A few weeks ago I made the rather curious decision to run four races in four consecutive weekends. This past Saturday marked the beginning of this challenge as my family and I participated in the Refuse to Abuse 5K at Safeco Field.
The race benefited the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV), a non-profit that seeks “to end domestic violence through advocacy and action for social change.” While I completely support their cause (I ran the race and made a donation!) I must selfishly admit I went to the event hoping to avoid a detailed domestic violence conversation with my 8-year-old.
If I was a better parent I would’ve used the event as a catalyst to openly discuss the unfortunate realities of violence and their consequences with young Jack. Instead, I think I said something along the lines of, “Hurting people is bad.”
Parenting missteps aside, the race was fantastic! The weather couldn’t have been nicer and the course was probably one of the most interesting I’ve ever run. The 5K took us on a winding, corkscrew-like path through SafeCo Field, which, for all you non-baseball folks, is the building where the Seattle Mariners lose their home games.
We circled the outside of the ballpark, did a lap around the main level, then ran up and around the parking garage, headed back into the ballpark, though the suite and upper levels, making our way down into the bowels of the stadium that eventually lead us to a finish line on the the field. Technically, we finished along the warning track, because, as I learned a few years back during a postgame “kids run the bases” promotion, the grounds crew does not want you ANYWHERE near their pristine grass.
I expected the Safeco Field 5K to be the easiest of my summer races, in part because we were running it as a family. With wife and child in tow, I was not running for time and had every intention of employing a slow, leisurely pace.
My son did not get the memo.
Last summer, Jack ran/walked his first 5K. Since then, he’s run some of his usual mile-long fun runs and a few 5Ks with his mom. Apparently his running had progressed significantly.
From the beginning, Jack established a steady, youthful pace, though I was skeptical about how long he would be able to maintain it. But instead of slowing, he actually kicked it up a notch when we hit the second half of the course. Once he got going, he really seemed to enjoy running past people, forcing me to weave through other runners (it was a tight course) to keep up.
My son’s stated race goal was simply to beat me, a goal I was happy to let him reach. However, what impressed me was his 33:10 time. Not too shabby for a kid. After finishing the race, Jack rested for a few moments before inquiring about the location of the finisher’s medals. Much like his old man, he loves a good finisher’s medal.
In the aftermath of the Refuse to Abuse 5K, Jack declared the race his favorite of all the races he’s run. Jack’s been running races for almost three years, acquiring plenty of ribbons, t-shirts, medals and even a trophy since his first Turkey Trot. He seems to like running or, at the very least, participating in races. He’s much less enthusiastic about the non-race variety of running, presumably because there are no prizes at the end of a weekend jog.
Since Saturday’s race, I’ve found myself wondering what Jack’s relationship with running will be as he grows older. Will he run competitively in school or just enjoy the occasional weekend race? Will he continue to run as he goes off to college and moves into adulthood? Will he someday run a half marathon or even a full one? Or will he forsake running altogether and simply look back at it in the past tense, nostalgically remembering it as an activity he used to do with his parents? Are these races laying the foundation for a healthy, active lifestyle or just busying his weekends and junking up his room with colored ribbons and wrinkled bib numbers?
In the end, I suppose it doesn’t really matter. He’s his own person and he’s going to like what he likes. We can lead a horse to water, but we can’t make him want to run. But I hope he does continue to run. Not only because I think it would be good for his body and his brain, but because selfishly I hope to one day run a half marathon with him. I would love nothing more than sharing some quality pre-race time with him stretching and hanging out in the corral as we both prepared to tackle the 13.1 miles that stood between us and the finish line.
And once our hype man counted us down and released our group onto the course, I would look forward to watching him take off and kick my ass. I surely wouldn’t be able to keep up with him the way I did on Saturday, but I could at least look forward to having him greet me at the finish line.