Running and the Positive Impact It Has On Our Children

Last week a story emerged from the Boston Marathon about a dad who selflessly sacrificed his own personal marathon experience for the opportunity for his children to see him leading the race for the first mile and a half. (Click Here for the article.)

This got me thinking about the impacts running has on our children, and I suggested to Kelly that perhaps this could be an interesting topic for For several reasons, this was a challenge Kelly wasn’t exactly keen to take on – between her public fixation with the subject matter of the story (Mr. #162)-

and most importantly, her lack of children. After some convincing on Kelly's end, I agreed to share my own experiences for 2 reasons; 1. Because #162 doesn’t make me go weak in the knees and 2. because I am a father to three children. For those of you that have children and are just getting into running, hopefully this reinforces your interest in getting started, and for those runners that don’t yet have children, hopefully this serves as a foreshadowing of good things to come.

Running teaches Purpose and Cause.

Cameron Gallagher

I personally started running just over a year ago. Cameron Gallagher, the older sister of one of my daughter’s friends, tragically died crossing the finish line of the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach at the age of 16. Her legacy and her dad’s charge served as my initial catalyst, and a year later the Shamrock became my first half marathon.  Throughout all of the training my children knew that we were doing this for Cameron.  As I now train for my first full marathon, they know that in doing so I’m raising money for St Jude’s and childhood cancer.

Running ingrains powerful impressions at a very young age.

My 2 year old son sees me lacing up my shoes in the morning and says, “Daddy go running.” There is no better way to teach a healthy lifestyle than to lead by example.  “Daddy eat cake,” or “Daddy lay on couch,” just don’t have the same effect. 

Running can reverse impressions just as fast.

My 9 and 11 year old daughters have both told me, “I don’t even remember when you were bigger,” after running helped me drop 35lbs in the past year. Despite having given them my fair share of cake and couch impressions during their impressionable years, it did not take long to erase those memories.  Seeing this in action taught me that it’s never too late to get started.

Running teaches children about achieving goals.

Everything about running is goal related.  Whether it is trying to run further, faster, [or for more hotties wink wink - love Kelly] everything we do is goal related. The beauty of running is that these goals are constantly set, achieved, and pushed further. Just as Kelly's boyfriend [he's not my boyfriend...he's happily married :( -Kelly] Derek Yorek (Mr #162) sprinted to the front of the pack so his children could see him achieve a goal of leading the Boston Marathon, we all can set and achieve goals that our children will witness firsthand.

Running makes you a superhero.

My kids ask me how long I ran after just about every run. The amazement in their eyes after I complete a long run is priceless.  Looking back on my own childhood, I feel like everything always seemed longer and bigger than it actually is as an adult.  So when we go out for a 10+ mile run on a weekend, I can only imagine that our children measure those in dog miles. That being said, be forewarned that they can become a little jaded. I’ve gotten the, “that’s not bad you’ll do better next time,” response after a 6 mile run.)

Running teaches children it’s OK to struggle.

Despite the last two points, we all know that goals aren’t always met, at least not at first, and very often we feel far less than superhuman.  I’ve found that this is just as good of a teaching moment as succeeding is.  Whenever I have a bad day running, I tell my kids about it.  And then I tell them how the next day can only be better.

Running creates opportunities to do things as a family.

So many races now have a kid’s fun run as a component of the race weekend.  J&A Racing in Virginia Beach even incorporates a separate “Final Mile” race that parents can run with their children that ends on the same course as the marathon.  So many childhood sports are gender dominated, but running is something where you can line up as a family regardless of your gender, age, size, or ability.

Running has few barriers to get started.

There is no equipment, facility, or team needed to start running.  You can read this right now, grab your child (preferably not forcibly), and head out the front door for a short jog.  Kelly’s story of how she started running is like so many others.  She ran as far as she could, walked some, ran some more, walked some more, and eventually she was running marathons.  It doesn’t have to be much more complicated for children.

Running has no time limits.

There was recently a great story on the Today Show about the Park family of North Carolina and the many marathons their many generations have all run together.  Seeing this story only makes me wish I had personally started earlier, but it’s a great reminder to get our children involved as early as possible.

Running helps you live longer.

I think this is pretty obvious, but it can’t go left unsaid.  Most importantly, I think about the short term and long term impacts this has on children.  Children’s foremost concern is for the livelihood of their parents.  They are brighter and more intuitive than we give them credit for.  They hear every conversation, see things on the news, and ultimately put two and two together.  Children are painfully aware when their parents are not living a healthy lifestyle.