Since I started training for a marathon earlier this year my 8 year old son has suddenly shown interest in running races. As a result we signed up as a family to run the local Turkey Day 5K run and he did pretty well for his first race. He finished the race in 33 minutes and 50 seconds and he came in as number 26 in his age group (26 out of 89). He needed two 30 second walking breaks during the run and then managed to add a fairly long sprint towards the end. I wasn’t sure when to start going faster and I think we went fast a bit too early but it all worked out Ok. Now I just finished a half marathon this last Saturday and while looking for a new race challenge I found out about a local 5K and 10K race this next Saturday. So, I asked him if he would be interested in running another 5K and the reply was a very excited “Yes, sure … I want to”.
Personally I do not find a 5K challenging anymore. I do not really race for time and in general it (the 5K) barely feels like a workout anymore. I know I am exaggerating a little bit, but that is just how I feel about the 5K distance. The event on Saturday also features a 10K, but that would be too much for my son at this point. Ideally I want him to go up to that distance, but I think if he wants to run more races we have to come up with some sort of a structured trainings plan. The most important thing I want to do with this, is to keep this fun for him. I think he really enjoyed the atmosphere at the Turkey Day 5K and getting a “free” T-Shirt is a cool thing for a kid. More important for me of course is the fitness aspect of this whole thing. Picking up a sport that he likes is important and while he plays basketball or football here and there, it’s not where I see him being extremely motivated. It’s fun for him (and that is good), but he lacks a bit on effort sometimes and that also causes some frustration for him. I am not trying to be the dad who pushes a kid into a professional sports career against the kid’s will – I want him to enjoy whatever sport he likes to do – if it turns out to become something bigger so be it (a little guidance of course is sometimes needed for kids). I grew up playing soccer and I was good on a certain position, but lost out early on when I was “competing” against the coach’s son for the same spot even though he was not necessarily better, but he was the coach’s son. I was benched even when the other kid simply sucked playing on certain days. I switched sports and started playing tennis and even made it to the finals of a local tournament, but there was no support level back then. Today you would get a coach or see if there are programs to support talented kids but back then there was nothing where I lived. I continued to play tennis for fun, but sometimes I wonder if I would have been good enough for maybe more. No regrets though.
Motivating kids to be physically active these days is important and I want to offer my son the opportunity to try many different types of sports. In my opinion trying out a few different sports might help to find something you’re really like and eventually you can grow it from there. Maybe running is the one thing my son really likes and that he would like to pursue. Investing some extra time from my side is a no-brainer and maybe my running efforts make me a bit of a role model (unexpectedly) that he is (unknowingly) looking for. He knows that his mom and his dad are working out on a regular basis and I even go running on top of doing a boot camp style workout every day, so seeing the parents being active is a first step.
So, I am thinking of finding a few more 5Ks and see if he picks up on it. I offered him to run one race per month and if here really likes it to help him to go towards the 10K distance. If he does and he wants to go further, let’s train for a 10K and then take things from there. No matter what, it is fun going for a run with my son and I would love to help him to increase his distance and pace if he is up for it.
We will run the Santa Stampede 5K here in Littleton, Colorado. It is just 8 or 9 miles away from where we live and the course is along a local river. We love the area and often go there for walks during spring and summer.