running

The Inchworm in the 200 Meter

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On your mark

Our oldest son, a high school freshman, joined the track team last month. For most people, having their child participate in an extra-curricular sport is no big deal. But our kids, while not being completely unusual (well, except for Joe’s inexplicable obsession with K-pop), have struggled with sports. We provided and paid plenty for opportunities in activities like swimming, baseball, soccer, and golf, but nothing has stuck. I decided to accept that they were geeks, and sports were not their passion.

As winter gave way to spring this year, Joe expressed an interest in joining either baseball or track. We had been trying since the fall to steer Joe toward running for two reasons. First, he has these crazy long legs (he’s five inches shorter than his father right now but has the same inseam). Second, baseball requires mad hand-eye coordination while running requires, well, legs. We felt track would be a much better fit as a first sport for him, but no kid wants to be told what to do by his lame parents so he had been resistant. When he told me he was set on baseball, I gently reminded him that track is a co-ed sport where the uniforms are tank tops and short shorts. Ding. Ding. Ding. Winner, winner, chicken dinner! We were suddenly track parents.

I had no idea what that entailed, honestly. If I had known that track was going to require Saturday morning alarms set for 6 a.m. and meets in distant towns that ran from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. in unpredictable and often downright cold spring weather, I might have given baseball a second thought. Still, a couple weeks ago we headed out for his first track meet and got to be spectators as our child participated in something.

Joe is our little inchworm. With his ADHD and his sensory issues and learning disabilities, he’s been a bit behind the pack from the beginning. His growth and development in most areas has been slow, steadily moving an inch at a time while other kids leapt forward in great strides. Joe approached the meet with the laissez-faire attitude and lack of competitive spirit he’s always shown knowing himself to be that inchworm. He ran his three events and finished last in each heat. We decided to count our blessings as they were. He was attending daily practices, taking responsibility for his uniform and gear, talking to different students, and committing to weekend events that encroached on his precious free time. Those are impressive feats for a teenager whose typical weekend events include marathon texting sessions, non-stop You Tube video viewing, and competitive carbohydrate consumption.

Toward the end of the meet, a fellow teammate backed out of the Men’s 200 Meter. The coach dropped Joe into the event in his stead. We had planned on cutting out a bit early, but bellied up to the fence to witness his last race. The starting gun popped and he was off. It looked like we were headed for another participation-ribbon run but, as he rounded the last turn, something clicked. Maybe he was tired of finishing last. Maybe he just wanted to be done more quickly. But, for whatever reason, he turned it on. We watched and cheered as he passed two other runners to finish 6th out of 8. It might not seem like much, but to me it was everything. I was teary eyed. He blew me away. I could not have been more proud if he had placed first in the fastest heat against the best runners at the event. It didn’t matter. He had progressed before my eyes, and it was beautiful.

After that race, I caught up with him. He was tired, but I had to ask. What was behind the change in that last 100 meters in his last race at the end of a long day? What was up with the afterburners? He told me he just decided to push himself and see what happened. He had his answer. His swagger had increased tenfold. He had found his motivation. Running with people is fun. Passing people every once in a while while doing it is more fun.

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Not in 8th anymore

Since that first meet, Joe has made continual improvements. His coaches have him working on his stride and pacing. He’s learning to use his upper body to add momentum. He’s using the starting blocks to his best advantage. He’s finished heats in second place, not eighth, and he’s done well enough to advance to more difficult heats where he is now finishing in the middle of the pack. My kid, who a few weeks ago told me he would finish out the season but didn’t think this was his thing, told me yesterday that he may do track and cross-country next year. I smiled inside but didn’t let on because, well, I wasn’t born yesterday and am not stupid.

Full disclosure. There have been times in Joe’s almost sixteen years when I wished he would hurry up and reach his stride. When would our inchworm start moving a little more quickly? I reasoned that at some point he would have to go at breakneck speed to catch up. Well, he’s running now, but he’s still an inchworm. He’s making incremental gains in his own time on his own schedule because an inchworm moves the only way he can, the way he does it best, slowly. He’ll never be a jackrabbit or a cheetah. It’s not his deal. I’ll never be able to speed Joe up to reach the milestones I had met by his age. It’s not happening. Instead, he’s teaching me to slow down, to be patient, and to trust that everything will work out as it should. I believe the world gives you what you need. I’ve spent most of my life running around without purpose in large circles and getting nowhere. It took an inchworm who runs track to show me how to gain ground with intention.

Underdog Would Have Wanted Me To Have This Sports Watch

The Bia Sports Watch I must have.  (Photo courtesy of Bia…www.bia-sport.com)

Yesterday, a triathlete friend of mine posted a link to a Kickstarter project she had decided to back. I was curious. I had only a vague knowledge about the Kickstarter program, so I decided to check it out. For the uninitiated, Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects. Entrepreneurs and artists use Kickstarter to launch their business or career, to get the word out about the thing that is their passion. The way it works is simple. The kickstarter posts information about their goal and then people can pledge money to help them reach their goal. If the project reaches its funding goal, your Amazon.com account is charged for your pledge. If not, there is no charge. I instantly loved that Kickstarter empowers people to make their dreams a reality. How awesome is that?

Anyway, Leslie posted about this incredibly awesome new multi-sport, GPS sports watch with a safety alert feature. The watch was designed by two women athletes (a triathlete and an open-water swimmer) who were not pleased with the clunky GPS sports watches currently on the market. They thought they could create something better for women. So, they did. Bia (named for the Greek Goddess of force and power) is a thin, waterproof, infinitely-sizable sports watch with time, stopwatch, intervals, heart rate, and calories burned information. If you want even more versatility, you pair it with the GPS-enabled Bia Go Stick (about the size of an old-school pack of gum). Clip the Go Stick somewhere on your clothing and instantly you add distance, speed, and pace for swim, bike, and run workouts. But, the best feature by far is the audible safety alarm, which will send your location to loved ones and emergency services when you most need help. I like to hike and bike, and I often do it alone. A watch like Bia would give me greater peace of mine about my personal safety, and you can’t put a price on that.

In trying to get their product to market Bia founders, Cheryl Kellond and Sylvia Marino, were told repeatedly by investors that the product would not sell because females do not care about their performance and would rather go to the spa. I can’t tell you how much that inane comment aggravates me. While I enjoy a nice massage and pedicure as much as the next gal, I spend most of my summer wondering how many toenails I will lose due to my athletic endeavors. I do care if I improve in my sports performance. It absolutely matters to me if I can increase my speed over the course of a summer as I climb hills on my road bike. I may only be a part-time, amateur athlete, but I am serious about it. I am proud that I am 44 years old and stronger, more flexible, and more fit than I was when I was 24.

I pledged to the Bia Kickstarter campaign. If they reach their fundraising goal by tomorrow morning, next April I will be the proud owner of a Bia Multi-Sports Sports Watch with SOS Safety Alert in turquoise with two, super cute, interchangeable wrist bands and the GPS Go Stick. As of right now, they are approximately $56,000 shy of their fundraising goal. The campaign ends in 12 hours. I am posting this in the hope that some other athletes will see the benefit of a watch like this and sponsor Cheryl and Sylvia’s Kickstarter campaign to bring this product to market at last. At the very least, wouldn’t it be worth it to see a couple female, American entrepreneurs take on Garmin and Nike and those who said it couldn’t and shouldn’t be done and win? I’m all about the underdog. I didn’t get the Polly Purebred nickname I earned in college for nothing.