Run Faster Fun Friends

WHY DO I RUN? By Coach Kevin Smith, October 2000

                       why do I run

For those of you who may have gotten derailed along the way this season by sickness, slump, injury or circumstance, and have lost some of your running mojo, or for those who have completed the big race, and regardless of result (terrific, so-so, or not great) are feeling some “Post-Marathon-Blues”, we think one of the best thing you can do for yourself is to get back to where (and why!) it all started—the primal beginnings of your running.

Ask yourself the questions:  Why do I run? Why is running important to me? What makes it fun & rewarding for me?  See what answers you come up with.  You might be pleasantly surprised—one of MDI’s founding partners was!

Those of you who know the staff at Marathon Dynamics Inc. will know that as we delve into matters such as these, we are usually passing through the invisible walls of Michael Brennan’s metaphysical office (incidentally, he is currently the only Canadian with the middle names “Soup” and “Chicken”, not necessarily in that order).  Yet this next contribution actually comes from his equally philosophical (but not usually so ready to demonstrate it) partner, Kevin Smith.
I was recently asked by a client of Marathon Dynamics, on behalf of the PTA of her child’s elementary school, to speak to the entire student body about running—to provide information and inspiration to motivate and excite the kids for an upcoming charity fun run that the school was organizing.  Knee-jerk reaction—I readily agreed to do it.  Realization the night before I was supposed to speak—“What the hell am I going to say?”  Only then did I realize just how tough an assignment I had undertaken.  I ended up spending half the night working on my “homework” for school the next day.  Before I knew it, there I was: no microphone, 1 large auditorium, 10 minutes, 500+ screaming kids grades K-6…GO!  Here is an excerpt from what I came up with:

Sometimes it’s said that people learn best through stories.  So that’s what I want to do now--tell you a story:  it’s a true story, that starts many years ago, about a little boy, who we’re going to call “C.B.” who is in Gr. 1, and lives in Montreal.

In his family, the mother and father argue and fight a lot; so much that one day his father leaves the family and moves away, and his mother is left to care for himself and his little sister.  Then, the next year, when CB is in Grade 2, his mother suddenly & tragically dies. [Ed. note: I did not divulge to the students that my mother's death had in fact been a suicide]

The next few years, through grades 3, 4 and 5, CB and his sister are moved around a lot, living in 4 or 5 new places, finally ending up back with their father (and new step mother) here in Toronto.

It’s very hard for him during those years, because at every new school he goes to he is “the new kid in class”, and to top it all off, he’s also the smallest one in every new class, so he gets teased and picked on because he’s new and different and small.

He’s a tough little guy though, and he learns to cope with his situation, year by year, through, of all things…“running”.

boy runningAt first, he finds running to be a great way to get away from all the big bullies in school…“if they can’t catch me, they can’t hurt me!” he figures.  However, all this running around so much sometimes gets him in trouble with his teachers, who can’t get him to sit still for two minutes!

By grade 5 or 6 though, he begins to realize something: he’s actually a pretty good little runner! (whether it was from being chased around so much when he was younger, we’ll never know).  Furthermore, he kind of likes it!  It suits his independent nature and gives him a sense of control, focus, concentration and satisfaction—something he really needs after what he’d gone through early in life.

So he starts running a bit more and a bit farther, just because he likes running--he runs to school, to friends houses, and other places like that--he even goes out and just runs around the neighborhood, because he’s found something that he likes to do that he knows he’s good at.  Best of all, he keeps getting better…he sees improvement!  In fact, teachers are now praising him for his running ability, instead of calling his parents in to school to discuss his “odd and disruptive behavior.”

Then, in grade 7, he meets a gym teacher who is has run the Boston marathon (the most famous marathon in the world) who sees talent and desire in CB and encourages him to try training (really just running “with a plan and purpose”) and competing (running in races)

Well, CB goes on to become an Ontario champion in distance running as a teenager—and competes at a national level.  Running takes him all across the country from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Victoria, British Columbia, and even down into the United States.  Running gives him opportunities he would never have had otherwise, and he learns a lot from running, about running, and by running, in his early adult years.

And so, as CB finishes high school, and moves on through university, he still has a passion, an interest and an involvement in running—it is still something that excites and motivates him very much.  So much so, that as he considers what he wants to do with his life “after school”, he thinks “What if I could help other people with their running, teach them how to do it properly, to learn from my mistakes, and show them how to get the most out of their running experience?

Since he’d just graduated from a “business school”, it didn’t take CB long to create a company that did just that: “inspire people to bring out the best in themselves in mind, body and spirit” through teaching running clinics, creating training plans, and coaching everyday runners who want to do it right or better.

That company started 4 years ago, and its name is Marathon Dynamics, and for those of you who haven’t guessed who CB is yet, I’ll give you a hint: my middle names are “Corbett & Boughton” (don’t ask why…that’s a whole other story!).  That’s right, he’s me!

In closing, I’ll leave you with these thoughts:

Most kids are introduced to running in gym class as something they are made to do, or “as warm-up before another activity”, or as part of another sport/game…like soccer or football. Where can the fun come from that?  That way running is just like money to buy candy, or the computer to run a video game--it’s presented as what we call a “means to and end”.  It’s just something you need/do to get what you really want, isn’t it?  I want you to start thinking about running as “the candy’, not the money, or “the video game”, not the computer!

Because most kids are given the order to run, not the opportunity to run—it is often thought of negatively.  Because running is seen as competitive (i.e. win/lose or 1st, 2nd, 3rd)…it can discourage participation.  Running doesn’t have to be that way!

The message I want to leave you with is this:

1st: Give running a try: as I think you can see from my story, it changed my life, so who knows what might come of it for you?

2nd: Do it on your own terms:  if you choose to try running (instead of being “made to run”) do it at your own pace, and your own distance—be comfortable and in control, and start slowly!  That way it’s n ot something to dread, or fear or dislike.

Running can make you a better person…I promise.  All you have to do is try! Thank you all and good luck!

I was surprised at how cathartic an experience the writing/telling of this story proved to be for me, as it unearthed thoughts and emotions long-suppressed, but not forgotten, and as I finished my talk and took my seat at the edge of the auditorium, I looked around and wondered just what kind of a lasting impression I had made with these kids.  Did I positively contribute to their young minds, and their understanding of running?  My answer came only a moment later.  Amidst some heartfelt thanks from the staff/parents, and comments like “I’ve never seen the kids so engrossed for so long!”, one mother in particular came up to me, beaming, and gushed “my little guy just told me that he wants to be a runner!”  That was all I needed to know…my work here was done!

And speaking of kids and running, this speaking opportunity came at a significant juncture in my own life in that respect.  My wife and I are anxiously anticipating the arrival of our first child only a few weeks from now (due date November 2nd, current leading names: if it’s a boy—Sebastian, yes, after the illustrious British middle distance runner of the 1980s Sebastian Coe…my wife’s idea, honest! If it’s a girl—Sydney--I guess the Olympic hoopla got to us! PS - gonna be a big one, so guess high on the weight scale when making your baby pool bets at  (just kidding, of course!). 

I certainly won’t ever force running upon my soon-to-be child, but at what I deem to be the right time, with plenty of care, caution and solicitude, I will most certainly introduce the activity, and simply hope that this young person can independently derive even some of the positives that running has provides the rest of us with.

Perhaps we all should consider trying to “offer” running to our own children (present or future) and/or other kids in our lives (nieces, nephews, etc.) if we haven’t already, rather than have it “forced” on them in any number of ways that ultimately push them away from it for decades—perhaps even for good. Should they have to wait until they’re in their 20’s or 30’s or 40’s, as many of us did, to discover the panorama of sensations and spectrum of experiences that running creates?

Postscript: (fast forward to 8 years later).  That same baby-to-be, now 7 ½ year old Sebastian Colin Smith, just ran his first ever running race, a 1km Cross Country run for kids 6-10 at Horseshoe Valley Resort (5 Peaks Running Series).   He did great, and was happy and proud with his efforts…almost as happy and proud as his mom and dad were of him!  Here’s a video clip of his pre-race interview we thought you’d enjoy!  Click here.

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The articles, tips and comments here are the opinions of the authors who have years of running and coaching experience. Our comments are based on sound, sensible training principles recommended by top coaches and serious runners.

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