An interesting thing happened this week. I’ve been at the beach with my children and mom, enjoying some much-desired and rare downtime. Every morning as the sun came up, I was seduced by the siren song of the ocean, calling me to run on the sand. Mile after mile, I felt like I was flying, watching the low sun glittering on the water, enjoying the flat and endless expanse. On day two of our stay, I arrived home and found my son waiting for me.
Unlike most of my post-run morning homecomings, he wasn’t waiting for breakfast. He was waiting to run.
There are many things about the school system that make me scratch my head, but one that I am so thankful for is that they put the kids through fitness testing. They have to see where the kids stack up against national averages for situps, planks, push ups, curls and a mile run.
My son has his mile run next week, and he’s been running with me occasionally to train for it. Typically, he faces these runs somewhat begrudgingly as a ‘have to do’ not a ‘get to do’. We lope along at a nice 11 minute pace for about 11 minutes, and then he finishes proud, tired and happy not to do it again for a couple of days.
This time, it seems that the call of the ocean and my big, post-run smiles got to him. He asked me to take him back to the beach to run. Of course, I agreed! I told him to grab his running shoes and a water bottle. He grabbed the water bottle and said he was going to do this run barefoot.
So back to the beach we went. At a half mile, he was running (and chatting with me!) at a surprising 8:30 p/mi pace. At a mile, nothing had changed. And so it was at a mile and a half. At that point, we stopped running. He was giddy with the accomplishment, and said that he really felt free when he was running. We had talked about important things and enjoyed being in that moment together.
We did it again the next day. I think that if we hadn’t had to leave, he would have kept asking to run each day. Chest bare, hair flying, sun shining and enjoying the feeling of flight and – most importantly – time together.
We have a challenging relationship, my son and I. He is an astonishing person. Brilliant, emotional, generous of spirit and willful beyond belief. He needs to rail against authority yet would never do that to anyone but me, and so I shoulder that need for him. It sometimes feels like a burden I don’t want to take, this need for him to fight me, but I see his need and his potential for goodness and I know that we’ll come through this time and someday look back on it from an easier place.
I hope and pray that we can find this progress in +/- 10 minute, 1 mile increments. Running side by side over sand, turf, pavement or trail.
Not sure if I can import sand and ocean for his mile test next week, but I hope that he will be helped by remembering the feeling of freedom and the conversations about running freely that we were able to enjoy on those runs. And I hope the running is endless with my beautiful running boy.