Looking back at my last few posts, I realize there’s an awful lot here about ME and not so much about my partner-in-running-crime, Leo. And, frankly, that’s because this whole distance running enterprise hasn’t been all that problematic for him. At almost ten years old, my son simply doesn’t face the same kinds of challenges my 41-year-old body does. His knees haven’t known years of ballet and skiing abuse; he has no need to drop a few pounds (and, in fact, could afford to gain a few); and a slow run to him isn’t the end of the world.
I could stand to learn a thing or two from my boy.
Last night, for instance, I had a terrible run. First, it’s become HOT down here in West-Central Florida: close to 90 degrees and enough humidity to render unnecessary the use of Body Glide; there’s simply no chafing when every inch of you is sweating. Also, I’ve been fighting shin splints all week and they made their presence known in no uncertain terms throughout our run. Gawdforbidathousandtimes I should maybe just take the night off… oh no, my training plan said “30-40 minute run” and I wasn’t about to skip it. That would feel like quitting and if there’s anything I’m not, it’s a quitter. So I slathered on some Biofreeze under my compression sleeves and set out, intent on not only finishing my prescribed run, but doing so at a nice, speedy pace.
Leo wasn’t battling shin splints, but he was sick over the weekend and maybe wasn’t quite back to his usual self. For 30 minutes, I became ever more frustrated with his slow pace, which, in turn, slowed down my own pace. At the halfway point, he announced that he needed to stop at a water fountain and I anxiously paced back and forth while he took his good ol’ time lapping up some lukewarm water. A few minutes later, he pointed out a batch of ducklings swimming around the golf course water hazard and commented on how much bigger they were than the last time we’d seen them.
“Uh-huh,” I replied, not bothering to look. “C’mon, let’s pick up the pace.”
The path we were running winds around a lot and toward the end, Leo cut across the grass, skipping a long loop of path to meet me on the other side. Inside, I heard my thoughts say, “What is he doing?! He just cut his distance by 20+ feet! Not fair.” Apparently my inner self becomes a petulant 5-year-old when running in discomfort.
As we rounded the bend back into our neighborhood, Leo announced that his breathing wasn’t so great and his side was hurting; he was going to walk home from there.
“Fine,” said I, with an obvious edge to my voice,” you go ahead and walk. I’m going to push my pace up for the last few minutes and try to get our average pace back up to where it should be!”
So I turned on the afterburners, putting as much effort as I could summon into each stride, trying desperately to ignore the singeing pain running up the inside of my left shin, and did, indeed, bring my average pace down a notch. I arrived home utterly depleted in both mind and body. My legs had to be dragged up the flight of stairs to my front door, my breathing was labored, and I felt completely defeated. I met Leo at the door and we went in together, in silence.
My mother asked, as we took off our running shoes, “So, how was it?”
Before I could answer with tales of woe and a stream of negativity that would make the late Andy Rooney sound like Suzy Sunshine, Leo piped in, smile lighting his entire face, “It was great! The ducklings are getting so big, and the Canadian geese are still here; they haven’t gone home yet. And guess what? There was a baby bunny near the bushes! I saw the Red-Shouldered Hawk nearby, so I hope the bunny’s okay. Also, there was a car from South Dakota in the golf course parking lot; that’s far away, isn’t it? Oh, and Mommy finished the whole thing, even though her leg was hurting a lot. Way to go Mom!”
I just stood there, stunned and humbled by my insightful, observant offspring, who clearly didn’t give a rat’s ass what our pace was. And then, after a deep breath ending in a whoosh, “I needed that,” he said. “I feel so much better after running.”
I had nothing to add. I just pulled my boy close, gave him a big hug and, with two big bubbles of tears threatening to tumble from my eyes, said, “Thank you, son.” And we headed off to our respective showers.
Yes, I could learn a thing or two from my young running partner. We have a 5K next weekend to benefit our favorite nature park. The race goes through that park, plus another nature park. Think I’ll let Leo steer.