Marathon Training: It’s a Family Affair

When the boys were little, I always thought that I would have more time to myself as they got older.  I was so wrong.  Little did I realize that older boys mean more interests, busier lives, and later nights, which really means less time for me.

Circa 2008, the baby jogger days.

When the boys were little, they use to join me when I ran.  I often had one in the stroller and one on his bike.  On Sunday mornings, when I did my long run, my oldest would usually ride with me to keep me company and carry water and Gatorade.  When we finished, we would stop at the corner store and he would buy himself a chocolate bar.

But now my boys are 12 and 17.  They don’t want to run with me, they don’t want to ride with me while I run and they sure as heck don’t want to wake up with the birds on a weekend morning to keep me company during my long run.   During the past year, I have become comfortable with the loneliness of the long run.

This past weekend, as in many parts of North America, Southern Ontario has had another heatwave.  I’ve done a fairly good job of acclimatizing to the heat and I have learned to wake up really early on the days that I want to run for more than an hour.  With this weekend’s temperatures pushing into the 40’s, this weekend’s long run needed to be early.  However, both of my boys were involved in a soccer tournament, which meant early mornings, and my oldest had to work at his part-time job until 1:00 am on Sunday morning; I needed to be home early enough to make sure that everyone was up on time.  This meant that the only window I had to run was Sunday night, when the humidex was forecast at 36C.

On Sunday morning, Dave asked me what my plans to run were.  “Tonight,” I replied.  “I’m starting when it is hot but I’ll feel better as the sun goes down.”  After I narrowed down my start time to 6:30, Dave said that he would meet me at 8:15 after he finished his shift and ride with me during the tail end of my run.  So I sent him to work with 2 extra towels, a bottle of Gatorade, a bottle of water, and a change of clothes.

At 6:20, I drove to the soccer club, handed over the car key to my oldest and started my run from there.  I stopped at home, as planned, in the first half hour for my first water break.  Realizing how hot it really was, I also texted my oldest: Can you, please, try to meet me between 7:30 and 8:00 with water and Gatorade?  It is so hot…. and I named a 2K stretch of road where he could find me. I had no idea when he would be leaving work, nor did I know if he would just roll his eyes and shrug his shoulders, but I hoped that he would be a good son and help me out.

The kid can take pictures too! 8:10 pm and thirteen miles into my run.

At 7:50, I was losing hope.  I ran into Coronation Park to look for a water fountain but there were none.  “How can a large public park like this not have a water fountain?” I asked myself.  I was angry and, admittedly, getting a little nervous about going another 25 minutes without fluids.  “Slow down the pace,” I told myself.  “You’ll be fine.”  And I did.  Within a kilometre of leaving the park, I saw my car pass me and turn into Appleby College.  The kid came through; he greeted me with water and Gatorade, then happily headed back home.   Me, I happily continued towards the pier where I was going to meet Dave.

When I got there, I saw Dave’s car at the TOWARF building, where he volunteers with the town’s water rescue group, but he was nowhere in sight.  Thinking that he was just changing into cycling gear, I went into the station.  “He’s right out there,” I was told but I couldn’t see him.  “Right out there on the water, see.  They were called out at 7:55.”   Of course, they were.

Thumbs up for 19 solo miles in the heat.

So I left directions to let Dave know which way I was going and headed out alone, not what we had planned at all.  But the sun was down so it running wasn’t as tough as it had been an hour earlier.  Besides, I was still fueled with that half bottle of Gatorade and water.  By the time I got back to the pier, Dave and the rest of his crew were just docking their boat.

When I started my run, it was 29C (or 84F) with the humidex at 36C (or 97F).  By the time I finished almost 19 miles, the humidex had only dropped to 34C (or 93F).   I don’t think that I could have run that distance under those conditions on my own but my family’s support got me through it: Dave, who offered to ride with me at the end (it didn’t happen but the thought of it kept me going) and my son who dropped everything so that he could meet me just past the half way mark.    Even though my family is getting older and busier and spending their weekend mornings sleeping while I’m logging miles on the road, they really are still there and supporting my crazy ideas while I keep chasing my dreams.

A Good Problem to Have

I didn’t plan on becoming a soccer mom.  When my boys were younger – well, before they were even born – I imagined them becoming hockey players.  I would get them up in the morning and give them a bowl of oatmeal before Dad would take them to their 6:00 practices, and I would cheer loudly for them during games.  But this never happened.  Even then, at no point in my early parenting years, did I ever think that I would become a soccer mom.

When the boys turned 4, each was registered in the Timbits house league, practically a right of passage in town.   All of their friends played; I mean, ALL of their friends.  But as they got older, and their interests changed, they both walked away from soccer and got into other things.

Somewhere between chasing 4 year old Timbit players and going to High School, the oldest looked into working as a referee.  At the end of his grade 8 year, he took his first qualification course, CPR and First Aid, and he spent that summer getting himself to as many fields as he could so that he could work.  And he was good at it.  My 13 year old could control the field and the parents surrounding it – no easy feat- and that success propelled him to continue reffing during the following school year and summer.

soccer named ballsFast forward to the fall of 2015.  The Littlest Dude (TLD), entering Grade 5, decided that he wanted to play soccer.  Since the club was short of coaches and I was going to be there anyway, I decided to coach his team.  Within weeks, it became obvious that TLD was committed to the sport.  We registered him for another season, and I agreed to coach again.  When the Summer League opened, TLD wanted to play again – but he wanted more than a weekly house league; he wanted to play in the developmental program, which runs twice a week.

This year, it seems, I have officially become a soccer mom.  I am often helping my oldest with travel to his games or back home, since games can end late.  As TLD’s coach, I am committed to working with his team two nights a week.  And now, as he has eyes on trying out for Rep soccer in the next year, I find myself spending almost every afternoon taking him to a field, at his request, so that he can practise shots and play with his friends.  In an average week, I am making an average of 11 trips to any of the different soccer fields in town.

Honestly, I don’t know how this happened.  As a parent, I introduced my boys to different activities, hopeful that they would find one that they liked and would stick with it.  When they were younger, I told them, “It doesn’t matter to me what you do, but whatever you do, do it well.”   My oldest son chose music – played the piano, sang in a choir, played percussion in the band – and he was good, really good, in all.   He took swimming lessons and he ran cross-country, but that was really the extent of his interest in sport; his throwing himself into the world of soccer was a bit of a shock.  He refs, helps coach his school’s Senior team (grade 11 and 12) and mentors new referees.  My youngest?  He loves athletics but he never had any real desire to get involved in any kind of competitive sport.  Out of nowhere, something clicked; he constantly wants to play and, like so many boys his age, he wants to be one of the best. Soccer cleats

I like to think that my own racing and training have somehow rubbed off on my boys.   They have seen me throw myself into my running – especially during marathon season – and chase my own goals.  Secretly, I have been hoping that they would follow my footsteps, especially since they didn’t follow Dad’s path to the rink.  But they haven’t.  For whatever reason, at different points in their lives, both of them simply seemed to wake up one morning and throw themselves into soccer.  And they do it well.

Spending my time taking them from one field to another is a good problem to have.