‘Dad, wanna go for a run?’

Here’s Nina, in green, after finishing her first 5K.

Words I thought I’d never hear.

It was close to six on Saturday evening. I had just stepped out of the shower, toweling off after a long day in the sun. The day started with a morning run (doesn’t it always?), continued with yard work and ended with a walk with the dog.

Nearly dry and clean, I was thinking about putting on the stove for dinner.

Two taps on the bathroom door changed my plans.

Usually when my daughter knocks when I’m in there, she wants a brush or a tissue. Or she’s just anxious – okay, impatient – to get at something. I usually sigh, and let her in to get what she can’t possibly wait another second for.

Not this time. Her request stunned me. This is the same kid who routinely tells me “I hate running.”

Nina is constantly eating and constantly thinking about what’s coming next. Typical 11 year old. Even when we tell her 15 times what we’re going to eat that night, she’ll keep asking.

Now she wants to go for a trot before supper?

My first thought was “I’m finally clean and I already ran for more than an hour this morning. No way.”

But I caught myself.

There are so many moments when you have a child that you want to savor, never knowing if they’ll happen again. Nina hasn’t asked me to pick her up in a long time, so when she did all those times a year ago, even when I was tired, I obliged. I’ll regret it later, I told myself. Just do it. Might be the last time.

We just had our final father-daughter dance. (Her next dance won’t be with me, but … BOYS!) She knows who the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny is. She doesn’t crawl into bed with us early on a Saturday morning. (Ok, I don’t miss that). She can make her own lunch. Pretty soon she won’t need me to drive her to the library, or school, or anywhere. Sigh…

She sees me go for runs in the morning, but doesn’t want any part it. But about a month ago, Nina said she wanted to run a 5K race. Not to get a ribbon or to run with her dad or for the accomplishment, but because a friend of hers was running.

Okay, I told her, but we need to practice.

Her limited experience with running is the mile she and all students are required to do at school for the Physical Fitness test. She agonizes over it. A mile is one thing. But three?

We soon were hitting the roads around our neighborhood a few times a week. I wasn’t concerned about her adding distance; I wanted her to learn about pacing. She didn’t need to run hard. Just jog. And take frequent walking breaks.

I also tried to teach her about when/what to eat beforehand. Don’t get full, but don’t go out while hungry either.

We did that twice a week for most of May. The race we targeted was the Janis Bresnahan 5K in Ayer this past Sunday (May 21). It starts at Nina’s school, which is called Page Hilltop. The course starts and ends there – on the hilltop. First mile: downhill. Second mile: flat. Third mile: uphill.

There’s no getting around the hills; I figured she could just walk them.

Nina seemed to be “enjoying” our training runs – I didn’t have to force her to go. We’d go out and just jog. When a hill came, we’d walk (and she’d hold my hand, another bond I know is fleeting). Sometimes I’d pick out a utility pole or a patch of shade to target, and when we got there, we could walk. We’d run/walk for maybe a mile and a quarter.

But I was the one who initiated the activity.

Until Saturday, when I heard those knocks on the door.

“Dad, wanna go for a run?”

After a quiet sigh, I pondered the question. No one in my house has ever asked me that.

It was an easy answer.

“Be right there.”





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