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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.

I like a full plate. This sometimes makes my husband cringe, and sometimes causes me to breakout like a 15 year old . . . but, I like to be involved in things. I like to connect with people and I like to help others. It’s in my nature, like my love for hot chocolate on cool autumn night.

I’m currently working on several exciting ventures:

1. Writing proposals for using We Are Girls Who Love to Run in corporate campaigns
2. Creating running clubs for Spring 2010 modeled after Carol Goodrow’s Happy Feet, Healthy Food club at local elementary schools
3. Reading great books and resources, a mix of old & new, to review here SOON!
4. Increasing my own running milage back up to 15-20 miles/week
5. Keeping up with housework more consistently so I can focus better during times when my children are sleeping/away and I have time to work.

The first three items have my greatest focus.

The fourth is being supported by the increase in participation for the Saturday morning trail runs I’m orchestrating in my community. I ran a fabulous 5 miles with a fellow-mom last Saturday. It was such a great run, I practically floated through the rest of the day. Some runs are like that – and I hope to enjoy plenty more!

That fifth item is a constant struggle. Housework has never been at the top of my list, but the better I do with it, the more I’m willing to keep up with it . . . and the more willing I am to actually let people past the front door! If my book ever makes millions, you can bet I’ll hire a cleaning crew so that cleaning isn’t ever on my list.

No, the title for this post isn’t about how grand the weather is here (because, just as quickly as fabulous weather graced us with its beauty, it went away leaving us with CRAZY wind, grey clouds and rain . . . and temps in the 50s and 60s instead of the 80s and 90s we had this weekend . . . ugh!). Instead the title is in regards to my discovery of Eco-Runner. Go follow the link!

Now!

Really!

Do it . . .

It’ll just take a second . . . come on already!

See? Aren’t you glad you did?

Eco-Runner is a great concept, wouldn’t you say? Makes you want to lace-up your running shoes, grab a plastic bag you’ve been saving to re-use and head out to make your community a bit greener, right?!!

Some readers may recall how I posted some time ago about making efforts to be more in tune with the impact I’m having on the environment. Since pledging to be a better citizen, I’ve tried my best to keep on the steady course to live a more “green” life. Here’s a quick recap of what actions I’m (and by “I’m”, I mean “my family is”) taking:

– cloth diapers for my 15 month old (we’re consistently at about 75% cloth, 25% disposable, though that’s an average) Image credit: Bummis

– cloth napkins at dinner (100% – AND my parents have followed suit – AND my mother-in-law sent us a set of 8 so we’re golden now without me having to do laundry as frequently!)

– washcloths for counter cleaning instead of paper towels (100% – 1 roll of paper towels used to last us about a week, now they last closer to 3 and I’m considering ditching them, if I can convince my husband that it is a reasonable idea!)

– we compost all of our fruit/veggie food scraps (there’s a little compost jar by our sink to make it easy – and my husband IS good about dumping it regularly into our bin in the back yard)

– reusable grocery bags (90% – I’m still working on getting my husband to remember the ones I’ve placed in his car for the “on your way home” grocery stops)

– I cancelled 6 catalogs through Catalog Choice (and will continue to cancel them as they arrive in our mailbox . . .and, sadly, they will – even though these are from companies we’ve NEVER ordered through or only order through for the holidays!) Image credit: www.carnegiecarnegie.com/magazines.jpg

– my husband is biking to the bus stop to take the bus to work . . . currently 5 days a week, but since he gets motion sick (translation – a headache that lasts a few hours – ugh!), I think it might be okay if he does it a bit less frequently. When making these choices, you DO have to consider if the trade-off is worthwhile . . . and a husband with a headache for the entire night does not seem worthwhile. We’ll see how it goes in the long-term, as he’s just nearing one month of it. The gas saved for the nearly 40 mile round-trip commute is quite a chunk of moolah . . . not to mention the reduction in his carbon footprint. Decisions, decisions.

MSNBC just posted a simple list of consumer tips for making a difference in helping the planet. You may be surprised at how much you are already doing – and how simple it could be to do just a bit more!

I could keep going . . . but I won’t bore you with the minute things we’re doing or that we can do, since I think the above choices are making a fairly decent dent and there are hundreds of sites DEDICATED to the topic!

And now I’ll get back to the Eco-Runner – this guy lives and breathes the notion that who he is and what he does MAKES A DIFFERENCE (and he’s right)! By starting in his own backyard and spiraling out globally, he is spreading the joy of running and the idea that a passion for running can go even further by combining it with cleaning up our environment as we run. Simple, effective, inspirational! And, another reason this philosophy caught my mom’s eye to pass along to me – Eco-Runner has a curriculum for Kids ! Too cool!

Now, that’s what I call a breath of fresh air!