I had no idea that there was a kids race at my first Ironman race. My son Henry 3 years old at the time and my father-in-law, Karl, had joined me on a road trip down to Florida. The kids race was held the day before my race and I asked Henry if he wanted to run with the other kids and he said excitingly yes! The race was a 1K run out and back course. Henry was probably one of the youngest but was determined to run in his white colored sandals and his favorite Hotwheels car in his hand. When the gun went off close to 70-80 kids took off. Henry was quickly passed by the flock of older kids but he settled in calmly in his own rhythm. This 1K had all the elements of what goes on in ones mind in an endurance race. Early on he passed a group of spectators who cheered him on and immediately his run looked like a rooster showing off his strength, he felt strong and confident, then came the cute blond which he tried to impress upon by striking up a conversation, then anguish of pain came where he said I am tired pappa can you hold me and finally when he saw the finishing line he looked like he had ingested turbo fuel. He then also started to pass some of the older kids that had run out of steam.
Henry at the age of 3
I was a proud pappa and Henry received a medal, Gatorade bottle and a t-shirt. He was elated. Henry went on to do two more Ironman kids races and had great fun doing them. Just play no training. Then this summer when Henry had turned 8, I asked him if he wanted to do a 5K with me and he said yes why not. I talked to Pete Stringer, my ultra mentor, about kids and running and whether I should run next to him or let him run his own race. We decided that he should run his own race. I would run with my 2 year old Fredrik in a stroller right behind him. In terms of training I took Henry to the track once and had him run 3 x 800s at even pace followed by 800 walks in between. It was amazing that he ran them evenly within a second or two without a watch. I still have problems with that. Henry complained that it was harder to walk than to run. I was very protective (probably overly so) and didn't want him to get injured. We never went back to the track after that session. Henry had enough of other activities and I didn't want to push him into something he didn't enjoy so I laid low. Henry played tennis and biked quite a bit as it was. Henry has always been active so I wasn't worried that he wasn't fit.
We had entered the Children's Memorial Run in Milford Connecticut on Sunday October 26th a few days before my 200 mile run. I felt fine and I was going to enjoy every minute of my sons run. On the morning of the run when we were getting ready to leave, Henry looks at me and says with confident eyes, "pappa you know I play a lot of tag in school and I run a lot then". I smiled and saw that he wanted assure me that he was prepared for the 5K. Ok I said to him let's get in the car and go." My wife had also said to Henry that morning that "no matter what pappa says to you you can quit whenever you want to remember that". Henry nodded and I wasn't disagreeing. Henry has always been a pleaser and I was aware of that. We arrived in Milford, it was cold probably in the high 30s at first but the sun was out in its full glory it was going to be a gorgeous day. The course was supposed to be fast. I was excited for Henry and we walked over to the registration table were Henry got his first race number bib #929. Henry was dressed in basket ball shorts a hooded sweatshirt and a beanie hat. I guess that's the new running generation I thought to myself. He had a pair of New Balance running shoes that he simply loved. He was ready to go and so were Fredrik and I. And we were off. We started out in the far back since I had a stroller and I didn't want Henry to feel discouraged by a ton of people running past him. I'd rather see him progress through the field if he felt good. Henry settled in his own pace we had no pace in mind. I wanted him to run this as free as possible. I had not tried to impose proper posture nor stride, it is way too soon for that. I wanted him to simply enjoy it. The sun and the weather made the run incredible. Fredrik was also enjoying watching his brother now working his way through the field. I was so proud and I could tell that Henry was enjoying it too. There was one aid station and Henry ran through it as a pro grabbing a cup squeezing it and off he went. As we approached the last quarter mile I could not contain myself, I wanted to tell him something that would get him going for a strong finish and I pulled up one of his words that is often exchanged among his friends at school when something is real cool. I said: "Henry that is totally sick what you're doing man!" and as he did when he was three years old seeing the finish line he kicked in the afterburners and finished in 29 minutes and 54 seconds! A 9:39 minute mile. 126th place overall of 230 runners and he won his age group 12 and under.
Henry at the age of 8 and Fredrik 2.
I was so proud. It really didn't matter that he won just that he finished mattered probably more to me than it did to him. All fathers knows what this feeling is like it almost overwhelms you. Whether Henry will run again is up to him. I will support him if he wants to. Pushing is the worst thing you can do. It has to come from within. A theme I will elaborate more on from my 200 mile run. As with my other Time For Lyme supporters I had the honor to ask Henry a few pointed questions about this first 5K:
C: Thank you for becoming another Time For Lyme supporter. You just ran your first 5K at the age of 8, can you tell us what that felt like?
H: It felt great but my legs started to hurt in the end.
C: How much preparation have you done leading up to this race?
H: I play tennis once a week and I usually bike 1-2 times a week and I play a lot of tag at school.
C:What is your favorite subject in school?
C: What is your favorite sport?
C: Why do you think raising awareness for Lyme disease is so important?
H: I think because more people get sick and we don't want that.
C: Thank you son!