Wednesday, April 14, 2010

After eight months off, my running-streak buddy runs with me again

When my 11-year-old, Tim, and I had our mother-son running-streak challenge under way, we ran together every day for two years. Well, that’s not completely accurate. We both ran every day for two years, and I know for certain that the first year, there were only five days we ran separately. In the second year of the challenge, we ran separately more often, but still, most of the time we ran together. All in all, I doubt there were more than 30 days we ran separately out of the 732 days of Tim’s running streak.

But when he ended his streak last August, it was with a sense of finality. He told other people he’d try running soon again, after he’d taken some time off from it, but I was doubtful. I just had a feeling it was something over-and-done. Not that I really thought that at the age of 10, he would never go for another run in his life, just that I didn’t expect him to resume the regular habit any time soon, if ever.

And I was right. For almost eight months he didn’t go running once, other than the one day he was required to run the mile for gym class. This isn’t to say he grew paunchy and out of shape. He’s only 11 and wiry by nature; plus he played baseball almost daily right through November, which was one of the reasons he opted to stop running, and all through the year he plays actively with his friends at recess and occasionally after school: football, wall ball, kickball, whatever the game of the moment might be.

Yesterday it was monthly early release from school. It was a cool but sunny spring day and Holly had plans. I suggested to Tim we go running together after lunch. He thought about it for a while, conceded that the weather and circumstances were just about ideal, then negotiated, as I thought he would: sure, he’d go running, if we could end our run at the ice cream stand next door and share a sundae.

It was fine with me. I hadn’t gone running with Tim since August 15 of last year. I missed running together. I was happy he was willing.

So we did a short run, up Bedford Road to the library, down the library path and back via Church Street. Our run ended at the ice cream stand parking lot. It was wonderful to be running with Tim again. I love the solitude of running alone, but I also so enjoy seeing his loose, comfortable stride alongside me and hearing the chatter he keeps up while we run.

Needless to say, he had no trouble with the workout. We did only one and a half miles, and he’s in good enough shape from his regular activities for that not to be a big deal. He didn’t say he wanted to start another streak, but he was cheerful the whole time and seemed happy to be out. Over our shared sundae after the run, we talked about possibilities. We’re going to Washington, D.C. soon, and Tim observed that was a state he hasn’t yet run in. His States List so far includes Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania as far as running goes. This summer he could add D.C. and also Colorado. Even with his streak over, building his States List doesn’t depend on running every day, so he seemed amenable to that idea.

One of the problems with maintaining a running streak, as I’ve often thought, is what happens when you end it. If the point was to run every day and you no longer do that, what’s the meaning of running at all? Naturally, there are numerous obvious answers to that: the same benefits that everyone else in the world who runs often but not every day gleans from the experience. Fitness. Relaxation. Time outdoors. Still, I suspected that once it was no longer about maintaining the streak, Tim would have little incentive to get back to running, so it hasn’t surprised me that he’s avoided it for the past eight months.

But yesterday was a good change. Yesterday it was good to be out with him again. Our running-streak mentor, Ronald Kmiec, broke a 32-year streak a couple of years ago and after six weeks off recovering from a heart attack started a new streak. That set a good example for us. Ronald is in his sixties, so he probably isn’t now trying to beat his earlier streak of 32 years. He apparently didn’t need that incentive, though. He got out there and started running again regardless.

I don’t know that Tim will run with me again any time soon, but I’m glad he did yesterday. And maybe he will later this month in D.C. and over the summer in Colorado for the sake of adding a new state to his list. In between those trips, I hope we run again as well. Now, as in the days of his running streak, it’s great to spend the time together. And with the pressure of maintaining the streak off, I’m hoping he’ll eventually discover the bliss of just plain running, the way most people do it: getting out there when you feel like it, even if it’s not part of a tally of consecutive days. Even if it’s a day here and there. Simply because running almost always feels great, no matter how long it’s been since you last did it or how long it might be until you get out there again.

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