I’ve been coaching a kids’ after-school running program for the past 2 years. After getting certified through RRCA in April I thought I’d start coaching adults, and I’m sure I will at some point, but right now I’m really enjoying coaching younger runners. One of the fascinating things about coaching kids is that you get every type of runner in these programs…from the beginner to the advanced, the uninterested to the dedicated. What’s great about coaching kids is that no matter how uninterested they may (try to) appear, when you introduce competition, everything changes.
Kids have an innate desire to compete. In my program I don’t give prizes or incentives for the fastest, and we only have individual racing a couple of times during the program in order to Â practice pacing and to gauge improvement. Yet every week the kids ask if they’re racing. We hold a lot of relay-type events because they get very psyched about these and push themselves and each other to do their best. Every kid has different strengths but putting them on a relay forces them to work together and encourage one another.
My own kids participate in the program, sometimes grudgingly. Much as I’d like them to be runners, their interest in the sport waxes and wanes. So you can imagine how delighted I was when they both decided to race a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. Of course, on the morning of the race my younger son, overcome with nerves, stated that he wasn’t racing. Luckily I’d already signed them up and so simply told him we were going anyway and he certainly didn’t have to race if he didn’t want to.
Secretly, of course, I was hoping he would race. And, knowing how competitive he is, I was confident he would.
Given that I’m still nursing an injured calf I couldn’t run with the kids, so it was up to my husband to hold them back in the first mile and then help them keep pace in miles 2 and 3. The race Â – Giving Thanks 5K in Vienna – was unfamiliar (we were too late for the sold-out Virginia Run 5K…in the end I was glad, because it was a smaller race than VA Run and raised money for the Wounded Warrior Project and TAPS), but I had looked at the course map and saw that it was mostly on the W&OD trail, which is flat, with the first half mile or so on neighborhood streets.
So we start the race, make the first turn, and in front of us is this HUGE hill. Oh crap. I started to worry that the kids would drop out when they saw that. I was cruising at an 8:30 pace and could see them up ahead. At the top of the hill we went down, and then an even BIGGER hill loomed in front of us. I slowed down, worried about the effects on the calf, and lost sight of the kids and my husband. Those hills were crazy huge…
Once we turned onto the W&OD I relaxed a bit, knowing the hills were over as the race route was entirely on the trail now. Just before the turnaround I started looking for the family. I was counting the boys I saw go past who looked to be in the 10-and-under age group (my boys are 8 and 10), and thought I saw 3 before I saw my husband and younger son. I yelled at him that he was doing great and to keep it up. Just behind them was my older son who wasn’t having a good day, said he was cold and his legs hurt. I paced him the rest of the way, encouraging him to keep running, which he did, and not give up.
After we finished we found husband and younger son, who had run a 24:46, which is 7:59 pace! We hung around after, waiting for the awards ceremony and hoping he had placed. Fortunately I was wrong about 2 of the 3 kids I’d seen ahead of him (turns out they were older) and so he ended up 2nd in his age group!
Here he is in his orange Run Club shirt and Brooks PureFlows, at the awards ceremony. All business, as you can see.
And here he is with his Dad before the race, looking a little nervous!
My kids may not LOVE running (yet), but they do enjoy competition, with themselves and against others, and it was fabulous to see them try their best and do so well. At the end of the day my youngest may prefer baseball and my oldest swimming, and that’s ok with me. Because I’m happy to see them loving THEIR sport, Â whatever that may be,Â as much as I love MINE.