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My son has the runs

August 26, 2011

Not THAT kind. I’m just not good at coming up with pithy puns for my post titles, like newspapers (especially the sports sections) do with their story headlines. This post isn’t about lower-intestinal problems, it’s about running.

Actual running.

Ian’s been playing baseball for four seasons now. He’s not one of those kids that is a natural athlete, the kind that has MLB scouts coming to watch him play at age 9 or anything like that, but he’s a decent player. He’s been his team’s starting second baseman for all four seasons. His major drawback is his confidence in himself. His own worst enemy, that type of thing. He started middle school (Lincoln Leopards, baby!) this school year, and tried out for the school’s baseball team. There were 22 kids trying out for 15 positions. Daddy bias aside, while he was not the best player at tryouts, he was by far not the worst either. There was a kid trying out that I’m guessing had never picked up a baseball bat before. Alas, the tryout gods were not smiling upon him, and he didn’t make the team.

That was a huge blow to his confidence. When the school’s website posted the list of the kids that made it and he saw that his name wasn’t there, it completely deflated him, both emotionally and physically. I felt horrible for him, not so much for not making the team as for how hard he took it. I never actually saw him cry over it, but it was obvious he was in cry-at-any-time mode.

Rewind to last March or so for a moment. Once he had gotten accepted to Lincoln, and had gone to his open-house, at which he learned of some of the multitude of sports and extracurriculars that LMS has available to students, he suddenly announced that he wanted to attempt to join the cross-country team. This was a complete surprise to me- I had no idea he was even remotely interested in running. But I was obviously supportive of it, mainly because this was something in which he developed an interest seemingly on his own (i.e. without any parental “suggestion”), because he seemed to be driven to do it, and also because I simply want my kids to be happy. I’m funny that way.

The only thing I was concerned about was that he’s not a strong runner. Cross-country is about stamina as opposed to speed per se, but he’s not really a strong runner. Around age 5 or s0, he was “diagnosed” as having underdeveloped hamstrings. He spent much of the year between his fifth and sixth birthdays wearing leg braces designed to help stretch his hamstrings. He hates doing hamstring stretching exercises (does anyone really like them, other than the really crazed “Running is life” types?), so he hasn’t exactly been very diligent in trying to develop them in the time since.

Throughout the rest of the spring and the summer, I kept telling him (which is to say, nagging the piss out of him) that if he was going to try out for cross-country, he was going to need to start running, so that he could start building stamina, work on his cardio, that kind of thing. But to my knowledge, he never actually started running until about 5 days before school started this past Monday.

Dawn hopped in the car and odometered (I know that’s not a word) out for him that, starting from our driveway, a mile is basically two laps around the block and then to the stop sign at the west end of our street. So the last few days before school started, he would use his stopwatch function on his iPod and go time his run. I have no clue what is considered a “good running time” for a mile for an eleven year old, but he was averaging about nine and a quarter to nine and a half minutes. I do know that that’s a hell of a lot better than my fat doughy ass and nearly cartilage-free knees could even think about doing. Once or twice he did two miles, finishing in the 20-21 minute range, and he did a mile and a half(-ish) in a little over 15 minutes.

His first practice was Wednesday. It was pretty hot and humid that day, and he said that they ran outside for about half an hour and then went inside and ran around in the gym. Then yesterday was the first actual tryout. There is no practice today, because of the “Welcome Back Dance” after school (I can’t imagine how awkward that at least theoretically will be, especially for Ian and his fellow 6th graders), then there are tryout practices next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, with the first meet of the season on Thursday next week.

The “official” tryout consists of running a two-mile course laid out at Lincoln Park (not affiliated with Lincoln Magnet School, besides being a namesake, but it is the “home park” for most of the city schools’ cross-country teams) in 24:00 or less. While I have absolutely no knowledge of the actual route they use, Lincoln Park has a fairly steep hill on its south half- one up which I wouldn’t even consider skateboarding or skating, let’s put it that way- and it’s definitely reasonable that said hill would be part of the course. Ian had only run on the flat sidewalks of our neighborhood, never on a hill, through any sort of wooded area, etc., but regardless, he was going to have to run the two miles in less than 24 minutes.

He did it in 19:37. That’s nineteen minutes, thirty-seven seconds- close to 25% faster than was required.

So, on his first attempt, Ian became a member of the Lincoln Magnet School cross-country team. When he came home afterward yesterday afternoon, his poker face absolutely sucked. It was immediately apparent that he made it. I kinda teared up a little bit when he made his announcement. He really, REALLY needed this to boost his confidence back up. I’m looking forward to it for him because, while it is technically a “team” sport (hence “cross-country team), it is far more an individual sport. True, they are races against other runners, and the idea is to win the race, but when all is said and done, you essentially are only “competing” against yourself and your best time. That’s something that I really think will help Ian with his overall self-confidence as he sees his time decrease, and also, the running and all the exercise he’ll be getting just may help him get to sleep at night a little easier.

Suffice it to say, Daddy is absolutely beaming. Whether he sets state records or never finishes a single race, I cannot be more proud of him right now.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. SpringfieldZebra permalink
    August 27, 2011 5:10 pm

    Keep us posted on his meets.

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