Parent and Child Athletics -- 01/08/00
My son and I jogged about a quarter mile together early this afternoon. This was a notable event.

My eldest ran track and cross-country in high school. He's the one who got me into running in the first place. He had decided that I should run so he told me that he had entered me into a one mile fun run. I thought gee, I had quit smoking a couple years earlier and when I was a kid I could outrun just about anyone in our neighborhood, so I said sure, I'll run that. Adam came with me to a shoe store and helped me pick out a pair of running shoes: adidas Bostons. I was working for a university at the time, so one day after work I changed into a pair of cut-off jeans and a t-shirt and put on my new running shoes. I went down to the track and, not knowing any better, began to run as fast as I could -- and was gasping and panting and hurting before I had completed a single lap. Eventually I learned that the way to train is to start slow and gradually build up distance and only after having spent cosiderable time in building up a good training base should you start to work on speed. The day of the race came and Idiscovered, of course, that he hadn't actually signed me up, I had to sign up myself, signing a waiver promising not to sue anyone, but by then I was committed to running this mile. I ran it and not only survived it, I enjoyed it. The mile fun run was associated with a 5K race (five kilometer - just a bit over three miles) and a 10K race (ten kilometers - about six and a quarter miles). Adam had run the 10K and his grandfather (!) had run the 5K. I decided that I wanted to try one of those 5K races.

I trained to increase my distance and a few weeks later I entered a 5K. I was hooked on running. Adam and I would sometimes run together, athough he was very much faster than I was he would jog along as I gasped trying to keep up. We did run in some races together. One time he ran with me and some of my friends from work in a cross-country race on campus. The members of the university's cross-country team assisted with the race (and were obviously scouting the student runners looking for prospective harriers). They saw Adam and began asking him about his running and his time. When he told them that he was a sophomore they immediately attempted to recruit him, until he clarified that to tell them that he was a high school sophomore. One summer one of my collegues hosted a picnic at his home in a rural area. I had encouraged members of my department to try running and some lunchtimes four or five of us would run around campus. So he decided to hold a 5K run/walk as part of the picnic. Adam had not planned on running -- he hadn't even planned on coming until the last minute -- and was wearing sandals. So he borrowed a pair of running shoes (that were too big for him) and joined us in the race. He was in the lead througout the entire run, leaving two of us in a pitched battle for second and third places. We were exhausted, it was by far the fastest 5K I had ever run up to that point. Adam's complaint was that he hadn't gone fast enough to have warmed up properly. (Gee, thanks!)

There was a 20K race every June, tweny kilometers of very hilly roads. Adam and I signed up to run it. I trained and trained. The moring of the race I went to wake him up and found a note taped to his door: "No power on heaven or earth is going to get me out of bed to run twelve and a half miles this morning!" So I ran it by myself and somehow crossed the finish line. In great pain. For the rest of that weekend I had to go backwards down stairs because my legs hurt too much to do it the normal way. (I ran that same race several times over the years, but that first time was the one that hurt the most.)

Adam did not go out for any sports in college. Although he tells me that once in a while he will go jogging, almost the only running he has done since high school (and he is now 31 years old) is once or twice a year when he is visiting and will go out for a short run with me.

My daughter wanted to run almost from the day she learned how to walk. The local runner's club held monthly meets at the university. In addition a 5K road run and a mile run on the track (plus shorter races if there was interest), each meet would feature a 100 meter and 400 meter run for kids. (400m = one lap of the track, about a quarter mile.) Jennifer wanted to run with the big kids -- and not in the short race, she wanted to run around the whole track. So one day I let her enter... she was a few days short of her second birthday, so technically she ran her first 400 meter race as a one year old. She todled along, chasing the big kids, trailing far behind most, but -- amazingly -- she was ahead of two or three kids who were all two or three years older than she was. She ran races every month after that, 100 meter and 400 meter. I told her that the 5K races were too long for her, but as she got into grade school, I did let her enter some one mile races. Finally, when she was ten, I told her she was now old enough for a 5K. She loved it. A few weeks later she ran another and got second place in age group. A couple weeks later she took first in age group. Every year she would get faster and began to gather a collection of ribbons and trophies.

Both Jennifer and Sean played soccer, usually in a parks department recreational league, although they had both started in CYO soccer. Jennifer eventually joined an indoor soccer league and then took part in their travel league instead of the parks dept. league. She also began playing slow pitch softball and as a twelve year old was a starting pitcher for her team. When she was thirteen she moved up to an older age group team. It was startling when I took her to practice and realized that some of the girls on her team had driven themselves to practice and a couple of them had been driven by their boyfriends. (Are parents ever ready as their children grow?)

In eighth grade she went out for cross-country. By this time it was all I could do to keep pace with her through a 5K and always at the end she would sprint for the finish line, leaving me far behind. We also entered some four and five mile races. After running cross-country and indoor track as a high school freshman, she dropped out of school athletics, although she played one more year of rec softball. We would still run in 5K and four mile races.

Sean meanwhile, was not much into running. Most of the neighborhood kids would participate in a parks and rec dept summer track and field program and Sean would go but was never very enthusiastic about it, although he was usually one of the better runners. His sister was one of the best at the high jump and he wasn't bad, but he just wasn't into it. After we moved to Rhode Island, he would sometimes come with us to weekly family running nights at URI but he rarely ran. Starting in January of last year we began to go to the fitness room at the town rec center and work out. In fact, he's the one who persuaded me to try running on a treadmill. We also jogged around the neighborhood a little bit together and ran in a one mile race. He played soccer the first three years we lived here, but last fall did not play. I have been trying to persuade him that he should go out for track and he has wanted to play football.

So Friday he went to the high school wrestling team practice. He worked out with the team, an intense workout that lasted more than two hours and decided to join the team. He came home really excited. After a while the pain from the workout started, but he took a couple aspirin and went to bed with a request that I wake him up in the morning so he could go to the Saturday practice. He was out of bed by nine (this is a kid who would normally stay up all night and then sleep until three) and off to the ten o'clock practice. Looking at the number of cars parked behind the high school gym and realizing that many of these were driven by members of the team... yeah, my little ones are growing up. (Little ones? My son looks like a football player: he weighs 225 pounds. He is no way little, except of course to a father who can remember when he weighed nine pounds.)

When I picked him up after two hours of practice he asked if I would like to go jogging with him, so as soon as we got home I changed into sweats and running shoes and we took off down the street. Of course by the time we'd covered a quarter mile or so the pains from the wrestling workout began to get to him and so we turned around and walked back home. (I then went on to run three miles.) He's now talking about how when wrestling season ends he thinks he might go out for track.

Oh, in case you are wondering about Nancy... she's a tennis player. She was on the team in college. A few years ago we had both kids enrolled in tennis lessons and they both did well but they were not interested in continuing. Nancy has played adult rec league soccer and for two years coached Sean's team here in Rhode Island. She was studying martial arts before we moved here. Jennifer also took some lessons and was good but had too many other sports to have time for another. (Sean has no interest and I tried on lesson and decided it was not good for my ancient knees and ankles.) Nancy took up martial arts again after we moved here, but dropped it because she cannot find a dojo in this area that she likes. Right now she is going to physical therapy for a bad case of tennis elbow, hoping that it will heal in time for spring tennis season. She was interested in tae bo so I bought her the four tape set (and Billy's book as well) for Christmas. She has started working out with the tapes and says she really likes it. (I tried part of it with her a week ago as a warm-up before I went out for a run and it seem like a good workout to me.)

After posting my entry last night I stayed up too late surfing around, reading journals, and went to bed much too late (almost three) and then had trouble getting to sleep. I was up before eight this morning and have had a busy day (including that three mile run). It's about ten p.m. now and I think I'm going to head upstairs and read in bed for a little while and then try for some sleep... (If I can... I seem to have a toothache, don't know why, but it's been bothering me for several hours.) Good night....

My (laughable) educational career -- 01/07/00 (yesterday's entry)

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