Running with Kids: On Their Own Time + Terms

The most favorite way for kids to "run" with their moms? Likely.

Hey, BAMR, did you run with your kiddos on Thanksgiving?

And no, I don’t mean chasing your 3-year-old around the dining room table promising that if he tries just one bite of Grandmother’s sweet potatoes, he can have an early chocolate Santa Claus. C’mon! Just. One. Bite. Eeeeeeeeee!

Given all the food anticipation, it’s probably no surprise that Thanksgiving is the most popular holiday for races, according to the 2017 National Runner Survey; 54% of respondents participated in a Turkey Trot.

People often assume that because I have been a working member of the running-fitness-health industrial complex for more than 20 years that
1) My kid runs, and
2) I will have something more insightful to say about their own child’s exquisitely fast time in a local cross-country meet than “Wow.”

Nope and nope.


Nina, then 7, scored pumpkin bread at her first Thanksgiving 5k (ish) in 2011, which she was NOT happy about doing. "When I am 18, I will still be recovering from this 5K marathon!"

Now it is true that I know of some local fast runner mamas whose offspring are clearly blessed with the genetic destiny to run hard, fast, well. I read about their kids’ times in the local newspaper (dead-tree edition!) and think, “Wow.”

And as I remember my two years of high school track, I was not the absolute slowest person on the worst team in the city, and I never got lapped in the half-mile, but that was 40 years ago, so it’s entirely possible that I was and I did.

My Nina, now 14, hasn't chosen running (yet). She swims.

She has run a few 5Ks only under duress.

That's okay. I feel like Nina can learn to love running any time in her life.

If not now, maybe between rotations in her medical residency or after she has to do the morning shift at Starbucks on Black Friday.

Nina, at age 10, ran this 5K in 2014 only because the rest of the family was running, too. No choice! She complained mightily, but look at that form!

Of course, how your kid "runs" changes over the years (as does everything else in her life). A "run" for a 5-, 10- or 15-year-old are three entirely different undertakings.

Recently, a boy from Nina's competitive swim club, who quit swimming to focus on running, did a marathon. A Fairly Big City one. He is 15. His time was 3:47. Nina asked what I thought of that.

I was surprised the Fairly Big City Marathon allowed kids under 18 to participate (the age minimum for the New York City marathon). Presumably he really wanted to do it—you can't force a 15-year-old to run 26.2 miles unless he really wants to.

Wow. That's what I think of that.

Running will be there when Nina is ready. We all come to it in our own time and on our own terms.

All that said, we DID run on Thanksgiving, as have every year since 2011. This year "we" included Nina, my boyfriend, Rick, and me; my sister and her boyfriend; and my mother.

My sister’s running club in Reston, Virginia, holds a “family fun run” around the trails of a county park every Thanksgiving. There’s no entry fee, no bib numbers, and the “5k”-ish route is marked with flour arrows, which means those of us not in front might get confused, take a shortcut and run more like 2.5 miles. Oh, well!

Walkers (e.g., my mother) do an out-and-back 2-miler.

Winners are allowed to pick whatever they want from a picnic table loaded with pie, mugs, t-shirts, duffel bags, bottles of wine and whatever else the club president has cleaned out of the club closet.

Aside from the top 3 men and women, prizes go to oddball categories like the first dog, the best turkey hat, the person who traveled the farthest (Carson City, Nevada) and the oldest participant. An 89-year-old dude was sure he had that category sewn up, but my mother, age 90, crushed his dream.

My non-running endurance swimmer shot off the line—as she always does. It took me two miles to catch (and pass) her.

She complained, “I hate running” and waddled around the next couple of days like a cowboy just off a two-month cattle drive from the Texas flatlands to the Arkansas railhead.

Ain’t we got fun?

This sweet down vest keeps Mother Runners warm during Turkey Trots or any other run, for which we are very grateful. Thank you, Dimity and Sarah!

Of course, I do know that a 2.5-ish mile run on the morning of Thanksgiving burns the calories of perhaps a bite of pecan pie. Just. One. Bite.

That didn’t stop me (or anyone in my family) from having some of the pecan pie, the apple/peach pie, the pumpkin pie AND the equal-holiday-opportunity cheesecake for good measure.

The run will be there for us—whenever we’re ready. On Thanksgiving or any other morning, for that matter.


8 responses to “Running with Kids: On Their Own Time + Terms

  1. The best Turkey Trot ever was in 2013, my 50th birthday and all 3 of my sons ran. They were 21, 19 & 14 at the time. My then 14 year old has always run with until alas, this year, now 19 and a college rower. I woke him up to head downtown and he declared, ” you know, mom, I really don’t like running.” Perhaps the tradition is over…I still love running the Turkey Trot and maybe one of them will join me next year.

  2. We always say if our 11 year old son has my endurance and my husbands speed he will be set, if it’s the other way around he’s screwed. I think he got it right as he is willing to smoke me at a 5k at-will any day without training. He hasn’t joined me on my laps around the pasture with the dog, and slightly amused onlooking horses, but when he chooses to run longer I expect he’ll fly by me more than a few times there too and I’ll love every minute of it.

  3. My son is 8 and sometimes I can convince him to run with me or ride his bike while I run. He whines but he does enjoy running and the accomplishment of finishing a run. He has run a mile race by us the last two years and is pretty fast. I don’t think I have too many years left before he beats me.

  4. I drag my nephews and sister& brother in law with me every year we are together on Thanksgiving. My nephews never complain. The shoot off the line like bullets and while they fade, I still can’t catch them. However, they’re super impressed their Aunt can run a marathon. Despite the fact that both are in the military, they can’t imagine running that far. Maybe one day?

  5. The only one in my family I can convince to run with me is my 13-year old. He’ll do a Turkey Trot with me every year, but only a 5k. I won’t complain. I love it, and hope one day he’ll decide to run on other days besides Thanksgiving… 😉

  6. My now 15 year old son used to love running with me when he was ten or so. We did a few 5ks together, which I loved. He often wanted to run more with me but that meant going on my training runs and then deciding half a mile out he was tired and wanted to go home so that got nixed. Now he’s older and he’s no longer into running with me. But..,I have a three year old who loves to “run fast like mom” which is flattering, because I’m not very fast, but I hold out hope that she’ll want to run with me as she grows. Husband used to run before we met and I keep encouraging him to get back into it. He was running 7 min miles for 20 miles at a time-for fun!

  7. I was thrilled when my daughter said she would do a 5k with her “long time running mom” when she was about 7 as it was for a charity and her school was participating. About a mile into it she stopped, said “I hate this” and started crying. We walked the rest of the way and I don’t believe she has run on her own since. She is however very active and has her own interests and still likes to hike with me, so that’s what we did before pie on Thanksgiving Day.

  8. My husband and I both run; he is fast, I am not so fast. We do a lot of races “together” which means that we drive to the race together and give a quick kiss and good luck a few minutes before the start, just before he sidles up to the starting line for an open field and possibility of making the podium, while I hang around the middle, hoping to make it to the finish line without walking (other than the water stations). Our 15 year old also runs, when he is not (begrudgingly) swimming for high school. He likes it because it gives him a break from the demands of team sports; he can go for his run as soon as he gets home from school, four (mandated minimum by his parents) days a week. He will run a 5K every few months, also parent mandated, to “have something to work for, and show for all the work you’ve done.” He usually starts near me, and then blasts off at top speed, leaving me, until I pass him after a mile and a half or two, when he is now gassed and walking. My husband and I wait for him at the end, proudly coming in, usually with a smile on his face, which certainly means “I’m so glad this BS arhat my parents make me do, is over.”

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