Thursday, November 27, 2008

On Running

As you grow older and separate from your family of origin, you learn that things you considered normal are actually not normal for many people. For example, my father welds. He goes into his garage, sparks fly, and he solders together little sculptures and large structures. Thus, since Dad welds, I grew up assuming all dads weld. I remember asking Paul, "So, where did your dad weld?" He looked at me like I asked him, "So, where did your dad do his ritual sacrifices?" Like it was that weird of a question.

I think of this because Owen and Joel have grown up in a culture of running. They have learned that it is completely reasonable to wake up early in the morning and drive to random locations. At these locations, they find it perfectly normal to see large groups of men and women, shivering in the cold, wearing short shorts and tight shirts, discussing hamstring pulls and split times. They believe that it is normal, even mundane, to run anywhere between three to 26.2 miles on purpose, all for a T-shirt, free bagels, and bragging rights. To them, this is as normal as watching football, or welding.

I would love it if the boys were interested in long-distance running. First of all, I want Owen and Joel to be healthy, and running is good for you, mentally and physically.

Secondly, I have a goal to "nerd up" my children---band, chess club, and cross country all play a prominent role in this plan. I would far prefer the boys to play Dungeons and Dragons on Friday night, then run fifteen miles on Saturday morning, instead of, say, heroin, or knocking up their girlfriends. Granted, Juno, which features a nerdy, cross-country-running teenage father has made me reconsider this notion, but, I'm not ready to let go of it yet.

Finally, I would like Owen and Joel to grow up in a culture of running because it is heroic to see people step up to the starting line and do something hard. It doesn't matter if it's a Kenyan sprinting for the cash prize, a mother running a marathon to lose the baby weight and regain her sense of self, or a fifty year old man deciding to cross another goal off his Bucket List---showing up, working hard, trying to exceed your natural limitations---that is living poetry.

So, you can imagine my pride as Owen ran his first race today--a 26.2 YARD "Toddler Trot." He had his own number pinned to his shirt, ran joyfully down the marked path, and earned his first medal. I know that children get to make their own decisions in life, and Paul and I will not force or expect our children to run. However, for today, I cherished the smile on his face, the joy in his stride, and the celebration in his three simple words, "Mama, I'm running!"

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