If you are a crazy mother runner – an Über Mother Runner – chances are that someday you will hear this statement from your children, “Mom, I want to run a half marathon!” It makes perfect sense that your children will want to do what you love so much, and will want to push their limits athletically just as they have witnessed you doing.
This was precisely what I heard from my 13 year old son this year. Actually, it wasn’t the first time he’d asked if he could run a half marathon – he’d asked last year, and I deferred the question until later.
This time, I talked to several of my experienced running friends/parents. The advice that rang loudest in my ear was from my running friend, Harry. Harry reminded me that in the teenage years, our children grow away from us, as they develop autonomy and independence. He drew in the air with his hands, two arcs going in separate directions. Then he said that running and training together is a way to reconnect. With his hands, he brought the arc back together. “It’s something you will have in common and a bond that will keep you connected, even as he’s growing apart.” Thank you, Harry!
I also did quite a bit of research on young runners, and I finished up the RRCA Running Coach course. I came away with the conviction that, if we keep his mileage overall low, and cap out at a 10 mile long run, it would be fine, in his particular situation, to train for and run a half marathon. My son has a love of running and loads of endurance. He has run with his running club all winter, 2 years in a row – he can easily run 5 miles at the drop of a hat – and he has finished several 5ks, including one 5k faster than my PR, and an 8k (winning first in his age division).
So I talked it over with my son, emphasizing how important the weekly long run would be. He couldn’t skip the long runs and still magically run the half marathon (as he can skip training and still run a 5k). He committed to doing the long runs, and so I finally agreed. On Mother’s day this year, I signed us both up to run a local half marathon in August.
We have only just begun training, but it’s a learning process for me. He often wants to run ahead of me – sometimes, his pace is just faster than mine. But sometimes, he runs ahead, not gaining or losing ground. We talk at the beginning and end of the run, but not the whole time. And he doesn’t necessarily want to listen to my advice. I’m realizing that although this time together will certainly be a bond – it’s not going to look the way that I envisioned it. We probably won’t cross the finish line together, mother and son in perfect sync and high-fiving each other. It’s still very much about him differentiating himself from me, as is true of almost all teenagers.
And just like every other phase of motherhood, I’m offering that gentle support and guidance – allowing him to try things on his own and fail if need be (for example, choosing to eat right before the run and getting a stomach cramp) – and not taking it personally when he wants to run ahead of me. I have confidence that this training and the race will be another opportunity to bond, even if we are not running side by side.
About Molly Beth, BA, RRCA
Molly has been a runner for 10 years who run likes to run long distances, lifts heavy weights, and lives for adventures. She is a volunteer breastfeeding counselor and a writer. She is passionate about community – supporting and helping each other to achieve all of our goals. She enjoys writing about the everyday things that inspire her. She runs because it’s her “room of my own” – something that is just hers.