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Confession: I totally get crazy beauty pageant moms.
I realize that’s quite possibly an offensive stereotype, and I am sure there are plenty of awesome pageant moms out there who are not crazy. But you have to admit you know the stereotype I’m referring to…we’ve all seen Toddlers and Tiara’s at least once. (It’s OK to admit it, your secret is safe here.) The ones who go to extremes to see their kids succeed in a sport (or in this case, beauty pageant) that clearly the parent cares about far more than the child does. When you are passionate about something, it seems only natural to want to share that passion with your kids. You want to give them every opportunity to succeed, and to do better than you ever could. After all, they are mini genetic copies of you, so it would only make sense that they would want to follow in your footsteps, right?
(No, but I digress.)
My passion? I love to run, and I love to race. The beautiful coincidence here is that I fell in love with running about two months after my oldest son was born, and started racing regularly just a few months after that. As far as my kids know, running is just something all moms do. They also assume that every medal I’ve ever earned was because I won that particular race. It was a hilarious moment during the 2012 Summer Olympics when my then 5 year old was watching a medal ceremony on TV and said “Hey mom, are you on this show?” Needless to say, running and competition are nothing new to my boys.
Naturally, I want them to also love running…and racing.
Ironically…they don’t. At least not yet.
My friend Pete over at RunBlogger.com recently wrote a great post about his daughter running cross country. He mentioned that despite being a fanatical runner himself, he tries not to push the things he loves on his kids. I’d like to say I have the same self restraint…except I don’t. Four years ago (woah…where does time go?) I posted about my oldest sons disdain for racing. Granted he was only three and a half years old at the time, but he made it known that under no circumstances did he like to race. There were tears, there was kicking, and even at the finish line (when we actually got there) there was utter refusal of the race medal. But as the crazy
pageant running mom, I kept trying, over and over (see the post for some hilarious though in retrospect bad mommy moment pictures) hoping he would catch the racing bug at a young age; a future Ryan Hall in the making. Needless to say, he didn’t. Eventually, despite my broken mommy heart (yes, I’m being overly dramatic), I quit registering him for kid races.
Fast forward to this summer. Much older and significantly wiser…seriously, he’s 7 going on 70… Rowen has shown massive interest in running. He constantly wants me to build him an obstacle course in the backyard (!!) and time his laps as he completes them. He wants to run up and down the hill in our front yard because he believes it makes him faster (smart kid). And the simple fact that he is 7 years old means that he’s got two speeds: stop and go, so OF COURSE he loves to run.
So OF COURSE I bust out the Spartan Kids Race video and ask him if he wants in.
I pull up a website for a slightly more tame kids race, the Extreme Field Day for Kids.
How about a color run? Those are kid friendly!
And then minutes later he asked if we could go find a waterfall. Living in Vermont, this is not a hard request to fulfill. So we headed to a local trail just a few minutes away. He caught site of the first trail marker and took off running. And he ran and ran from one trail blaze to the next,smiling, laughing, shouting, and only stopping long enough to turn around make sure his brother and I were still behind him. He ran with a care in the world, and you could tell he was loving every minute of it.
Moral of the story brought to you by a wise 7 year old: you don’t have to race in order to love running.
But this post isn’t about my son’s love (or lack there of) of running, it’s about something I see everyday in the running community, especially via social media. People stressed out about a race, burnt out on training, stressing about moving on to the next race distance , or feeling inadequate because they didn’t cross the finish line in a certain time. They stress so much about the impending race(s) that they begin to dread running in general. And that kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?
Unless you are an elite or aspiring elite who makes your living off of racing, training for and running a race should be something YOU really want to do. Not for anyone else, not for bragging rights, but for YOU. Racing is an opportunity to test your physical and mental capabilities, a chance to spend the morning with thousands of strangers who share the same love of running that you do. But if the prospect of becoming a slave to your Garmin and hitting specified 800 repeats makes you want to pull your hair out, the idea of toeing a start line surrounded by strangers gives you anxiety, or the thought of pinning on a race bib makes you want to throw a toddler sized temper-tantrum, then remember: you don’t have to race.
Love what you do, it makes all the difference in the world.