Cross-Country Running for Kids

Départ: On Your Marks
I've been trying to get my children to play outside more. But it isn't easy when you live in a city. Like most children, my kids would rather watch TV or play on computers, and I can see why. Kids don't play in front of their houses (even in Villeray where there are wide sidewalks) or in the back allies the way they used to. My kids enjoy going to the park or swimming when I take them. They're just not in the habit of going outside on their own. I've made it a rule that they can watch TV on Saturday mornings until 10:00 am, but  then they have to go outside and play in our small backyard, our car-free back alley or in front of our house on the sidewalk. Let's just say I've encountered some resistance.

So when my daughter said that she wanted to run cross-country this year I was enthusiastic. I bought her some leggings and special shoes to try to encourage her, and she and I started going for 5-K walks on the weekends. I also decided to take a personal day off work to see her run in the 42nd RSEQ Championship at Jean-Drapeau Park.

October 11 was an exciting, crisp day, and the sun was shining amidst the many colourful leaves. Running next to the St. Lawrence River brought down the temperature a few degrees, but the dark blue waves made the backdrop all the more picturesque. I have never attended a cross-country meet this big before: some 11,223 kids from elementary schools all over the city took part, and each race had about 300 participants. It was even difficult for me to make my way through the crowd to take pictures.

Grade 5 Girls at Orange Starting Line
My daughter had been selected for the "elite" grade 5 group. I had some reservations about this. After all, this was her first cross-country race, but I kept my thoughts to myself. We stood at the crest of the last hill near the end of the course and watched races for most of the day. I sensed my daughter had high hopes about how she would finish and wanted to prepare her for some possible disappointment.

I pointed out runners throughout the day to her to show her their different qualities. The top third of the field were all good, experienced runners who still had plenty of speed at the end of the race, and then the second third of participants who were in fairly good shape, but had less energy at the end. Then I showed her the last third who looked very tired, were overweight or were walking. I also showed her some "girls" in the other grade 5 races who were at least a head taller than my daughter and who already looked like young women. I emphasized the importance of finishing the race and explained that every race was different and that something could be learned from each one.

The race is on.
I was at the starting line when the pistol was fired to start my daughter's race. It began a few minutes after the last group of grade 5 girls had gone. The runners in the elite group were so fast that they actually caught up to the other grade 5 girls and ran past them. Of the six girls running in the elite group from my daughter's school, my daughter came in third. Well, she was disappointed as I expected. But after I reminded her that she had had enough energy to pass five girls at the end of the race, and that she had passed some other grade 5 girls in the race that had started before hers, she felt better.

When I asked her if she had enjoyed the run, she said, "How could I? Everyone was running past me. It was terrible." I turned my face away to smile. "That's what cross-country is all about," I  said. "You didn't expect to stay ahead of 299 girls in the elite group did you?" Then she smiled and said, "I guess not."

This morning she looked tired, but she told me that she wanted to start training for next year. She said that it wasn't enough to train in gym class at school. She had to train at home too.

I hope this will translate into her prying herself away from the computer and going outside more often. I really enjoyed this day at Jean-Drapeau Park. There's something very inspiring about kids showing enthusiasm about physical activity.

Other related posts:
LACMA: Mom's Need Fun Too
Downtown Los Angeles With The Kids



Leila | October 21, 2012 at 10:44 PM

Brings back memories. ;-) Velo Quebec used to have a kids ride, which my kid took part in for years. They stopped it unfortunately about five years ago. Reminds me of your story. Thousands (!) of kids waiting for the whistle to blow, then biking 25km around the city, no parents allowed. It was marvelous.

Heather | October 22, 2012 at 3:58 AM

I wish they still had that race! What a great way to discover freedom and see the city. I wonder if any other cities do this kind of thing. Track and cross-country meets were always much smaller. Thanks for your comment Leila.

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