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Friday, November 30, 2007

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Around Home The mother-son running club

I made the suggestion with no idea of what my son's reaction would be. "Tim, want to try going for a run every day and see how many days in a row we can do it?"

This was on a hot afternoon last August. I spoke casually, but it was something I'd been thinking about for a while. I first learned about the practice of streak running — defined by the U.S. Running Streak Association as running one continuous mile every day, 365 days a year — when I wrote an article on local runner Ronald Kmiec. In 2005, Ronald celebrated 30 years of nonstop daily running.

Unlike Ronald and many of the other men and women from around the country who are listed on the U.S. Running Streak Association registry, I'm no marathoner, but I do love recreational running. Ever since writing that article, I've wondered if streak running was something I could do. But it just seemed like such an impractical plan. As it is, I spend too much time away from my husband and children. Arriving home from work at 6 p.m. only to head out the door for a run would not elevate my popularity within the family, to put it mildly.

And besides, as the summer wore on, I was becoming increasingly aware that I needed to find ways to spend more time with Tim in particular. As he approached his ninth birthday, he seemed to be growing ever more remote, at least from me. His consuming interests over the past year had been baseball — both as a spectator and player — and video games. I despise video games, and although I do like watching Tim play baseball, I'm not enough of a fan to join him in spirited discussions about various Major League Baseball teams' pennant chances.

But then I had an idea. Maybe spending time with Tim and establishing a running streak need not be mutually exclusive. Maybe we could do it together. And he agreed to try.

We set our starting date as August 12. I anticipated that we'd go through a series of short sequences — three or four days to start with, then maybe a week, then a goal of ten days. Cold weather would arrive, and we'd postpone it until spring.

But I was wrong. We haven't missed a day yet. Early last week, we celebrated our 100th consecutive day of running. As soon as Tim discovered he could complete a mile, he wanted to see how much more he could do. These days, we run between 1.5 and two miles most weekdays and try out longer distances — often four or five miles — on weekends.

Some parents have questioned whether I'm using good judgment in encouraging Tim to run every day, and I do understand their objections. We talked with our pediatrician about it, and she pointed out that even at the pace of a nine-year-old, our daily 1.5 to two miles take us no more than 15 to 22 minutes, which is the same amount of running a child does in a soccer game or at recess.

And it's just such a great chance to visit with each other. Almost every day, Tim surprises me with a new question during our run. "Mom, what planet is that?" he frequently asks if we are out early enough in the morning that stars are still glowing. I never know, but always promise to look it up. On a run past the cemetery, he asked why some people approve of cremation and others do not. We talk over his homework assignments, and he updates me on what's going on in third grade. One recent morning he had a particularly thought-provoking question: "Why is it that if you read a book first, it's still fun to see the movie, but if you see the movie first, it spoils the book?"

When we began running, I had three goals for Tim: to strengthen our relationship by spending more time together; to iron out some of the natural nine-year-old crankiness in his personality; and to see him spend less time playing video games. In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that we've made no progress at all on that last goal. Becoming a runner has in no way lessened his love of video games. And he's still kind of cranky sometimes. But goal number one has been a success. And he's learned a couple of other things as well, like the fact that it's worth it to go through the discomfort of getting out of a warm bed in the morning, if it means doing something you'll be glad for the rest of the day that you did.

As for myself, I just feel really fortunate. The fact that Tim and I go running together every day does not show self-discipline or athletic prowess; it shows enormous luck. Neither of us has been sick or injured in the past 100-plus days. Moreover, though there are some parents who don't run every day with their children because they think it's an awful idea, there are probably many more who cannot for a range of unfortunate reasons: because they are serving military duty thousands of miles away from their homes; because their neighborhoods are too dangerous to be out traveling along the sidewalks; because their children lack the physical ability to walk, let alone run. We're not strong; we're lucky.

Even if we don't complete a year of running — even if we don't complete another week — it's been a wonderful experience already. Tim's goal is to set a running streak record by someday completing 70 years. He has a long way to go toward that end. But I've already met my goal. I'm really grateful for that.


2007 The Carlisle Mosquito