What I learned running a 5K with my son

{by Heather Spring Gilion}

Noah, my seven-year-old, was eavesdropping on a conversation I was having with my hubby about an upcoming 5K. “I want to run with you, Mom.” The hubs and I looked at each other and I started coming up with all the reasons why that probably wasn’t a good idea. I mean, he’s never run that far, that I know of. He’s all boy, so he basically runs everywhere, all day, everyday, but is he ready to RUN? Is that DFS hotline material? I mean, it sounds like child abuse if I let him, right? Is he old enough to be doing that sort of thing? But every reason seemed to fall flat as we heard his pleading and true desire to mark this off his bucket list. (If 7-year-olds have those sorts of things.)

We came up with a plan: we’ll do a practice run. If he perseveres through 3 miles running with mom through boring neighborhood roads then I’ll say yes.

We laced up our tennis shoes and headed out on our “rehearsal.” Little four-year-old brother, I’ll call him “Mini Me,” was SO distraught as we were leaving that he convinced me that he was up for the challenge too! (Now you’re calling the cops aren’t you? Well, no need.) Daddy Long Legs came to keep Mini Me company if indeed his legs tuckered out.

So, you’re wondering how did it go?

Actually… It was like eating double-stuffed Oreos. It was better than I thought it would be. And I wanted more. It’s always fun when your kids get old enough to introduce them to something you enjoy. The boys and I discussed what we saw in the clouds, I heard their little feet hitting the pavement, and we laughed about seeing worms and birds and cement trucks. They did great! At one point Noah and I left Daddy Long Legs and Mini Me so they could walk a bit. But Noah and I continued our trek around the neighborhood. When he needed a break, we’d walk. I’d point towards a landmark and say, “Do you think you can make it to the trash can up there?” And then off we’d go. During the last mile, I pointed toward a mile marker to see if he could make it there before we walked and he suggested we pick one farther out. “I like to push myself, Mom.” Well, okay, then 😉

Daddy Long Legs and Mini Me were waiting in our driveway to celebrate our arrival. As we entered our street, I told Noah that I usually sprint the last little bit.

“Why, mom?”

“Well, I know I’m about to finish, so I give it all I’ve got. I push myself, knowing that the end is in reach and so I just go for it. Are you ready?”

“GO!” He said. We sprinted. As fast as we could, we ran. We gave it all we had. Daddy Long Legs and Mini Me cheered for us. We made it, laughing, high-fiving, and beaming because we did it!

We completed our 5K rehearsal!

We completed our 5K rehearsal!

A few days later as I tucked Noah in, I told him I’d be waking him up really early for our race. “I’m going to try and get good sleep tonight, Mom, but I’m just so excited, what if I can’t fall asleep?” Noah said as he yawned and drifted off to la la land.

Morning came and as I woke him, before he even had the energy to open his eyes, he grinned and said, “I’m ready for our race!”

We snacked on a banana and grabbed some toast for the road.
We drank our water, arrived on site, and checked in.
With our numbers fastened to our shirts, we stretched and then went one last time in the port-a-potty.

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Joining the other runners, we took turns grinning and nudging one another during the National Anthem because the time had come! I probably hugged him too much, but then again, probably not.

And without further ado… gunshot! The race was underway.

It’s one of those moments in time that I wish I could mentally have on video to replay anytime I wish. Our feet pounded the pavement and our smiles stretched from ear to ear. We were off. “We’re all running together,” he laughed. I laughed.

One thing that’s pretty unique when you’re running with a kid, everyone cheers when you pass by. I LOVED watching his face light up when someone called out a cheer or encouragement his way. Every time, his speed picked up and I would have to push myself to get back in rhythm with him.

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I love this picture because he’s excited that he sees a water station.

We talked. We laughed. We ran. We passed people. We were passed by people. Strangers and friends were cheering for my little athlete. He was working hard. I felt like every few minutes I’d say, “You want to walk a bit?” Most of the time he wouldn’t take me up on it. Or if he would, someone would pass us and he’d immediately want to start up again. He put me in my place quite often, “This isn’t really running, Mom. This is jogging.” Well, he was right. But we were making good time.

We drank our water and I even showed him how to wear it.

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We talked about school, summer, and what he’s learning. We talked about the horse that we jogged by and how creative God was to make all this. He again, didn’t like it when someone passed him so he would speed up as if he was saying, “Oh yeah?”

As we approached the last leg of the race, the anticipation of finishing started to set in. I was so proud of him. I told him so. As I was explaining to Noah that we were about to enter the park and that the finish line was less than a half a mile away, I started hearing more cheers. Strangers and friends were loving on my boy, encouraging his little heart and his little legs to not give up. His speed picked up. I saw him grab his side at one point, “Noah, you want to walk for a minute? Seriously, we can walk, buddy.”

“No, I’m fine.” This kid was booking it. I was almost laughing at this point and it’s hard to laugh and run at the same time, but I had to focus to keep up with him. The cheering continued and there it was… the glorious FINISH line! Mini Me was standing on the side-line waving with all his might. His brother was trucking along, and we had our sights set on the finish line.

We sprinted.
I was cheering.
Others were cheering.
And TOGETHER we crossed the finish line! Our time was 35:36!

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It was glorious. It was a celebration. My partner in crime pushed himself and completed what he set out to do. Was he tired? Yes! But it was a good tired. A happy tired. A satisfied tired as we told Daddy Long Legs and Mini Me all about our great adventure! Now where are the pancakes?

So, here’s two lessons I learned (am learning) from all of this:

1. Take a walk/run with the short people in your life. Okay, maybe your 13 year old is taller than you now, but you get what I’m saying. There’s something about physical activity that makes you feel good, plus you have a destination and a goal that you are moving toward, and you’re doing it together. The company is sweet and the distractions end up being “good” distractions. They usually lead to some real bonding moments.

2. Encouragement is fuel. Noah ran faster when people were cheering for him, to the point I struggled with keeping up, towards the end. What a picture of how we are to live this life. There will be times when you are running the “race” and at just the right time you hear it—applause, the cheers, verbal confidence that others believe in you—and it fans your flame. In that moment, stopping is not an option, even though you may be at your end, strength rises up and you push harder and dig deeper. You are not alone. As a mom, to see the impact that encouragers from the sidelines had on my sweet boy, it was priceless. They became a part of his race! And that’s how life is, isn’t it? When I look at my life and think about all the times I wanted to give up, but at just the right time, God sent someone in my life to encourage me:

When are you going to write that book?”
“You’re doing a really good job!”
“Are you weary? Can I pray for you?”
“I’ve been meaning to tell you that…”

Words can be like healing salve or gas in your tank. The Lord gave us one another to spur one another on (Hebrews 10:24). Applause should never be the reason we do what we do, but it can be just what the Lord wants to use to help you or someone else persevere.

“Just keep swimming” – Dory in Finding Nemo

This has caused me to evaluate my relationship with my kids. Am I encouraging them enough? Do they hear my cheers? Do they know I’m proud of them? How can I speak confidence into their little lives at just the right times? And then, in my relationship with my spouse and in my friendships—am I spurring them on to run with their eyes fixed on Jesus? Do they hear my cheers? Am I using my words to build up and not tear down? Do I use my opportunities enough to encourage my fellow racers? Or do I just assume they know I’m proud of them?

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” {Hebrews 12: 1-2}

Encourage someone today!

And go run with a short person, you won’t regret it.

{Most of the photos in this post were taken by the amazing crew from the Heavy Duty Rebuilders Duck Waddle 5K Run/Walk.}

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5 thoughts on “What I learned running a 5K with my son

  1. Wow, you made that sound like so much fun I’m almost tempted to try running with my 8-year-old – and I normally only run when chased! 😛 What a great experience that your sweet little man will never forget – and how right you are that the Holy Spirit always gives us just the encouragement we need exactly when we need it. Thanks for sharing a beautiful moment with us.

  2. Love this post, Heather. And great timing, too. We were just talking at the dinner table a couple nights ago about the Family Glow Run that the OC is doing in September. Both of the kids immediately said they wanted to do the run, and have asked about when we can start practicing. Can’t wait to run with my short people!

  3. Pingback: Refreshing Accomplishment {Wordless Wednesday}

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