How the middle school running club ruined my dream

I love to run.

I grew up running with my father. He was a long-distance runner, who completed several marathons (26 miles) and ultra marathons (up to 100 miles). I admired him and wanted to be like him.

When I was in sixth grade, my father encouraged me to run my first race, a 10 k (6.2 miles). He helped me train and then ran every step of the race with me. When I entered high school, he signed up to be an assistant coach for my cross country and track teams. He came to every practice and every meet. Most days, he  laced up his shoes and ran with us.

I wanted to be like my father, and instill this same passion and love for running in my children. I wanted to coach my kids and run with them at practice. My three oldest children (boys) chose to follow my husband’s passion for football and forgo running (although they did join the track team to boost their speed per the football coach’s suggestion).

When my oldest daughter started eighth grade, I was very hopeful. This was going to be my opportunity to instill a love of running in my daughter. When she came home with paperwork announcing the start of the cross country season, I encouraged her (and her little brother!) to join the team. They joined the team and ran everyday after school. They ran in the heat, in the rain, and at the meets…. and they hated it. They weren’t very good, and it was too hard and too boring. The season ended with both children vowing to never run again.

Just as I was about to give up on my dream of running with my children, my daughter told me about the middle school running club. A few of her cross country friends were doing it, and she wanted to join them. Even though I couldn’t run with her (it was right during pick up times for my other kids) I was very excited. Everyday after school, I would ask her about her workouts and we would talk about running.

Then, a few months ago, a friend of mine told me she was planning on running a half marathon with her 12-year-old daughter. I eagerly told her that my daughter was a runner, and that she might be interested in running the same half marathon (with me). When I brought it up to my daughter, she laughed at me and emphatically said “no.”

I didn’t give up. I told her that we could train and run (or walk) together. I told her that it would be a fun mother/daughter bonding experience. I told her we could strategize and plan how to run the race. Surprisingly, a week later, she said she wanted to run the race with me. It might be pretty cool to run a half marathon after all, she said.

I paid the race entry fee and planned our travel. Next was to start running together.

That’s when I realized she didn’t need me. She had the middle school running club. She ran Monday through Thursday with her friends and coaches. On Fridays, she chose to run by herself. Maybe I was a little too intense. Maybe she worried I would run too fast. Whatever the case, she ran with the running club instead of me.

I can’t complain, even though we didn’t get to train together, I still got to run the race with her. We shivered at the starting line, and ran every step of the 13 miles together. We even crossed the finish line together.

I am proud of how hard she worked and trained. I am grateful the school running club was able to give my daughter the same gift my dad gave me — she loves to run.

Melanie Flake

Melanie Flake

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