Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What happens when you pit a middle-aged man against his teenage son in a 5K

My 13-year-old son, right, finished the Arm of Hope 5K in 20:15.
It was a personal record for him.
(Photo courtesey of Hope Community Church)
This is a story that starts a couple of years back, when my son expressed interest in running one of the Frozen Foot 5K races here in Elizabethtown.

Nat and I lined up together that March afternoon, and I coached him through the 3.1 miles. At times, he complained that "it hurts," but he kept running. And as much as I had wanted to run my own race (Nat had even said I didn't have to run with him), it was one of the most rewarding experiences to run with him.

Fast forward to this past May. By then, Nat, 13 at the time, had gone through one season on the Elizabethtown Middle School cross country team in the fall of 2013 and had just finished track season where he ran a leg in the 4x800 relay team. This time, we lined up together for the Arm of Hope 5K at Hope Community Church outside Elizabethtown. A few minutes before the race started, he turned to me and said, "I hope I don't go out too fast." I've been running regularly for more than two years and was in good shape, and I expected that he would go out fast, and I'd catch up to him.

I had him in my sights for the first mile, and then he disappeared. I ran a personal best time that day, and Nat finished about a minute ahead of me. I was proud of him. And I am humbled.

On Sept. 20, we lined up together for another 5K, the Run for Peace at the Elizabethtown Brethren Church. For this race, he had been training as part of the cross country team (which I started coaching this year). And I had no illusions that I would beat him (even though he complained about the hill workout the team did the day before the race).

Nat took off and was well in front of me. I ran another personal best time -- 21:09 -- that made me happy. He ran a personal best, too: 19:47.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I hadn't stopped running after my seniot year track season in 1988. But that really is a moot point. When I started running again, it was like hitting the reset button. And I'm thrilled that I can now share the experience with Nat.

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