For the past week or so, I have watched my youngest son flounder a little bit as he tries to find himself some semblance of a life after football. Several days, I came home from work to find him ambling around the house looking for something to do or taking a catnap on the couch. I know it has to be an adjustment for him. For the past 4 years, he has been involved week-in and week-out in one form of structured athletic program or another – football practices and games, off-season lifting programs, other programs to increase speed, explosiveness, and form, and training camps. Every week had a purpose and every day had a specific goal. Someone else planned your life and you lived up to their expectations and did what they asked, you worked the program and proved yourself as a solid reliable performer.
For the last 4 years, we have watched as he has matured in to a solid, muscular athlete, a formidable presence on the field. He has honed his nutrition to maximize his muscle base. He has watched his fluid intake to stave off performance deficits. He has heeded the advice of his coaches in building muscle and strength the right way, through hard work and not synthetic hormones or chemical quick fixes. He has worked hard and followed the program to a T, and now he has reached a crossroads. Now things have changed dramatically. No one is telling Lucas how, when, or where to exercise. He has lots of tools he can use, but no instruction anymore. This is the first of what will be many opportunities to transition from the “kid world” of taking direction from others into “grown up land” where you take the tools you have been taught along the way and find your own way in the world and trust that you have the tools and training needed to succeed. I don’t always give my kiddos the room to show off how adult they are becoming, but I am trying to release the reins and let them fly on their own. Some days are harder than others, but you have to have faith in the universe to make itself right.
Last week it started to happen. A few days last week, I came home to hear from Lucas that he had gone running. He ran from our house to Franklin and back (just shy of 2 miles). No one prompted him to di it, he just slid on some shoes and took off. He was pretty proud of himself and posted on his facebook that he was "a workout warrior." Friday, while driving home I passed him as he took off down the hill towards Franklin. I gave him the high sign out my car window and nodded to myself with pride. My boy was running. Cool beans.
Over the weekend we talked a bit about routes, pacing strategies, building endurance. We discussed what I like to call the Pi Route, a 3.14 mile route around the neighborhood. He got lost in the description of street names and turns to take. I suggested I would show him the route sometime, not expecting him to be very interested in that.
Monday, I got home from work to find him at home, kind of antsy. Mike soon followed and Lucas gave me some needling about showing him my route. So we all got ready and off we went. I tried to explain the route to them, saying they were going to be faster than me so here are the directions. Lucas shook his head and denied he would be faster than me, but deep down I knew he would be. Lucas and Mike jogged with me a while, Lucas turning and running backwards, basically chugging it for my benefit.
Before long he and Mike were up ahead. I pushed myself to keep them in sight, able to hold about a half a block behind them for much of the way. I was determined to keep up so I pushed myself as hard as I could and kept moving. As Lucas crested the final big hill leading to home (the last 0.1 mile), I finally lost sight of him, able only to see his head bobbing up over the crest of hill occasionally if I kept speeding up a bit. As I crested the hill myself, I saw that Mike and Lucas were doubling back up that last 0.1 mile to run me in to finish. So there you have it- my boy ran his first 5K. And he smoked me, but was a class act enough to come back and run sweeper for his poky old mom.
Now I have a new goal. My kiddo has the running bug. He broke that first 5K barrier and will only keep getting faster (He did after all go from nothing to a 5K in less than 2 weeks of steady running.....). Lucas is my new pace bunny. I will work to build my own endurance and speed back up to keep him in my sights and never again lose him over the crest of a hill. It's pretty likely too lofty a goal, but just the same I am so proud to have been there for and influenced what is really the birth of a runner. He had the tools all along, he just needed that nudge to pull them out of his toolbox and figure out a way to use them. All by himself an grown-up-like.
It's ON now, pace bunny. Look out for momma.
Maybe you'll even take up cycling and swimming, then we can really play hardball!