A few weeks ago my son Harrison and I ran the Pineland Trails 25K trail together as the first race of the summer series. As a 14 year old, his running ability has improved considerably through the spring track season and over the past few years that have seen him grow from a gangly sixth grader to a 6 foot distance runner. He completed his first half marathon and several 10K races last summer and I am pretty sure that this is the last season that I will be able to go stride for stride with him, given is natural attributes and work ethic.
Running with him is always an emotional experience regardless of the scale of the event, whether it’s one of our “run, walk and talk” three milers or an actual race. There is something that resonates in a father’s heart that makes it impossible to separate the little boy that once ran laughing at my side as a child and the young man that now led the 15 mile course around Bradbury Mountain. Such was the case on that Sunday morning when filtered columns of light beamed through the trees revealing the soft lines of my baby boy’s face, soon to be a grown man.
While we ran and talked throughout much of the course, during the silent periods my mind pondered the role of running in the development of children and how it incrementally marks the stages of our relationships. Indeed, the progression of crawling, walking, running, bike riding and driving all have one thing in common…each leads to their ultimate departure and entry into the world.
We as parents are trapped between emotionally opposing responsibilities to both hold our children close, while preparing them to be strong enough to leave us. We run beside them as long as we can, picking them up when they fall, only to place them their feet or on the bike to try again. Though we wish we could, all the instructions and coaching in the world cannot truly teach them to walk or run or ride a bike…they just have to know that are beside them until they learn intrinsically a sense of balance and natural propulsion; both are natural metaphors for life.
Such was the case as I watched Harrison run and think his way through the hills and dales of our first 25K together. I savored every moment as I always do, but was also astutely aware that he is very strong now and the guard has changed. This will be my last summer running with him by my choice…all future summers, he will run with his dad by his own choice. If I have done my job well as his father, he will want to run at his old dad’s pace until I can’t run anymore. This 25K run through the Maine fields and forests began when Harrison was born and I hope that it never ends.
God bless you OneLife Warriors…keep running and I’ll see you tomorrow.