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The Mythical Land of Running Parenting Recipe

Last summer my twelve year old daughter was begging me to get her ears pierced. When any of my kids want something, I think to myself, “what can I get them to get out of this? What goal or task am I going to put in front of them to teach them the value of delayed gratification, perseverance, hard work, or some other lesson?” So I thought for a moment, did some quick mental math, and told her that if she ran 100 miles in the last six weeks of summer, I would let her get her ears pierced. The miles had to be done before we left our cottage on Labor Day to go back to New York City. I took her to a 1.5 mile trail that loops around in a circle at a place called the Highlands. In the Highlands, there are houses on a golf course with almost no traffic. It is beautiful up there, with tall mature trees, a nice breeze on most days, and lots of shade. I told her she could walk with me the first week. Then she could walk and run the second. By the third, the first lap around had to be running. By the fourth week, the first two laps had to be at a run. And by the last two weeks, all laps had to be running.

When she began running with me, something wasn't right. I knew right away running with me wasn’t going to work. She couldn't find her own rhythm with me literally breathing down her neck. So I went one way around the loop, and she went the other. We would see each other and check in twice on each lap. This gave her the ability to find her own pace without me pushing her. I also bought her an ipod so she could listen to music during those difficult first miles. Over time, she started racing me to the white mailbox that marked the halfway point. At the beginning, I ran a bit slower than normal to give her some confidence. One night, towards the end, we got a late start and it was beginning to get dark. I decided to run in the same direction but I gave her a long head start figuring I would catch up eventually. But I couldn’t!!!! I ran as hard and fast as I could (I am not a total slouch at running) and she dropped me! I fell farther and farther behind. The last day she ran 4.5 miles to finish in time. I was only too happy to take her for her earrings after that!

Once she finished her goal, I told her about the Mythical Land of Running where you have to earn citizenship. The Land is a place where time stops, where your brain meditates and thoughts come and go like butterflies on a sunny day. Where your legs are moving, but everything seems effortless and distant. Where the voice inside is calm and says “Yes!” to your own thoughts and dreams. You might not even be able to visit this land until you have put in at least 100 miles. At first, you may only catch a glimpse of this place for a minute or two. And later, you might be allowed to visit for short breaks here and there. But over time, this mythical land will claim you as one of it’s own, and it will always be there for you, even in times of great stress and upheaval in your life. It will teach you that you always have another gear to shift into to survive life’s grinding challenges. At the end of my little story, my daughter responded with recognition, because she had been to the Land for a bit that night in the dark when she dropped me…