Running with my daughter is a tortuous delight

To the outside observer, I look like a bonafide runner, from my ponytail down to my quads. But that visible impression doesn’t last long.

It’s only a matter of time until kids outpace their parents. (Jennifer Bardsley)

I love my daughter so much that, against my better judgement, I agree to run with her.

As soon as I put on the cute running shorts I’d purchased at Old Navy, I feel like a fraud. To the outside observer, I look like a bonafide runner, from my ponytail down to my quads. But that visible impression doesn’t last long.

Huffing. Puffing. Gasping. Suffering. These are all words that describe me. Blood rushes to my face and my cheeks burn. My heart burns. My lungs burn. The fire is stoked. I am a furnace about to explode.

It’s only been one minute. How am I supposed to do this for thirty?

“Don’t clench your fists,” my 13-year-old tells me. “Pretend you’re holding potato chips. That’s what my coaches say. Put all your energy into your legs, not your hands.”

“Okay,” I gasp, fighting for breath. “I’m holding potatoes.”

“Potato chips,” she corrects. “Who ever heard of running with potatoes?”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter what I did with my hands. I’m dying.

I can do this, I whisper inwardly. But can I? I exercise six days a week and am in great shape, but I’m not in running shape. The things I love: barre3, aerial, walking and gardening; do not make me a runner.

My teenager runs effortlessly. She hasn’t yet broken a sweat. As I lurch to a stop, walking now, instead of jogging, she sprints ahead. I see her shooting forward like her feet have wings. That girl is going places. She’s going places without me.

I want to catch up with her. I pick up my pace until I’m jogging again, instead of walking. I can still see her, out there in front, making it look so easy. I push myself harder – there she is! I’m almost there. But I’m not. She glides forward, around the corner, until she’s entirely out of sight.

Forgetting the potato chips, I pump my arms in a way that feels more natural to me and slog ahead. Walking, running and then walking again, I soldier on, vowing to never run again unless I’m being chased by a bear. Or perhaps a mountain lion. Maybe a mountain goat? Do they charge people? My mind wanders and I struggle to concentrate until my daughter loops around and retreats back to me.

“It’s not about how fast you go,” she says, “it’s about how hard you try.”

“You sound like a motivational poster,” I say.

“Just keep practicing and you’ll get better.” She darts off again.

Talk about a growth mindset. My heart fills with maternal pride even as it bursts from exertion. My daughter’s way ahead of me now, and there’s no way I will catch up. I can’t even see her. Well done, sweet girl! Show your mom up!

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

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