My husband, Dr. Toy Warden, asked me to post this today. I was REALLY surprised that he dislikes running considering he has run almost every day since I met him and often places highly in races. News to me that he doesn’t enjoy it! I hate it too, but I’ve been running more at a way way way slower pace than he does!
I don’t like running. This may come as a bit of a surprise for those who know I run almost daily and run races regularly. Not only do I not like running. I can’t possibly fathom why anyone does. That’s not to say I find it completely miserable. It’s just not something I would do for fun. I run because I think it’s the best way to stay in shape and I enjoy the competition in running races.
My recently turned six-year old Lily also likes to race. You can see it in her wide smile when the gun goes off. She yells at me to run faster and I immediately yell back at her to slow down because I know what’s coming. It’s going to suck. After about 200 yards the smile is replaced with heavy panting and the misery begins.
Her first race was a laid back quarter mile and she seemed to do finish well for her age group. It wasn’t all that tiring and overall it was a pleasant experience. The following year we missed that same race and I couldn’t find anything around the distance. I entered her in a 1k even though I was pretty sure she would have a tough time with it, but she seemed enthusiastic about it. She did great. She ran it with my wife and appeared to finish strong. I wasn’t timing it, but I was told that her final time was 5:40, which I thought was amazing.
After this astounding result, I looked for other races, but most everything was too far away or too ungodly early in the morning. I found an evening kid’s race, but it was one mile, which seemed a tad long to me. I figured she would be ready because she did well in her 1k and the race was advertised as a “fun run.” I thought it would be fun.
She was not ready and it was not fun. I’m not sure what I was thinking. Personally I wasn’t able to run a mile without stopping until I was in 7th grade and I ended up running cross-country in high school. In retrospect running a mile as 5-year-old is way too difficult and painful. I remember in elementary school, the 1-mile run in gym class was the most dreaded event of the school year and I’m sure it’s the same way everyone else. Seriously, does anyone ever say “Gee, remember that fun we had in that 1-mile run from gym class?”
It was fairly hot the day of that race, and most of the kids in the race were significantly older. Lily had to walk a lot of it and ended up finishing last. There sure didn’t seem to be too much fun in this run for Lily or anyone else for that matter. It was intense competition especially in the back where apparently there is no greater motivation than to avoid finishing last. The kids struggling and panting just in front of Lily must have turned around dozens of times, each time with a high level of stress and fear plastered on their faces. It seemed like torture for everyone. Seriously, what kind of psycho kid does these things for fun?
I couldn’t convince Lily she didn’t finish last because it was an out and back course, and she could see that there was no one behind us. In the weeks following the race, she kept talking about finishing last and didn’t seem to want to run anymore even when she was just playing out in the backyard.
Even though the last race was not a pleasant experience, I thought it was important she get back on the horse, so I entered her in another race the following month–this time back to the shorter distance of 1k. I gave her a guarantee that she wouldn’t finish last, because I thought she was better at short races and there would surely be some younger kids in it. Yet I had some reservations and I’m sure she did too. Before the race I surveyed the field around the registration area, scouting out the competition hoping to find some little twerps Lily could crush without too much effort. There appeared to be some little munchkins who would surely lag well behind, but still I was worried.
At the start of the race, Lily was excited as usual, but I saw most of the crowd passing us quickly as I ran alongside of her. It appeared though that there were plenty of kids in the back, so there was no chance of finishing last. Lily, however, kept looking back and looking back and looking back, just like those kids in her last race. Every time I tried to assure her that there were people waayyy behind her, she turned around. She panted heavily for the last half of the race, but she ran the whole thing and she managed to finish 80th out of 100, right around the middle of the group of five-year-olds. I’m not sure what to make of her time of 7:30, which was almost 2 minutes slower than her first 1k. Perhaps turning around 100 times can you slow you down a bit, or a more likely explanation is her first time of 5:40 wasn’t accurate and she really wasn’t that fast. In any event, I’m glad she ran this race as now she seems back to running—around the playground, the neighborhood, even in the house.
I’m not sure when Lily’s going to race again. She probably won’t unless she brings it up again. I may be active overprotective here, but I would rather not put her in a situation where she can finish last. I just don’t see much positive coming out of finishing last multiple times. The way all those kids, including Lily, seemed to fear finishing last tells me that it is a sufficiently traumatic experience that is best avoided if possible.
I appreciate all those race directors, all of whom put in a lot of time to put together a smooth event. Yet I do have some suggestions for these kids races.
1. Have a ringer: a designated last place finisher. That way no one feels the shame of finishing last. You just need a kid who knows how to keep a secret.
2. Make the kids race 200 yards of shorter. Kids have fun racing, not pushing themselves to point of exhaustion. Most of the timing would be done unofficially by parents and guardians.
3. Kids races should start no earlier than 10 am. What kid ever does anything fun at 8 in the morning?
4. And finally, call it a “kid’s fun race” not a “kid’s fun run” because racing is fun. Running is not.