Following in my daughter’s footsteps
My ‘Aha!’ moment wasn’t too terribly long ago. In January of 2011, as a second grader, my daughter Makayla joined her elementary school’s run club. She was already active in team sports and had played the last two years in our city’s recreational soccer league as well as participated in gymnastics and tumbling classes. When she asked to join the run club, I gave it little thought and said ‘sure, if it’s what you want to do.’ and carried on with my evening. I had no idea what this new activity for Makayla was going to do for me.
After just two weeks of running with the school group, Makayla was signed up for a Valentine’s event. It would be a 2-mile run out at the local University as a fundraiser for their track and field team. My excitement for the event was minimal; it was to take place at 7 AM! We had a 30 minute drive ahead of us and had to be there 15 minutes early. Good grief? On a Saturday?! Seriously, I thought runners were CRAZY! But, she was excited and it was my alma mater, so off we went. It was pretty uneventful – or so I thought at the time.
I chased my then 4 year old daughter, Rebekah, around the finish line area as my husband went to get us a Starbucks while Makayla waited to start the event. She was stretching and moving with her fellow club members and I was noticing that the sun was finally coming up. When are they going to start?! It’s chilly, and early, and don’t they see that Rebekah is EVERYWHERE?! Good grief. And, to think, I thought soccer games were awful at 9 AM! As they began to move towards the start area, she made eye contact with me and we exchanged smiles and then I lost her briefly while they were lining up. Coach had them towards the back. I was irritated at first; I thought the smaller ones should be up front. However, I soon learned that Coach was smart. There were adults there to race the race as well as a few other kiddos from local intermediate schools that intended to race the race. Our group was one of the newest to running not to mention the youngest ones there. As soon as the gun went off, people were racing off! I have never seen anything like it; we yelled and screamed as our small group of 3-5 kiddos hustled by (they would have been trampled had they been up front!).
And, then, we checked our watches. I asked one of the other moms how long she thought this was going to take and she just shrugged. MD (my husband) had just made it back with our warm, caffeinated and sugary goodness but it wasn’t lifting my mood. I still was chilled, thought it was too early to be out there and, to be honest, this was BORING! Once the runners left the start area, they were gone. We were sitting at what was transformed into the finish area and were just waiting. And, waiting. And, more waiting. Finally, runners started to come in. I looked at my watch and realized that only 11 minutes had passed by. Really?! That’s it? It felt like forever. I began to excitedly search for Makayla as some of the kids started to cross the finish line.
Nothing. She was nowhere to be seen. Well, it had only been 15 minutes. I bet it’s going to take closer to 20 for her. At 20, nothing. At 25, nothing. At 30, I began to get worried. Especially since some of our group’s runners were coming in and I still didn’t see her. At 42 minutes, Makayla came hustling in. She had finished. And, she was beaming.
We waited around for the awards. Her run club coach had placed with her fiancé in the couples’ division; and, to our surprise, Makayla had placed in her division (we still have yet to tell her that she was second out of two, shh!). She went to retrieve her medal and the smile on her face was a big as the state we live in (Texas). She was hooked.
Makayla with her medal.
Makayla began ‘training’ for her next race; a 5K that was to take place towards the end of March. She ran with her run club on Mondays and Thursdays after school and it was just a couple of weeks after the Valentine event that she began to ask me to run on other days – outside of the run club days and times. I put her off for about a week before caving in.
Alright. You can run on Saturday. But, how are we going to do this since I don’t run (or walk or bike or leave the house) and you cannot go running by yourself?
I will tell you how we did it. I followed behind her.
In my vehicle.
As she ran the un-sidewalked roads of our neighborhood. At early evening hours. For real. And, this isn’t even the “AHA!” moment yet. That moment didn’t come for another few weeks and a two 5K events later. Makayla wanted to run an Easter event put on by a local community college; she signed up for the event knowing that no one from her school’s run club would be there. It didn’t matter to her. She wanted to run. This was her third race event and she was super excited. I took her (by this point, I had gotten over the fact that race events take place ‘so early’ on Saturday mornings) and was excited to see her run – feeding off of her excitement. Also, by this point, I had learned that you don’t have to wait at the finish area of the race. You can move around, follow the course and encourage your running pals along the way.
So, I secured her at the start and went to find a good area to wait for her at around the middle of the course; I managed to see her run by twice along the course before I found a shortcut across a field to the finish. She was getting faster and I wanted to be at the finish line for her. As she approached the finish, I saw that she was looking at 3 minute PR off of her first 5K just a couple of weeks before. I began yelling at her to “dig deep” and “push” and “go, go, GO!” and found myself trotting along side of her (on the other side of the fence barriers) as she finished. And, finished strong. She said she only had to walk twice and was excited that she had improved her time; however, was far from ‘placing’ in the 10 and under category and was slightly bummed that she wouldn’t get a medal. There are some extremely fast kiddos out there!
Makayla at the RNR kids’ event in November 2011.
So, as acknowledgement of her good race and reward since she didn’t get a medal, I decided to take her to McDonald’s for a treat. We ordered and sat down. And, started to chat. You know, the usual stuff like “I am so proud of you!” and “Man, you were fast!” and “How do you feel”? She said “thank you” and “thank you” and “I feel good; can we text Coach and tell her I ran a race and got faster?” I said sure and handed her my phone and then heard her sigh. I asked her what was wrong and ….are you ready for this?!
She told me that I wasn’t fueling her properly! What?! What in the world?! And, when they brought us our order, she picked at her treat as if it was liver and onions! I asked her about ‘fueling’ and she went on to tell me the things that her PE teacher/run club coach had taught her about eating to fuel your body and hydrating to stay strong, etc.
I was in shock. And embarrassed.
Not only had I waited at the finish line for my 8 year old daughter to run a 5K race (for the 3rd time!), I realized that we had horrible eating habits and she was beginning to understand that and I wasn’t the one to teach her. My ‘AHA!’ moment came in stages. It began to take root when I ‘bumped’ into friends as I followed Makayla in my vehicle as she was running throughout the neighborhood and it came to a full bloom when we sat at that McDonald’s table. When Dad called to check in on us (he was at another event with our church youth group), she excitedly told him about the race, the fact she only walked twice and that she couldn’t wait to tell Coach about it.
I sat there listening to her answer his questions and tell him thank you and plan the rest of our Saturday and couldn’t help but think about me – me sitting at the finish line waiting, me eating a donut and drinking a Starbucks as I waited and me taking her to McDonald’s as soon as the event was over – as a reward. I felt horrible. I wanted something different. I ‘AHA’d!’ and became overwhelmed at the same time.
After that event, I searched the Internet for beginner running programs, tracked down local farmers markets and read about ‘lean and clean’ eating. I wanted to run with Makayla and I wanted to feed my family in a healthier way. It wasn’t a process that occurred overnight. In fact, I am still working on our family pantry (the husband likes his Oreos) and bettering our general health and fitness.
However, we are more active and eating better. I received running sneakers on Mother’s Day 2011, ran a 5K with Makayla ON HER BIRTHDAY and completed my first race event (meaning, I signed up for it for me!) in November 2011 with my best friend, Ida.
Nicole at RNR 2011.
Currently, my husband and I are both training for our respective legs of a marathon relay, actively playing with our girls as opposed to watching them play games of chase, tag or kickball and making healthier, on-purpose decisions on what we eat and serve the girls.
Families that sweat pink together stay healthy together.
Nicole and Makayla, out for a run together.
I am running several times a week with my good friend, Ashley, and we recently started a women’s running group in our town. We sleep better, look better (yay for ‘accidently’ dropping a few pounds!) and feel better. We also talk more, hang out more and enjoy each other more. And, we’ve made new friends along the way.
Makayla has inspired her younger sister Rebekah to start running, too.
Who knew that the decision of a second grader to join a run club would have had this impact?! I certainly didn’t but am so thankful she did!
Tags: achieve, compete, families run together, families who exercise together, famly time, fitness aha moment, getting fit, health, healthy, inspiration, living a healthy life, nutriton, running club, sweat pink, track workout, wellness