"Mom, how old were you when you ran your first 6 miles in-a-row?“
“Ummm, 35 years old, fall of 2015."
- conversations with an 8-year-old runner
I have two sons, ages 6 and 8, and I have been a runner for five years, so to them, I have always been a Mother-Runner. Some of my youngest son's earliest memories are of being pushed in the double BOB stroller, while he and his brother kept track of our miles, and ate oodles of snacks!
Prior to the start of 2020, my eldest, Grayden had run a couple local 5k races, and taken several 1-2 mile jaunts with me around our neighborhood. He’d been at the finish line of many of my 5k, 10k, and half-marathon races, and rooted for me from the couch for each of my three marathons. But, as all of us runners know, we don’t get to finish lines by chance; there is a LOT of work that goes in way before race day...and Grayden, well, he soaked up all that, too.
One Tuesday morning about a month into quarantine, Grayden and I decided to go for a run; our goal was a 5k, no stops. We got to mile 2, and he turned to me and said “let’s do 4 miles.” Y’all know I didn’t say no! Our goal was set in an instant that day, and before we knew it, my son was not only on top of our big hill; he was feeling on top of the world!
A weekly tradition was born that day, and Grayden set weekly goals for himself similar to those he’d watched me set for years: week one 4 miles, followed by 5, then 6, and culminating in 7 miles all before the end of the school year in June. He turns 9 in December, and his ultimate goal before then is to run 8 miles as an 8 year old.
But here’s the coolest part about running with Grayden: he loves it as much as I do, and together we came up with some tips on how to get your kiddo hooked on the run too!
Advice and Tips from Grayden and Me:
- It’s all in the socks - the comfier, the funner, the more colorful, the better: ahem, Balega!
- Pacing. Pacing. Pacing. Don’t let your kiddo fly off ahead of you, and marvel at how phenomenally fast they are; reel them in. The very first thing I taught Grayden was pacing; start slow, and you’ll be able to GO. The kid always dusts me, but not until the home stretch!
- Plan your route ahead of time; this might mean you need to drive to your perfect start line, or it could mean front door perfection. You want to find a 1 mile route that starts flat (or slightly downhill) and continues as such. Out and backs are best for those early runs, because you never know how long your kiddo will last.
- Gatorade (specifically red Gatorade) is a fan favorite among kids. It’s definitely high on the list of Grayden’s favorite things about the run.
- Don’t push it. Don’t beg. Don’t let them know you’re upset if they say no. Be as actively positive and inclusive about the whole experience as you can be. Perhaps discussing and planning the route together, or collectively picking the perfect flavor of Gatorade, and reminding your child that this is THEIR special time with just you. While on the run, when they ask to stop or walk, encourage them to push just a tiny bit longer: to the next mailbox or tree, and then of course let them rest if they need to…but learn to push just tiny bits at a time, rather than allowing them to stop as soon as they want to.
When I started running five years ago, I thought it was a wholly selfish endeavor; quickly (and thankfully) I realized that was balderdash. As a runner, I became a better wife, mother, and woman by investing in myself…but the best part was that all along I was teaching my children the importance of investing in themselves, and showing them dreams do come true mile by mile.