I have coached a running club with my friend at our children's elementary school for the past three years/four sessions of club. She started it up the year before I joined her and we have had a great following over the years. Our club is open to first through fifth grade and we see all levels of runners. That is what makes it the most exciting.
Day one of practice this year we were going over the rules of the club and what our goals would be each practice. Reminding them that they should try find their own pace of comfort and not to worry about other friends in the group. We teach them proper stretching techniques and giggle each session as we watch them fall side to side doing a quad stretch. I bring G3 and G4 with me so they can cheer on G1 and G2 and the rest of the group. The kids on the team have named the "Harper Squats" for G4 as he was just little last season and would just hover and squat as the kids did their stretching...we now end each session of stretching with 10 Harper squats...he loves it!
So day one of practice this year...we have done our stretching and our warm up laps...and we are letting the kids head back over to the track to get a quick sip of water before we begin our standard run. We start them at 10 minutes on the first practice and increase a minute at a time from there. One little buddy looked at me and my co-coach and asked..."You mean we are going to run today??" He seemed to want to do anything but this club...he made us laugh as we reminded him that this was in fact a running club. Weeks go by...the weather gets nicer, the kids are used to the routine...and that same little boy looked at us and said.."Today is a great day to run." Every practice after that revelation, he ran and never stopped. We would ask how he was feeling before each practice....his response was always "It's a great day to run." My heart was full.
G4 and G3 would stand with the coaches and hand out the bands that we give to the kids so they can count their laps. Every once and awhile G3 and G4 would participate in a cool down lap or someone would invite G3 to run a slow lap with them...and she would do it and be so proud of her colored band. G2 would not always be into the days of running, can't we all relate to that! I would remind her in the early portion of the laps that she will be upset with herself if she doesn't pass what she did the last session. She assured me she would be just fine. Sure enough, when we came to the end of the session-she would push as hard as she could to get those final laps in...and some days break down in tears that she didn't meet her goal. Again-can relate to that.
The kids would cheer each other on as they stood and waited for a friend to finish, younger siblings would run and try their best to keep up with the big kids. With each practice the kids became more engaged and more focused on their own individual goals. Two buddies would push each other to run just one more lap...all with a smile on their face.
I don't know if these kids will continue to run to see what else they are capable of or if this was just a quick pastime to make the school day go by faster, but they brought so much fun into running. It was so exciting to see them uncover this new relationship with something that is so close to my heart. Their excitement when they met their goal or set a new personal record was something you wish you could bottle and use for yourself later...little did they know I did! I think of them when I want to stop and I keep going.
25 of the 40 participants headed to a 5k race this past Monday...and many brought their parents or siblings with them to the race! It was so fun to see all these faces a little nervous on race day and still get through a grueling 3.1 miles. I can't wait for next session to meet our next group of pacers...and see what inspiration they bring to me and the rest of the team! 1400 miles were covered in these past 11 weeks...could not be more proud!
Embrace the suck...choose you...even these little legs did...you can too!!