The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, August 29, 2008


A year of running – a mother-son experiment

We ran before dawn and we ran after nightfall. We ran on hot August afternoons, brisk April mornings, and a January evening with a wind chill of 7 below. We ran in Carlisle, Concord, Acton, Bedford, Chelmsford and Stow as well as Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Pennsylvania. We ran in heat waves, snowstorms, the remnants of Tropical Storm Noel, gorgeous autumn sunshine, late summer humidity, and thunderstorms. We passed deer, cows, horses, sheep, geese and snowmen. We ran at Niagara Falls and Valley Forge National Park. We ran separately five times and together all the other days. A couple of times, when the ice posed a nearly impassable barrier, we ran in snow boots. We did four road races. We ran with friends, siblings, cousins, three dogs and two stuffed animals. We ran for 366 days.

Left to right, Ron Kmiec runs with Tim West and Nancy West on August 15 to help celebrate their one-year anniversary run. (Photo by Leslie Kmiec)

As I’ve said several times since my nine-year-old son Tim and I began our daily running streak last August, foreseeing what a long, snowy, cold, icy winter we were in for wouldn’t have discouraged me from attempting a full year of daily running. Realizing that it was a Leap Year and we’d have to pull off a 366th day in order to complete our year, on the other hand, might have been enough to keep me from ever putting forth the suggestion that I made to Tim in early August of 2007: “Want to see how many days in a row we can run a mile or more?”

The impetus at the time was a compelling voice telling me that I had to find something Tim could throw himself into as enthusiastically as video games and baseball. And it had to be something that brought us together. He was about to turn nine years old and seemed most attracted to pursuits that held barely any interest for me at all: professional sports, books about wizards, and anything that involved animated characters on a screen. When we began, he’d never run more than a brief soccer-game sprint or the distance around the bases for a home run, so I had no reason to think he’d develop a capacity for long-distance running even if he wanted to. Nor did I guess that he’d want to.

But it was the only idea I had at the time to resolve my determination to find something for us to do together, something that would strengthen our eroding mother-son bond. Let’s try it, I urged him. He tried it, and didn’t want to stop. He may like the sport of running just fine, but it soon became apparent to me that he liked the absurd discipline of daily “streak running” even more. Much as I had been feeling that doing things with Mom was not a priority for him, he fastened on to the idea that this was something the two of us would commit to every day, and he was hooked.

In the winter, we ran after dark because I wasn’t home in time to run in daylight. Going into the plan, I imagined that winter weather would pose the biggest challenge, but we adjusted – with many layers of fleece – to cold and even snow; it turned out to be the summer thunderstorms that most often hampered our plans. There were days in July when we sat in the house timing the silences between thunderclaps the way women in labor time the space between contractions, and rushed out of the house to do our bare-minimum mile when the rumbles finally stretched at least ten minutes apart. One morning on Russell Street Tim burst into tears because a bolt of lightning nearby scared him so badly, but we were surrounded by trees and three miles from home so we pushed onward. There were a couple of falls, some twisted ankles, and a bad cold or two on both of our parts, but there was never a day that we couldn’t get out at all. Tim wrote about running in his school journal; I learned to record our progress in a blog.

And on August 15th, our tally reached Day 366. Our fellow Carlislean, Ronald Kmiec, who as Massachusetts’ premier streak runner held a streak more than 30 years long, joined us for a 1.9-mile run along the Bedford Road footpath and through the Center that day. My sister and brother-in-law designed commemorative T-shirts, and my mother made a celebratory dinner.

For me, the inevitable question at that point was what next. We’d reached a year; the countdown that we’d maintained to track the final 100 days of our year hit zero. But Tim has no intention of stopping. He believes he’s in this for life, “or the next 70 years,” as he likes to say. I’m quite certain I don’t have 70 more years of running ahead, but I told him I’d stick with it as long as I could.

So we continue. Even though Tim has completed three 5-mile races, distance generally doesn’t appeal to him, so we average only about 1.5 miles most days. I’d still like to do more, missing the leisurely 45-minute rambles I used to do when I ran alone. But we’re doing something together, and we’re having fun, and that was the point all along.

So on we run. ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito