Sometimes in life you witness a moment when somebodies whole world appears to change. At least if their world doesn’t change, your perception of how they deal with the world changes. Such a moment happened this Saturday for me when my daughter did parkrun. It wasn’t a big event, there were no bells and whistles, she has done parkrun a fair few times before, and she didn’t even get a PB but something happened. Before, I had the feeling that there was something holding her back. Something inside that just chipped away at any commitment. I may be unfair about this but that was my perception. It was the way that she would run round and walk and then sprint like a looney for the last 100 metres. It was what she did that left me unconvinced not what she said… it reminds me of the writing addage, she was showing, not telling me that she was not quite there.
Before we get to Saturday I must give you a potted history of her running carreer. Years ago when I started parkrunning she came with me once. I don’t think she enjoyed it. I was selfish and instead of doing the right thing and keeping her going I ran off, did my run and then came back to walk with her. Consequently she was walking around on her own for about half an hour completely out of her depth. She had never run before, so unlike my first parkrun she was not fully engaged with the spirit of the thing.
A couple of years later I was helping out at a learn to run group arranged by my running club and she started to tag along to a few sessions. She started going to parkrun more regularly and got to know some people. This meant that when I invariable behaved like a selfish prick on occasions she was not left alone. Although she was a semi regular she never really did much running outside of the parkrun and, however many times I would tell her that she needs to do some if she is going to get any better it just did not happen. She did however enter a few races, a local 5 mile run and a 10k which she ran with another wonderful friend of mine. Things slipped a bit though.
This year she told me that she wanted to run a Marathon next year. In fact she told me she wanted to run Brighton Marathon. I must admit I was sceptical, I gave her the usual advice. You have to go out running on your own and establish a habit. At least 3 months of work until running is just something that you do. Then you can start to pick it apart and work on the niceties of pace and endurance. A few things gave me the indication that maybe she was stepping her game up. She joined strava, she actually went out and did some runs on her own and, she actually signed up to Brighton.
Back to this Saturday. When we started out together she said quite reasonably that she wanted to do a 13 min mile average, which for her is not a bad pace for a parkrun. We started out and the first mile clocked in at about 12:20, “I’m banking time” she explained preparing for that moment when it got a bit trickier and it all slowed down. We kept going, steady pace all around the same time and she worked at it consistently. We did chat, or at least I did more chat and she did more listening. I told her how impressed I was at her running, about how I could see on Strava she had been out on her own and it was starting to pay off. She managed to tell me that she wanted to do a half marathon by the end of the year and that she could see the work was paying off.
Hands up, she didn’t get a new PB but she finished strong. Not a sprint at the end but she managed to pick up her pace a bit and she did not look like she was going to die when she crossed the line. I looked and I thought, she could really do Brighton. There will be moments during it where she will hate everything about it but she will finish. That little kernel of sheer bloody minded determination that carries distance runners through months and months of training was there. I am not sure how to express it but if you run you know exactly what I am talking about. What makes me even more convinced is the conversation we had last night.
“Dad it was raining so hard today I was going to leave my run till tomorrow but suddenly it eased off and I put my shoes on and got out while it was dry!”
Spoken like a true sufferer of runningitis!