I am learning as he is learning.
From 2011-2013, my 10 year old had participated in his school's KROC (kids run the OC) program. It allows the kids to run 25.2 miles over 10 weeks and finish the last mile at the OC marathon. He went from a 9:00+ mile the first year to a PR of 7:10 the second year, then a 8:00+ the third year.
I pushed him every year and he hated it. I pushed him to go faster ...and work harder as I do myself. For him, he just wanted to have fun and run zig-zags and check out the neighbor's orange tree. It was painful for both of us to run together. I didn't sign him up this year b/c I thought "if he isn't out there to work harder and improve, then there are other things to work on." He barely has enough time to finish his homework.
But part of me always knew that the approach wasn't working. What I wanted was self motivation from him but what I was getting was withdrawal. I was not getting him to understand the joy of running or to develop a love for the sport that has given me so much.
Late last year we took a family hike up to Peters Canyon Trails and I noticed something in that short hour or so. He ran. He ran and smiled. He got to look at the clouds and check out the brushes (poison oak was his favorite) while he RAN. He asked to go back when we got home.
Last weekend we ran/walk/hiked 7 miles at El Moro together. He led and dictated the pace and distance. It was the most fun I've seen him have while running. It was the opposite of running at the track where he would whine and complain. He smiled, we joked, and we raced the hills. I introduced him to the term "getting chicked" as a pair of ladies were running behind us... and I saw a competitive side of him I always knew he had. He took pride when other runners smiled and commented about "the kid" running on the trail.
It was just one of those great days in running I will remember for a long time. I hope that the discovery of the trails is something that can continue to teach me to be a better father and teach us to be better at loving each other.