RADjournals: Jess Madison

No Seriously—Grab Your Kids and Start Running

When I met my ultra-running husband in 2019, I was five years divorced. I had two sons, 8 and 11, and honestly—I was tired. Tired of single parenting. Tired of shlepping my kids to football and soccer. Tired of grinding morning to night, just to wake up and do it all over again the next morning. My idea of having fun with my kids: playing Connect Four—quietly—and hoping they didn’t notice me dozing off between turns. The idea of running—making myself even more tired, just for the heck of it—that made literally no sense to me.

Still, we were dating. That meant I needed to show that my family and I were interested in the things he liked to do. So, I ordered some Hokas online and decided to give running a try. Within a couple months we had signed up for our first family 5K. My kids had never run that far, but—whatever. I figured if they burned themselves out in the first mile, I’d have a nice excuse to walk to the finish.

Well, imagine my surprise when, instead of knocking themselves out, my kids finished well before either of us. When we got to the finish line, they were already nose-deep in Hawaiian ice. They hadn’t even broken a sweat. Could it be that kids are just naturally good at running?

Fast forward two months later to my first 10K—the Rock ‘n Roll Las Vegas series. When my now-husband and I first signed up, we had no intention of forcing my kids into a 10K. That seemed … I don’t know … like a lot for an 8-year-old. Still, we also debated the parental merits of leaving one’s kids alone in a hotel room in Vegas for a few hours. So, again, we decided we’d toss them into the running fire. We knew they’d want to blast out ahead of us, and with no idea how to pace themselves, we figured they’d fizzle out somewhere around Mile 4. We advised them to wait at one of the rest stops if they got there before us.

When we got to the finish line, they’d already been there 10 minutes—eating Pringles and making small talk with the race photographers.

“Are these your kids?” one of them asked. “They’re badasses!”

Well—yeah, apparently. Though neither was technically old enough to run in the event (the youngest age bracket was 12-14), they’d both placed 11th and 12th respectively in the 12-14 age group. It made my husband and I wonder—what else were kids—not just mine, but any kids—capable of?

We live in a time when sedentary living is at an all-time high. Kids spend more time on their phones and video games than they do outside, even on the most beautiful day of the year. According to the World Health Organization, the prevalence of obesity in general has increased 3 times since 1975, globally. As of 2019, 38 million kids under the age of 5 are obese. Under the age of 5. You guys: it’s not acceptable. And it’s not natural. When kids are given a chance to get physical, they thrive. In the case of my own children, running is the best thing that’s ever happened to them. To all of us.

Since running their first 10K, my kids have hit lots of goals—hiking the 10-mile, 3,000-foot+ elevation Mt. Tallac trail, running 10-miles on the California Hiking and Riding Trail to help my husband prepare for his last 220-miler. And they don’t just run – they jump, twist, flail. They enjoy it. They make me enjoy it, too. I honestly wouldn’t have become a RADRabbit unless they had been spazzing out in front of me on every run, encouraging me, helping me watch my step, and helping me realizing what I’m capable of. For me, kids make running fun.

Not only that, but in an age of large-scale self-absorption, I speak for both my husband and myself both when I say: their wins are so much more inspiring than ours. When I completed my first 30-mile run, my first thought wasn’t, “Wow! I’m amazing!” Instead, it was, “OMG, I wish my kids were here! They would have killed that!”

They don’t yet know what they are capable of, but I believe running could teach them.

It is so easy to allow our kids to be sedentary these days. There’s so much sensory overload on social media, and there’s so much pressure on parents to work / fix / help / do just about everything under the sun to prove we’re good enough. One of the greatest things we can do as parents is to just stop—stop everything. Turn off the video games, cut off (our own) social media, take them out—now—and just get them running.

Yes, they will complain. Yes, they may at first prefer they weren’t doing it. But I guarantee you: 10 minutes in, and they’ll forget all about the pain. They will realize, just like the rest of us here—they were born to fly.





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