|An actual image of my kids fighting…if they had sweet samurai swords|
I’ve spent a lot of the last 13 years running. I’ve also spent the last 13 years being a dad. It all started with our spunky redhead and over the years our family has blossomed to a household of 4 children and a really dumb cat. All of them have their own distinct personalities and ways that they’ve taught me that being a dad is much like the training to be an ultra runner.
Now, obviously, the physical training is significantly different so I won’t go into that piece, but here are just some of the things that I’ve learned training for both:
Different days…different foods
I love how open my kids are to trying new foods. They are, for the most part, very adventurous eaters and will try most things once. I’ve tried most energy gels and/or sports nutrition products on the market at least once. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. I’ve found that in the middle of a race, something that worked at the last race, may not work this time. Just like my kids, one can do spicy foods, others can’t. One would rather eat pretzels, while one of them I’m pretty sure is going to murder me in my sleep if I continue to deny her request for ice cream. It’s a constant battle of figuring what will work on a day-to-day or race-to-race basis…and to figure out which child has an aversion to cheese this week. You just have to try lots of things to see what your body or kid needs.
Get prepared to not sleep much.
If there was one thing that I learned when our child birthing took a 7-year hiatus, it’s that I REALLY like sleep. It’s so wonderful to snuggle up with a warm blanket and fall slowly asleep while you’re watching your favorite show…that is until you get hit in the crotch by your 2-year old who thinks he’s Batman. You’re going to get woken up in the middle of the night to deal with a barfing toddler. It happens. Just like training for and running ultras, you might be required to wake up at the ungodly hour of 4:00am to go for a 4-hour run before everyone wakes up for the day. There are going to be days where you’re able to get much more sleep than others.
They ain’t cheap
Last time I checked my bank account, we were being forced to buy the kids something. Boots, coats, hats, socks…food. The same goes for running. If you’re putting in lots of miles, you’re going to need to buy clothes. You’re going to need to buy shoes. You probably should buy food. It’s all expensive, but there are ways to save money on your gear. Watch your local running shop for deals. Most will post on their FB pages when they are having sales or if shoes are what you’re in the market for, check to see if they have last years models…unless you hate that version…then don’t do that. The same goes for kids. Watch for sale boards on FB or pop into your local consignment shop. I’ve learned over the past few years that buying used is the best way to go when shopping for the kids…running gear is best to buy new. Nobody wants a pair of shorts where some other dudes manhood has been…gross…
You’re going to have great days…and bad
During your training and parenting adventures, you’ll have good days and you’ll have days when you wonder how long it would take your kids to notice that you just ran out of the house screaming during a full-fledged panic attack because none of your children have vocal volume control. You just have to learn to take the good with the bad. You’ll have a lot of really great days on the trail and roads, but you are going to have those days where you just want to call it quits. It happens. Just like in parenting, chances are…unless your kid is actually one of Satan’s minions…you’ll have more good days than bad.
You’re going to get hurt
Whether it’s a case of plantar fasciitis that won’t go away or the flesh wound that your 6-year-old got while trying to stab Barbie with a GI Joe sword and won’t stop picking the scab…There will probably be quite a few injuries. Take care of yourself. Take rest days in your training and be OK seeking out a doctor’s opinion for the pain in your hip…or the fact that your child’s head hasn’t stopped dripping snot for a week and a half.
Use tools like the treadmill
I’ve found that one of the best tools we’ve ever purchased was the treadmill. I don’t like to allow my kids to watch too much TV, but if the weather is too bad for me to take them out on a run with me, I’ll let them turn on My Little Ponies, I pop some earbuds in and my treadmill run gives me the opportunity to see if I can get a Slipknot song to match up to what is playing on TV (think “Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wizard of Oz”). This may seem like cheating in your parenting duty, but I don’t know if any of my kids have ever complained about being allowed to watch TV. Spend some time just cranking out some miles while the kids watch some TV. It’s one of the few times we as runners can blend two activities into one.
Drink lots of water
After the 1,000,000th conversation, “NO…I don’t care if your friend Becky (name changed for privacy reasons)drinks them all of the time, you kids can’t have a drink of my Quad Venti Caramel Macchiato”…Water is such an underused piece in our lives. We tend to gravitate to those wonderful sugar and calorie bombs that are so tasty and….wait….sorry…Encourage the kids to drink more water. Seriously. All it took for our kids to stop asking for lemonade and to drink more water was buying them a cool water bottle. Our older two have a Hydroflask or Nathan Hammerhead bottle and the younger two have Contigo water bottles. I, personally, have tried to drink more water and switched to the Nathan Hammerhead (40 oz.) and love how it holds for 48 hours or so and easy to drink from.
Lots of fighting
Just like the oldest children fighting about which TV show they want to watch, you’ll fight internally about what routes or races to run. Sometimes the adult in you is going to need to step in and point out the fact that you’ve watched the same stupid mermaid show for the past 4 years in order to make a change. Change up the routine if you don’t have the fire for that particular course. Try a new race series. Try a new workout. Who knows…maybe something will become your new favorite and you can stop with the God-forsaken Disney shows…
All kidding aside, whatever stage in your child rearing or running life, just know that your day is an absolute blessing with both in your life. They are both challenging. They both will test your mental, physical and emotional patience. They both can help you to become a great person. Keep after it and know that great things will come from working hard at both….why is the refrigerator door open again?…
Stay Strong, Run Long