Three Generations Of Runners

2 Nov

James preparing for his first run

One of the best races I ever ran was my first-ever 10K event starting at Mel Lastman Square, on the northern fringes of Toronto. This was back in 2001, before my long hiatus from the running scene. The run was called the Ismaeli Run For Charity, and although it was a small event with only 300 or so runners, it was festive and well-organized. This particular race stands out in my memory not because of the run itself (I actually remember it being a very hard run: race day coincided with the start of an intense heatwave in Toronto), but because my dad was there. It is the only time my dad got to send me off at a start line and cheer me on as I crossed the finish.

Dad played a pivotal role in my running. Having been a top-class marathoner in his youth, he became my mentor when I first took up running, way back in 1996.  He gave me advice on everything from race-day strategy to the importance of having the right socks. He showed me how to tackle hills and demonstrated how incorrectly laced shoes can make your feet hurt. He advised me not to rely too much on technology in my training, pointing that in his youth, the only tool a runner really had was his own body. He told countless stories of the races he had run and the people he had encountered on the way.

He was immensely proud when I started running. Passing on his stories and his wisdom to me meant a lot to him, and the day he stood waiting for me at the finish line was absolutely momentous.

Now, I get to pass on the legacy as a third generation is added to the line of runners. My son James, who is all of five years old, has been taking an interest in my running for the last year or so. He wishes me well as I set out for my long runs, and stretches with me when I get back. He fussily makes sure I have enough water to drink, and for some time, he has been talking about going running with me “one day”.

Recently, when I registered for the upcoming 10K event at the Whitby Waterfront Races, James asked if he could be in the race too. Deciding that he was ready, I registered him for the 1K kiddies event. And this weekend, his dream of going running with me came true as I took him out for his first real run.

I did not have any real expectation for the run. I just wanted to see how James would do over a full kilometre, and more importantly, I wanted to get a sense of whether he would really enjoy it. I made it clear to him that he could stop anytime he wanted, and that he didn’t have to do it in the first place unless he was sure. This earned me an eye-roll so intense that I thought his eyes would fall out of his head, and he said impatiently, “Mom-meeeee! Can we please go now?”

I needn’t have worried. Although he briefly slowed to a walk three or four times, he ran the kilometre I had measured out with no trouble. I marvelled at his natural form as his body just fell into the posture and rhythm that articles in running magazines are always saying we should adopt.

I also needn’t have worried about whether he would enjoy it. He loved it. He wants to go again, and as the day of his first race approaches, he is getting more and more excited.

I realize that anything could happen: the kid is only five and he could lose interest tomorrow. But by all appearances, he is really interested in running being a part of his life, and what I do as a parent could either cement that or dissipate it. I feel that I am witnessing the emergence of a new runner: a runner who I get the privilege of nurturing and mentoring, just as my dad did for me.

I feel that in guiding my son, I am a part of something big, something special, and something that I consider to be a great honour.

I only wish my dad could see this. Who knows? Maybe he can.

Welcome, James to the world of running. I hope you choose to stay here, and if you do, I hope we get to run many miles together.

(Photo credit to the author)

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