By Rick Hamlin
Set the Pace
The boys were home this weekend and they asked if I wanted to go on a run with them. “I don’t go as fast you,” I warned, “and I don’t go as far.”
I was giving them the opportunity to go off on their own. “You can set the pace,” they kindly said.
We headed out and I was all set to turn left, up to the park, my usual route, but Tim said, “Let’s go some place different. How ‘bout down by the river?”
“Okay,” I said, “but it’s a long hill coming back up.”
“That’s okay, Dad,” they reassured me, “you can set the pace.”
We scrambled down the hill, across the railroad tracks to the river where the Little Red Lighthouse still stands under the shadow of the hulking George Washington Bridge. I hadn’t been down here in years, but then, isn’t that what kids do for you? Take you to places you haven’t been? Broaden your horizons?
We jogged along the path, three abreast, until some cyclist or jogger needed room to pass. People were fishing, kayaking, picnicking in the grass, playing catch, warming up for some serious softball.
True to their word, the boys let me “set the pace.” But then I felt the urge to go a little faster than I would on my own and a little farther. It was so pleasant I didn’t want to turn back and I wanted to hear what they were talking about—maybe a run with twenty-something boys is like listening to kids in the carpool. You get to know what’s on their minds.
Finally at the lower ballpark we paused. “Time to stretch,” Tim announced, leaning on a lamppost. Then we turned around and headed back.
It was a good hour before we got home. A lot longer than my usual run and with a daunting hill thrown in (I skipped the final flight of stairs). I graciously let them pull ahead for a final sprint at the end—the way I used to let them beat me at Candyland and Go Fish.
Back then I might have said that parents are there to teach their kids. By now, it’s pretty clear: the roles are reversed.
“Dad,” Tim said again, reaching for his toes. “Be sure to stretch.” Isn’t that what I’d been doing all these years? Stretching to grow with them?
“Okay.” I’ll feel it tomorrow, my muscles aching. So much for setting the pace.