My new favorite thing about spring? Going to the track with my mom.
I know, I know, I am a self-described solo runner, not keen on the idea of running buddies or running groups. I’ve tried the running group thing and didn’t like feeling like I needed to keep up. I worried with a running buddy I’d also either have to keep up, feel like I was holding the buddy back, or hold myself back to hang back with the buddy.
But it’s different with my mama. I get to share with her something I love.
Now, Mom has said, as I’m coaching her through her run/walk intervals, “Don’t get any ideas about this becoming ‘my passion,’ or ‘my thing,'” when I talk excitedly about my plans for our next round of intervals or tell her how much I enjoy coming to the track with her. My mom can be cautious when it comes to getting excited about things, something I inherited a little bit. If someone else is introducing me to it, that’s when I’m cautious or skeptical. So I understand where she’s coming from. When I suggested she join me in one of my strength-training classes at the gym, she got all “I’m not becoming a runner. I just want to do this to get a little in shape.” I had suggested it because I love the feeling I have after a great workout, and wanted to share that with her, but knowing me means I know a little bit about why my mom had that reaction. We Brooks ladies gotta keep our distance at first when someone tries to pull us into something they really like. We gotta decide we like it on our own first.
All this started when Mom’s friend Maria told me I “gotta get [her] and my mom running!” This is something I’ve heard a lot from friends who’ve seen how quickly I moved from not being able to run a mile to 4 half-marathons and a training plan in place to begin training for the marathon. Not to mention how passionate I am about it and how unbelievably positively it’s affected my attitude toward life.
When Maria mentioned this I told her about the Mother’s Day 4-Miler being put on by Potomac River Running Race Series, and both of them thought that was perfect – except that 4 miles sounded terribly daunting to them. I remembered when 3.1 miles sounded insane to me, too, and told them about the baby step run/walk intervals I took at first just to be able to finish it. “Nobody says you have to run the whole time,” I told them.
So they were on board. It’s helpful when you’re first starting out running to have a target goal by a target date, which I think is what got my mom to move from talking about how she “needs to exercise more” to actually lacing up her tennis shoes and coming with me to the track. Secretly I think the idea of crossing the finish line is attractive to her, and I’m taking off and running with the image of her being thrilled when she does cross the finish line. When she gets to wear her t-shirt with pride and accept the little collectible pin that comes with the Race Series races.
There’s something about the local high school track that is super calming to me. It’s across the street from the public library, and there’s this sense of community about being there with other people just out there to get some exercise. Yesterday we shared the lanes with a jacked sprinter, his more steady-paced girlfriend, one young woman coaching another young woman through some laps while a toddler belonging to one of them scurried along about 100 meters behind, a mom and her two young, impatient daughters following their mom through her workout, and an older couple each doing their own thing on different parts of the track but who left together.
The first time Mom and I went to the track together, I decided to coach her through the first day of a C25K lesson, but to her, even the 30 seconds to 1 minute of running without stopping sounded daunting. I knew she could do it in reality, but sometimes we get in our own heads about the way things sound. Probably the words “without stopping to walk” put pressure on her that made her anxious. So I told her we could do 15seconds of running at a time. It worked out for me because as I rehab my ankle the correct way, rather than jumping back in with a 10 mile race after a long break, the 15 seconds of slow running, then 45 seconds of walking, was nice and easy on my ankle.
After the first couple of rounds of intervals Mama claimed to feel winded. What she didn’t realize was the stopping and starting was harder work than just pushing through that moment where your heart rate reaches aerobic threshold and then more easily going from there. I promised her she could do it, and even sneaked a 30-second running interval in on her while chatting hoping she wouldn’t notice.
She totally did. But when I pointed out – “But you did it, didn’t you?” she begrudgingly agreed.
Last night was our second practice together and Mom’s already up to 1-minute of running and I even sneaked a 1:30 running interval in on her again too. When we got through her 30 minute run/walk workout, I asked her how she felt and as she caught her breath and smiled, she said, “Okay!” I said, “Do you feel refreshed?” She smiled and said, “Yes.”
I took off to run what I meant to be an easy paced mile but on the track it turned into a 9:36 mile, a decently fast mile for me (one I can’t really sustain for longer than maybe another mile). Every time I passed Mom on another lap, as she was stretching or resting on a bench, she was smiling. She was watching the sprinter and his girlfriend, waving at me when I passed, and looked positively content.
For me, the best part of my mom becoming my unexpected running buddy, has been the feeling of being a cheerleader and a coach. During our run intervals I’ll run a little ahead of her and cheer her through her last 15-30 seconds. For her very last interval, I cheered my lungs out. “You got it Mom! 10 seconds left and then you’re done for the day!”
So maybe I’m getting a little excited for something Mom might not continue doing after the 4-miler. But for now I’m enjoying it. And who knows — I certainly didn’t expect to get THIS gung-ho about running. And Spring is always full of possibilities. 🙂