Running for the love of the sport

Don’t sprint. Nice, easy breaths. Have fun. Just a couple of words of advice to my eager 10-year-old son prior to his first 1-mile race in McDonald.

By no means are either of us outstanding runners.

My son declared to me hours before the race he wanted to run this year’s Run of the Mill.

Now he isn’t a runner, frankly rolls his eyes whenever I ask if he wants to run on the local high school track with me. He likes riding his bike up and down the street, shooting some hoops and playing with his school soccer team the past 5 years, but too often has his eyes fixated on some kind of electronic device.

My wife and I were worried that our son might not be able to handle a mile run. He’s done 1/2-mile jaunts before, but nothing this long.

Then, I thought there are 4-, 5-, 6-year-old children running this race that have no problem breezing by 40-year-old joggers like myself.

I gave him the go-ahead to run, to the delight of my anxious 10 year old.

It helped that our friend from Scotland, Ellie, was running with us as well.

The three of us heard the announcement from McDonald boys cross country coach Chris Rupe that anyone that could not run a 4- to 5-minute mile should not be in the front of the pack.

No problem for this trio of runners. We headed to the back.

He started to bolt ahead slightly, but I reminded him to take it easy as we ran side-by-side.

As we passed the 1/2-mile mark, we saw the rest of our crew sitting in their blue and green folding chairs, waiting for the parade at the Fireman’s Festival to follow.

We waved to our crowd and kept going. The crowd along the parade route was cheering runners from first to last, similar to a cross country meet. It is McDonald, home of the 1982 and 83 Class A and four-time Division III state boys cross country champions (1999, 2001, ’04, ’11).

I fully expected after the 1/2-mile mark my son would start walking. His face was beet red and he began breathing heavier, but he wouldn’t walk. His 4-foot, 8-inch frame kept bouncing along Ohio Avenue, one foot in front of the other.

Then, the downhill portion of the race came. He looked at me anxiously, ‘Is it time to go faster?’ I said, ‘No, not yet.’

When we reached the bottom of the hill, we saw the end in sight – the bridge leading to the McDonald Steel Corporation and the finish line.

It was time to run and my son ran with all he had the last 400 yards to finish.

As for our friend, Ellie, she took third in her age group – coming away with a T-shirt as her prize.

Times didn’t matter for us. The cold bottle of water was trophy enough after the race.

We just ran for the love of the sport.