5 Things I Learned While Running with my Daughter


It began with the idea of getting my kids more engaged in philanthropy.

Back in August, as I was researching charity events, I came across the Oasis Zoo Run – a 5k and 10k course that goes around and through, not surprisingly, the Toronto Zoo.

My oldest is ten and loves animals. The zoo is her happy place so I thought this would be great for us to do together.

As my finger hovered over the 5k and 10k options on the registration page I debated which one, eventually deciding that 5k was too short, that it would be over too quickly. I wanted this experience to be meaningful and memorable so I signed us up for the 10k and promptly put the whole event out of my mind.

We closed up the cottage, went back to school and it wasn’t until the week before the race I started thinking I should take her on a run or two, just a short jaunt around the neighborhood to get her ready and excited.

Instead we went to a mother-daughter kickboxing class and called it a day.

My daughter is very fit and active. I am not unfit, necessarily, but no one’s going to see me cross the finish line first, with a ribbon of tape across my chest. But still, I knew we’d be fine. I knew we could always walk some of it, and for us it was not about winning, but participating. It was to be about the experience and doing something for others.

My spidey senses started tingling a little bit when my friends, many of whom are runners, looked puzzled (and kind of amused if I’m honest), when I said I was doing a 10k.

“I didn’t know you ran” was a common response.

“Oh, I don't” I would reply. “We’re just doing this for fun. And to raise some money.”

In fairness to myself I did run. Once. It was a half-marathon in 2008 but my body was so traumatized I almost never ran again. (What IS IT with the post race bowels?)

But I’m not a quick learner so I thought…. 10k, that’s not so bad. What could possibly go wrong?

And as it turned out, nothing went wrong. We had a fantastic time and I even learned a few things, such as:

  1. I really hate running

So, I’m not a runner. I can’t fight it anymore. I will “go for a run” every now and then if I can’t get to the gym (or I need an excuse to get out of the house or blast my iPod) but truthfully this is more of a light jog, a bouncy fast walk. Real runners who’ve witnessed this have actually asked me to stop saying I “run.”

  1. Maybe the zoo wasn’t the best idea…

What I envisioned for our day was a light jog through the zoo, waving to the animals, posing for selfies and chatting about the new school year and the upcoming soccer season.

But mostly I imagined actually running, and I didn’t imagine for a second we’d come last.

We came last.

Taking my animal-loving ADHD kid for a run at the zoo would be like taking me for a run inside the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup factory, or a vineyard. There is NO WAY one can focus on running when surrounded by one’s favourite things. Especially if one’s mind is a laser light show of stimulation every minute of the day.

So the “running” didn’t happen. Even the “light jog” didn’t happen, because you know what happens when you’re running or jogging?

You can’t see the animals.

I’m pretty sure that tortoises, and people doing the crab walk, could have finished the course faster than we did.

  1. The 5k would have been fine.

Turns out, 10k was a bit long. This might be the scorching heat and the thin layer of dust on my contact lenses talking, but I’m pretty sure the experience would have been just as enjoyable (for me) if we’d cut it in half.

We still would have fundraised, spent together time, helped the animals AND received our cool Giant Panda medals if we’d done the 5k instead of the 10k. And I just might have been able to walk the next day.

  1. Maybe I’m not so bad at this mom thing.

Like pretty much every mom I know, I tend to think I’m doing a decent job most days but then something happens or I read someone’s blog (wait…. scratch that, blogs are awesome) and I become certain I’m doing it all wrong.

But this race, this thing we did together, reminded me that I’m doing okay. Even better than okay because I found a way to connect with my athletic and sporty daughter (I am neither of those things) in a way that was meaningful to her. By running and stepping outside my comfort zone, I set a good example about fitness and about taking the initiative to try new things.

  1. Running isn’t just about running

Back when I did run the experience was very therapeutic. Running was about so much more than exercise. It was alone time; time to think, clear the mind and press reset on a problem I was trying to solve.

Running with a ten-year old is a much different experience: less meditative and less quiet, but way more fun.

Even though I went into the day expecting to walk, expecting to place well down the pack, my competitive streak kicked in early on when we slowed down and people in our corral started passing us. I got anxious and frustrated that we were falling so far behind everyone else.

But my daughter reminded me that our race, like life, is more about the journey than the destination. “Running” with her reminded me that I could stand to slow down in many aspects of my life; that racing through these experiences was not going to bring me greater joy.

But next time, we’re doing yoga.

Picture of Jen Millard

Author: Jen Millard

Jen Millard is a writer who's not afraid to say what everyone else is thinking about parenting and relationships. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram via @wineandsmarties and at wineandsmarties.com.

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