As I press forward with my running goals (maybe ‘stumble forward’ would be a more accurate phrase) I’ve been thinking that I need a running partner.
My sweet wife Janine has had a wide variety of running partners over the years. Bright and early on any given Sunday morning, she will head out the door while the rest of us are still sleeping, and meet them, and run for an hour or two with them. They push each other, they encourage each other, they talk to help the time and the miles pass faster.
So I was thinking I should get me one of them ‘running partners’ too. I sure would appreciate something to help the miles pass faster. Even if it is only a single mile sometimes. Which it is. But I still would like it to go faster.
It’s hard to have the courage to ask someone to come running with you when you yourself feel like your running is humiliatingly bad and slow. And I really didn’t know who I was going to ask. I mean, I had no idea how to find a running partner who would be slow enough for me.
So I asked my kids, because I can force them to run with me even if they say no. Besides, why else did I have kids but to have them at my beck and call?
First I went out on a run with my 14 year old daughter, Zara. Zara goes to several dance classes a week, and is a very flexible dancer. For the last few months Janine and I have encouraged her to run twice a week to help counteract the drop in physical activity that occurs with many young teen girls. Zara has been running, but quite reluctantly, and never any longer than her bare minimum run (also known as a bamiru). I figured that she could be a good match, so off we went.
Well, her first comment was how slow I was. Then she said she may as well have been walking since I was going so slow. Then she did walk. I told her to run ahead, but she didn’t want to do that. Instead she had the nerve to remark to me (while I am sweating and spitting and huffing beside her) that her legs were a teensy bit sore from dance the day before, and that she might not be able to run the whole distance.
After a few minutes of struggling to maintain a pace that she might consider half-decent, I was exhausted, and I decided to take a short walking break. Zara was only too happy to join me walking and suggested that the short walking break didn’t have to be too short. In fact, she wouldn’t mind if it were a long walking break.
It occurred to me that the two of us were really too similar to be good partners: neither one of us REALLY wanted to be there; we both wanted to lie down and take a nap; we wondered if it was all worth it; and we complained to each other about how uncomfortable the whole thing was.
We must have looked like a couple of grumpy old ladies.
We finished the run. I really appreciated the quality time with my daughter, but I could hardly call the run a success.
* * * * *
The next week I took my 12 year old son, Caleb, along on my run.
Caleb has started swimming with a club and is really enjoying pushing himself. He was always a bit of a pudgy kid, but his swimming has made him slim right down. Also, having watched him swim, I knew he would be far faster than me at running, so I assumed he would leave me in his dust. I was wrong.
Firstly, although the boy is sleek and fit and graceful in the water, he runs sort of like a camel. I was happy to give him a few pointers on his running form.
Then, he was determined to stick with me. He was remarkably encouraging, telling me to keep it up, chatting away happily while I ground away at the miles. He told me about the kinds of things his swimming coaches say to keep them motivated; he talked about how he wants to do a triathlon some day. We had a really great time, him talking and me huffing and puffing.
Finally, he started having trouble with his asthma, and had forgotten to bring his puffer along. He had to walk for quite a few long stretches, while I kept on running. In the end, he was wheezing badly enough that I ran back to the house to get the car to pick him up. He was fine as soon as he got his puffer, but imagine how great I felt: digging deep to put on every last bit of speed I had, racing home to save my son. I ran like a hero that day.
My advice, so far, on how to find a running partner? Find a kind-hearted, encouraging person who does another sport but is bad at running. Best if it’s your own child, for convenience. Choose a child that doesn’t share your weaknesses. Bonus if he has mild asthma attacks to give you extra motivation at the very end of the run.