Helping a runner ‘up a hill’

“Help someone up a hill and you will reach the summit yourself.”

Sign tacked to the wall of an Amish grocery store near Berne, Ind. 


When I saw this quote a few weeks ago it struck me that while it feels right intuitively, the challenge lies in figuring out what “the summit” represents – especially if, as a runner, it’s something you accomplished so long ago that it no longer feels like any kind of achievement.

As a parent – in this case, helping a certain 11-year-old develop the confidence and mental tools to achieve her fairly modest running goals – the rewards are pretty obvious. But an unexpected benefit of running  with Colleen these past few weeks — at an easier pace and shorter distances than I’m accustomed to — may well have proven to be the perfect rehab for a strained hamstring.

Because I’m getting out and doing something, I’ve managed to (mostly) avoid frustration.  And because of the easy nature of the workouts – which almost always include walk breaks – I’ve managed to avoid tackling too much too soon.

When we started, even these seemingly effortless sessions hurt. Now I don’t feel any pain at all until she picks up the pace to what she deems a “sprint” – which isn’t what I’d call it, but is nonetheless fast enough to generate enough of an “ouch” that I don’t want to try to keep up.

“I beat you?” Colleen said on Sunday, when she passed her imaginary finish line all alone. “Mom, if you can’t run fast enough to beat me, you better have that leg looked at. I’m just saying.”

That’s one way of looking at it. But it’s getting better. We both are – each in our own way.

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