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I dedicate my Tuesdays and Thursdays to cleaning my house (mornings) and Foot Patrol (afternoons). The Foot Patrol coaches and runners have been hard at play for five weeks now, integrating fun games (running in disguise) with some distance training. The coaches and I have worked with nearly 40 boys and girls, K-5th grade this season. Some days thinking about it just blows me away. Ten years ago, if you had told me if I’d be a kids’ running program coordinator and coach, I would have laughed.
Across the street from our YMCA is a paved trail around a man-made lake. The entire circumference of the lake is 1.6 miles. For our younger runners, completing this loop is their season goal. For our older runners, two laps around makes for a great challenge. With this program and its acceptance of anyone who wants to sign-up, we really don’t know what mix of kiddos we’ll get until they show up the first day. What a great surprise we had when we found out that eight of them want to complete the full 5K run. They don’t just want to, they WANT to . . . and they want to go FAST.
Another handful of runners beg for us to play more games. They play whole-heartedly and then start suggesting new games to the coaches, or request games we’ve played earlier in the season. When our day’s session is finished, these little bodies are still in motion as they get their fellow runners together to play “just ONE more!” while they wait for their parents to finish signing them out and parent chatter. Their enthusiasm is contagious and I do look forward to integrating some of their game (and stretching) ideas into the next season’s plans. What is interesting about this bunch is that they aren’t at all interested in distance running, yet I’d be willing to bet that they cover more distance with the games than the distance runners do when they work on running around the lake. At first this bothered me because I wanted every runner to complete at least the 1.6 mile run by the end of the season, but then it hit me that this goal is MINE, not theirs. Some of these running gamers WILL complete the run, mostly because their running buddies want to. But some of these great spirits will choose to do what works for them, which truly is the goal of Foot Patrol – to introduce children to running in a FUN way so they will learn to see it as something they can do throughout their lives without seeing it as a punishment. Are they having fun – YES. Would they see running as fun if I pushed them to do the full 1.6 miles? Maybe not. I’d say the goal accomplished and we’ll just let this bunch revel in the joy they’ve discovered in the games.
And what of that last handful of runners? I’m not one for choosing favorites, but I do really like this bunch. Maybe it is because these kids remind me of my own discovery of running, or maybe because I’m a sucker for witnessing “Ah-ha!” moments, but I’m really enjoying my “I didn’t know I could do that!” group. These are the runners who are part of Foot Patrol because a sibling is also running, because on a whim they thought it “might” be fun, or because one of their friends told them about it at school and their parents were happy to have them participate in a low-cost, local fitness program. For the most part, these are 2nd & 3rd graders who are active in other sports, but who have never really paid attention to what their bodies can truly do.
Last week we were blessed with cool, but dry sunny afternoons for Foot Patrol, truly PERFECT running days. Some of the runners had been asking if we could go ALL the way around the lake. Since many of them had covered 3/4 of the distance comfortably the week before, the coaches and I divided the kids into a few different groups to meet their pacing/distance needs. I took a group of 4 boys, 3 of whom were ready to go, go, go. The fourth boy thought maybe he could, but he wasn’t sure. With one last chance to run with another group, he decided to stick with us and off we went. Thankfully there is a bathroom half-way around the lake, for despite the requirement that everyone make a pit stop before Foot Patrol starts, all four boys were happy to make a second pit stop. At this point that fourth boy started having doubts about continuing. The other kids were amazing at encouraging him and I promised to stick right with him so we could choose distances and then take walk breaks if he wanted. Feeling more confident with our newly set plan, we were off for our second half.
About .10 mile from the cross walk back to the Y, the boy looked at me and said, “I’m not sure I can run anymore.” Since he had been pretty chatty along the way, I didn’t share his doubts, but I didn’t argue with him. Instead I had him lift his chin to look ahead and see where on the path we were. When he did, his already big eyes got even bigger. “We’re HERE already? That’s the Y up ahead!”
“Yup! Did you surprise yourself?” I asked.
“Yeah I did. I didn’t think I’d ever make it around. But I DID! That was EASY!” He quickly shook off his self-doubt as he stood a bit taller to finish up his run. That Saturday he showed up for the YMCA’s annual Fall Classic 1.6 mile/5K fun run to run with his parents and little brother. His little brother is a Foot Patrol runner, too, and was so inspired by his big brother’s accomplishment (and his own good training, of course) that he decided HE could do the 1.6 mile run, too. And he did.
What about you? Do you find yourself facing a daunting task and wonder how you’ll ever accomplish it? Put your chin up, face that finish line and surprise yourself. You can do it.
– Tomorrow is the America’s Kids Run Expo in Spokane
– The in-person Launch Party is Friday, May 9th
– I’ve been lining up some amazing radio interviews over the next few months (stay tuned for details when they’re set!)
– grocery shopping (truly a project)
– volunteering to help with the Girls on the Run of Puget Sound auction (May 8th)
– cleaning the house so that it has a chance while I’m gone for the expo this weekend
– reading books with my daughter who has JUST discovered that books have more to offer than corners for chewing – hooray! In fact, this kid is in LOVE with books. It makes me laugh now to think that I was worried that she’d not have any interest in books!
– keeping my calm with my son who must be having a growth spurt or something because he’s acting a bit out of sorts (is there a full moon, maybe?). I’m trying to be compassionate and understanding – which is consuming at least 70% of my energy these days!
As for the Launch for We Are Girls Who Love to Run, I’m excited to announce that I’ve already received a recipe (it is a yummy one – I know, I’ve tried it!) and two inspirational stories about why these women love to walk and run. I can’t wait to add YOUR photo/story/recipe to the entry mix so that YOU have a chance to WIN A COPY of We Are Girls Who Love to Run! Send your entries as soon as you’ve got ’em ready, because I’m working to compile ’em to share with everyone the week of May 5th. And, don’t be shy or greedy – share the fun with your friends!
Happy running (or walking, skipping, galloping, pedaling, swimming, crawling, hiking . . . sun saluting . . .), everyone!