Carl returned home a couple of weeks ago after a month in Jamestown with a newfound fixation on his health and physical appearance. Much to our delight, this has included an increased interaction with both Sue and I as he seeks our opinions as fellow adults: What parent wouldn’t enjoy a child who asks for their opinion?! Sue has enjoyed taking Carl voluntarily “back to school” shopping for the first time in his life, where he valued her opinion in selecting clothes. For me, I‘ve been flooded with questions about nutrition and physical fitness; areas where I’m more than willing to share my thoughts and ideas!
For years, I’ve cooked what I considered a healthy menu, only to have Carl turn his nose up at the dishes I’ve prepared. Now he’s embracing the diet I’ve selected for the family, and wants to learn how to prepare the meals himself! He has also gone so far as to request that I incorporate even more vegetables, fruits and whole grains into a diet that’s already laden with them. I can do that Carl!
Although I’ve been honing my culinary skills for decades, my knowledge of physical fitness is a bit more limited. You see, I’ve been sedentary for much of my adult life, and it’s only been during the last few years that I’ve attempted to make changes in this critical area. For me, my plan has been pretty basic; run, then run some more! So it’s probably not very surprising that when Carl asked me about physical fitness, I suggested he try running too.
Carl decided to join in with me right away as I led my beginner’s group through interval running. He started out with five minutes of jogging, followed by one minute of walking, and repeating the sequence four, then five times. He then asked if I would run with him on days where I didn’t lead a group run, a request I readily agreed to accept! Then he took the big step, and went running by himself, and ending up loving it, from what I can tell.
Thursday was the first day of our vacation and we drove to Bemidji for a long weekend. We arrived in town, ate dinner, did a little shopping, and then went back to our hotel for the night. It was already 9:00 and dark when Carl asked if I wanted to go for a run with him. We had eaten our fill of Mexican food two hours earlier, and I had completed a fairly tough running workout earlier in the day, but who was I to discourage the budding runner, so I laced up my Brooks shoes, and we headed out into the night.
It was delightfully cool with a slight breeze, ideal running weather, so I told Carl we weren’t going to take any walking breaks on this particular run. Carl sounded excited at the prospect, so we started down Paul Bunyan Drive. We started out faster than we had on any of our interval runs, but Carl said he felt really good, and because he could still talk while running, he knew he wasn’t going too fast. This method of assessing pace was something I had taught him, and I grinned like a crazy man that he had remembered it! Carl said that he felt like he was in a “Rocky” movie.
I had planned on making this run without walking between one and two miles: Short enough that he could likely complete it without walking, but yet long enough that he would be proud of his accomplishment. I knew a beginner’s interest in running could be easily squashed by feeling they had failed a workout, and I wanted to protect my young fledgling from any such disappointment when his enthusiasm was this high. For this reason I said we should turn around when we reached the one mile point.
Carl surprised me by saying he wanted to go up to the next set of lights before turning around. When we reached those lights, he said he wanted to go on to still the next set. I looked into my son’s face, and saw that he was still full of energy, and was even grinning back at me, so I agreed to go one more. When we got to those lights, he asked if Paul Bunyan Drive made its big turn at the next set, and then challenged me by asking why we wouldn’t want to go to the end of the road when we were this close.
When we reached the end of the road, Carl asked how far we had gone so far. When I said almost 1.5 miles, he countered with “3 miles is a 5K right?” It was at that moment I knew what he was up to: He wanted to run a 5K without stopping. I told him a 5K was 3.1 miles and that we would almost be at that point upon returning. He said “follow me” and sped up around the block to get in a little more distance before turning around.
Carl was pumped up like I had never seen him before! He was soaring in the clouds! Cars were speeding by us on the thoroughfare, and when one honked; Carl commented that the people of Bemidji weren’t likely accustomed to seeing runners of our grace and speed on their streets. He added that he felt like he was in the middle of a video for his new theme song “Live to Win” by Paul Stanley.
We continued to pick up the pace on the return route and when we got back to the hotel, I told Carl we were at 2.9 miles, and needed another quarter mile to make 5K. He once again instructed me to follow him as he headed back into the truck parking lot next door and then onto a gravel road returning to the other side. We reached the hotel door and when my Garmin displayed 3.14 miles, I told him he had just completed his first 5K. We exchanged a victory “high five” before climbing the stairs to our room. Just like that, Carl’s first 5K was over just as quickly as it had begun. It was one of those special times however, that a father will remember forever!