Disclaimer: 1) I’m not a sports psychologist. 2) I’m not a 9 yr old.
Last week I asked my son if he wanted to delay his tennis session to run his 10th parkrun (that’s the weekly, Saturday, free 5km run – in case you’ve been on another planet…or you are one of my relatives) at the same time I was due to run my 50th one. No pressure.
He said, “Yes”.
On the Friday night, I went to a Christmas work do. I cycled there. I had a good time. I had a bit too much to eat. I had just the right amount to drink. I danced far too much. I cycled back. I got home in the early hours of the morning- at 02:00.
At 08:00 on Saturday I go through to my sleeping son and say, “So… you’d better be getting up if we’re going to make it to parkrun this morning.”
There are some protestations from him – the bed is warm, he forgot it was Saturday, the wind might blow him away, there are hills, etc. I remind him that I said I’d meet fellow runner/blogger abradypus at the parkrun, so I was going anyway and if we were going to run our milestone runs together, then today would have to be the day. He gets up.
He said he was going to run, so he did. Credit to him.
Now obviously I don’t want to force or blackmail him to run. I would have gone on my own. Yes, I wanted to run it with him… only partly because if I ran it on my own and ran it hard (as I would), then the results, given last night’s…. ‘dancing’… would not have been pretty. But I would have gone on my own.
He is in control now. He chooses a light breakfast, he asks to take headphones this week (there’s a whole other debate, right there), but as it turns out, my ears and his are different sizes (who’d have thought it?) so we end up leaving them.
We are soon at the parkrun and meet up with Louise (abradypus) and her entourage, in the form of Mike – another runner, and Louise’s husband and chief bag holder Andy – not running today.
*For those who doubt the importance of punctuation in blog posts, I think that last sentence proves a subtle point.*
We set off… too fast as always…but this is my son’s run and I’m just there for the ride. The first half km is pretty flat but he struggles a bit at the first hill, more at the second, and he has a stitch that is threatening to rip out his insides by the time we reach the third. We walk. We talk. We run again. On to lap two.
This is where I think I make an error, I put my hands up to this – without intending to add any pressure but because I thought he might want to know – I look at the time and I comment that if he keeps this pace, he’d beat his PB (he’d asked about his best time before we left home).
Bad, bad daddy! I am 9 years old, I actually wanted to stay in bed this morning but you guilted me into running with you, and now here I am – still with 2km to go and that series of mini hills / mountain range and you tell me I have to keep this pace?!
When we hit the next hill, he holds my arm. I assure him it’s fine to walk for a bit. We do. But I notice tears 😦
We walk… and I do my best not to sound sarcastic in any way when I say we can walk or run or whatever he wants. I don’t want him to be upset – obviously, I don’t want him to hate running, and clearly I don’t mention the time again, I want him to know (silently) that the time is not important here. We walk. We hug. We are passed by a couple of very encouraging runners on the top, hilly (mountainous) section.
“I just can’t do it” he says.
“I want to, but I can’t. It hurts.”
And although this isn’t about me, I also feel suddenly very aware that I look like a pushy parent, forcing his child into painful, unwanted physical activity. This is not me, by the way. This is not parkrun.
Choices time. We can stop here. There’s the cafe. Short-cut to the cafe. Hot drink? Grab the football we brought with us? Have a kickabout? Achieve those milestone runs another time?
But it’s not my choice and I refuse to make it (though I was asked).
We have all been there or thereabouts before, I’m sure. Going for a goal, falling short of what we hoped for, and needing to decide if we cut our losses and live to fight (or run) another day or keep going – just finish. Sometimes just finishing is important to us. Sometimes it’s the goal that’s important and stopping is actually the strong thing to do, increasing the chances of hitting the goal another time. So I’m not saying one is right and the other, wrong… just that this decision wasn’t mine.
When it came to the crunch, he decided to run. He said he didn’t want to come this way and not complete it. It was as if once he made up his mind, that was it. He ran all the remaining way, eventually passing the ever-encouraging other parkrunners who’d passed us earlier. He finished. He finished strong. He was even almost happy…
…but that was before early-onset teenagerhood kicked in again back at the cafe.
He was of course now too tired to speak. Too tired to talk. Too tired for a drink. Too tired to lift his head from the table…
…so naturally we played football for half an hour before his hour-long tennis coaching session…
…where incidentally, I massively pulled my calf muscle and still can’t walk properly. So much for warm-ups!
What’s next. Now that we
are have running icons in the parkrun world we might just claim our free parkruns any Saturday morning when the mood takes us.
We will also claim our milestone T-shirts and if/when he wants to (and my calf has healed), this father/son combo will be back.