The four of us Alleys ran a 5K yesterday. I’m proud of all of us for running, especially since we aren’t really what you would call a running family. I run because it’s cheap and convenient exercise. Bill runs because he has to for the Army. We rarely run together. And never with the kids.
In addition to just being proud that we all crossed the finish line, I’m very proud of the kids. Caroline ran 10 minutes faster than when she ran her first 5K last fall, and Carter, who didn’t really train at all and has the shortest legs of all of us, was a trooper and made it through the entire distance. But the running of the 5K was only a part of what came out of this venture.
As Caroline’s soccer season was winding down this spring, Bill mentioned that we should get her into running, to help her get her endurance up for soccer, which she has really grown to love. “Yeah, right,” I thought. I had run the 5K with her last fall, and it was pretty tortuous for both of us.
Then Caroline happened to bring home a flyer from school for Baily’s 5K, a race to raise money to offset the medical bills for one of her friends’ cousins who has leukodystrophy. It was going to be at East Middle in June, and she wanted to sign up. Here was our chance. A race she wanted to run, that she was excited about. Bill told Caroline to get ready to start training. The next day he came home from work and told her to get ready to run. There was quite a bit of whining on her part. “It’s too hot, I’m too tired,” she said, but she went anyway.
And then something miraculous happened. Two days later it was time for them to run again. Bill had told her the night before to be ready to run when he got home from work. I met the kids at the bus stop, with temperatures in the upper 80s and high humidity, and expected to have Caroline begging to get out of running. But instead, she beat me and Carter up the driveway to the house, changed into her running clothes and had two glasses of water ready as soon as Bill got home.
Those afternoon runs became precious daddy/daughter time. I don’t think Caroline consciously thought of it that way. She was just excited that she was able to run farther and faster, with fewer walk breaks. But from reports from Bill, she talked the whole time. “I don’t even know how she can breathe to run, she’s talking so much,” he remarked one night.
Special times with daddy don’t have to be planned. They don’t have to be an orchestrated event that costs a lot of money. Sometimes, the best times together happen when you least expect it. When I was a teenager, for a while I had the job of cleaning our church on Saturdays, which also happened to be the day my dad was hard at work in his church office, writing his sermon and preparing for the next day. I remember us walking back to the house together, talking about what my friends at school were up to, what I wanted to be when I grew up, how I was going to be able to have a career and kids, or just singing some of our favorite songs from Broadway musicals.
I don’t know what Caroline and Bill talked about on those runs. And five years from now, they might not remember either. But Caroline will remember that her dad took time to help her train for a 5K. And most of all, she’ll grow up with the confidence of knowing that no matter what happens, she can always talk to her dad. Whether running side by side down a country road or sitting in the recliner at the house, he’s always there for help, comfort, or just a little boost of confidence to help her face the world.