As I've mentioned in this blog before, I am a recreational runner. Unlike some of my friends, I don't toe the line to win when I lace up my shoes on race day. Rather, I mentally and physically prepare myself for the challenge ahead. On some days that is to better my previous time, to get a PR (personal record). Other days I am just shooting to go that given distance knowing that I have not put in the kind of training necessary to PR. On either occasion, though, I am typically starting the race with my dad. He's the reason I got into running.
My dad was a runner when he was in high school, and a good one at that. He was built for it; smaller in frame, super fast, and willing to give it his all, and more. As life happens, he got away from running until he was 50. At that point in his life he was looking for a change and something of a challenge, so he picked up running again. In fact, he started doing half and full marathons. He had done at least two half marathons and a full marathon before I came on board. For the life of me, I don't know how it started, whether he asked me if I might like to run with him, or whether I too felt I need a physical change in my life, but I started running with him. As he is in Indiana and I'm in Chicago, our distance apart proves to be difficult to do many training runs together, but up to this point in the last seven or eight years since I started running, there have only been two races that I have started, that he didn't start with me. In fact, for my first half marathon, he ran the first three miles with me with his arm in a sling, and then met me at mile 10 to finish the race with me. Needless to say, he's a great dad.
Obviously, since my son is three, he isn't want for physical activity. Most of the time I am trying to slow him down, not trying to get him off the couch. I am well aware that this will not always be the case. I remember what I was like as a teenager, and if the way I spent my spare time at that age is indicative of what my son will do, it might very well be a challenge for me to separate him from the couch. But as it is right now, I don't really have that problem. What I would love to do at a young age, though, is instill in him a love of running that took me so long to find.
Up to this point, I haven't talked to Mr. Woods, or Mr. Jordan, or Mr. Agassi about when they started playing their respective sports with their sons, but I feel that it was pretty young, maybe not three, but still well before 10. The difference here, though, is that I don't need my son to win races. I would just love to run with him. I want to share that common experience of giving it your all, trying to better your previous runs and experiences, and pushing yourself past what you had previously thought possible. Running can be such a "singular" sport, but sometimes it is so much more fulfilling when it can be shared with someone else.
I came to running later in life than some. I was well into my twenties when I really started, but it has truly become a part of my life that I love, and one of the main reasons is that it is something that I can share with my dad. My best runs are with him, in every sense of the word; my fastest, as well as my most enjoyed. I hope that one day I can run with my son and that he'll feel the same way.
What do you like to do with your kids for fitness?
Have you been able to pass down a passion of yours to your child?
Do you have a prodigy in the making?
Ryan lives in Chicago with his wonderful wife and son. When they are not playing at the local splash park on a hot summer day, he likes taking his son on runs in the stroller, until his is old enough to run along with him.