You never know what you’re going to get. Yesterday, my daughter picked the wrong piece of candy, let me tell you! I’ve been running races with both kids off and on for several years now. We’ve run side by side on trails and roads, been relay partners, and I’ve cheered both of them on from the sidelines in local track and cross-country events, as well as triathlons. The one thing I’ve learned from these experiences is that the highs can be really high, and the lows can be really low. Trouble is, you don’t know until you are in the midst of it which race your child is going to have.
Yesterday my daughter and I ran her school’s 5k race together. She’s been training fairly consistently for this between weekly cross-country practice and usually one run per week with me at her side. Sometimes those runs are a mile, sometimes two. I always let her set the pace and pick the distance on the given day we “train.” She’s had plenty of good 5ks in the past and she was pretty excited about this one, too. But…it was one of those down days. (translation-misery for mom!)
Very early on in the race, one of her shoes came untied (I know–rookie mistake, mom). We stopped to tie it and in the mean time, lots of people got a way from us. We moved on though and at that point, she was still in a decent mood. Then the shoe came undone again–and so did she.
The final mile and a half and the demon was unleashed. I was” mean.” I dared to run one inch in front of her (her reaction was to stop dead until I got behind her). I told her how much we had left in the race. I pointed out a cute Halloween decoration in a yard! The list of abuses I doled out continued. Finally, mercifully, we were finished.
I think that when kids run distance events at this age (she’s almost nine), you have to give into the fact that their maturity levels aren’t always equivalent to their physical abilities. They may indeed want to run a race, but that doesn’t mean that the experience is going to live up to their expectations. We all know that feeling and it’s no fun. But we’re adults and we have better coping mechanisms.
I did all the things I think a supportive parent should after the race: I told her I was proud of her; I told her it’s not about the time but about completion; and gave her some space to cool down. After we had been back home for a couple of hours, she came out of her room and asked me if we could start training at an eight-minute pace. I told her that was too fast right now, but that we could do some things to help her run faster races, if that was what she wanted. She smiled and said yes and asked when we could next run a 5k together. I think Thanksgiving may be our target, but no matter what, I will go in with my coat of armor ready and my fingers crossed. Because you never know what you’re going to get.
Anyone else ever have that negative race experience with their kids? I welcome any wisdom you have for avoiding those bad race days!