late talker, but this kid could move, he had stamina. One of us would be stuck pushing the pram along, empty, as the other parent would be chasing after our 2 year old boy as he’d be charging on ahead without a care in the world.
Our neighbours, Bernard and Jennie did the Junior Park Run with their kids in Bushy Park (the first Sunday of each month) and said we should come along. Ellis was barely 3. He loved it. We held hands while we ran, and he shot off way to fast (with no concept of how far 2KM actually was) and while he caught his breath, I distracted him by chattering away about dinosaurs.
I quickly saw other parents running with their kids – and I quickly realised what I never wanted to do. There is a fine line between advice and pressure – and I think some parents were trampling too close to the ‘pressure line’ – barking sharp commands – don’t talk, it wastes energy, keep going, watch your pace, keep your arms down… Sounds fun, eh… I knew if I was ever going to stand a chance to nurture Ellis love of running – that was not the way.
So here are things I’ve learned about running with kids.
- If you love it, they will
My parents were not particularly sporty, and I soldiered on doing sports in high school like track and field and basketball, without too much support. They didn’t love my sports – so I had no ‘Mum will be so proud motivation’ to spur me on. I love running and I don’t think it is any fluke that Ellis loves it too. He sees me loving it – so natural he wants to try to do it – to experience the same endorphins that I do.
- I am a master at funny stories
When Ellis ran his first Park Run with me at Bushy Park – he was terrified – I mean there was probably more than 1200 running ‘keenos’ and just little ole him and me, stood there amongst a sea of runners. That first run, he asked me to tell him a funny story, so I did. I have a variety of funny stories that I can drag up from my childhood about our pets, and other funny incidents that Ellis loves to hear. By the nature of Park Run – many of our fellow runners also know some of my silly stories too and sometimes run with us, just to hear the end of a story that I am in the middle of telling.
Ellis Favourite Funny Tail: My dad had a cat called Lexus, and one day I was finger knitting (see left), and I made a long (totally useless) scarf, and somehow it got a loop in the top and the bottom. Well, Lexus was loving this long yarn string thing that I had made. And let’s face it cats don’t quit playing – and I was getting bored moving this yarn around so she could chase it. So, we came up with the idea of hooking the finger knitted yarn to the ceiling fan. We turned it on, and voila, automatic cat toy. And boy did that cat jump – it was amazing! We forgot that there was a loop in the bottom end and on one particularly spectacular jump, she got her little body through the loop and then did about 2-3 revolutions of the lounge while the ceiling fan groaned under the weight and then swiftly went flying to the other side of the room. At this point in the story – queue hilarious laughter from Ellis – without fail. I promise Lexus was not harmed, but always wary of yarn after that fateful day, but without fail, Ellis’ stitch (or whatever running ailment he might have) will be forgotten – distraction is magic!
- Fakers beware
Ellis is now old enough to spot that fake adult, gushing voice and doesn’t yet have the social grace to acknowledge someone is being a bit of an over enthusiastic twerp (albeit with the best of intentions), and goes into lockdown mode, shy, head down, un-answering, surly youth. Wow – you did amazing – how awesome are you – fast boy – etc… If your tone is not genuine, my boy will spot you a mile off and he’s not having any of it. If he didn’t do great at a run, he doesn’t want fake praise. Be real.
- Be sincere
During the last half term, I brought Ellis with me to Monday night Sweatshop 5KM run. It was dark so it was exciting for him. And the guys that organise it were amazing. They gave him a casual shout-out at the start – our youngest member, and then he also got an official t-shirt. Everyone is pretty chilled and just treated him like another runner. He loved it so much, he then came back on the Thursday and did the interval sessions (which we did as a walk/run) in Bushy Park at night, with a snazzy illuminated waste belt.
- Don’t push it
Last Saturday Ellis didn’t want to go to Athletics Practice and I didn’t blame him, I wasn’t too keen on taking him either. It was snowy, cold and staying at home watching movies and building lego looked like a much better option. But I convinced him to go – we took the bus there, and I told him, if he didn’t want to do it, after 10 minutes, we’d leave. Of course, he stayed – I mean they were practicing 400m relays with the baton in teams – it was an epic session. But doesn’t come to every Park Run with me, we have no hard goals on what times he wants to get, and if he really doesn’t want to, I’m not going to force him.
It wont be long before he’s way faster than me, but for now, I’m so happy that I get to share this with him and watch him grow and improve. Do you run with your kids? Do they love it? What tips do you have to share?