Through the end of 2016, Kaitlyn and I were running buddies. Each race that she ran, I was there to guide her to the finish. Then, 2017 came along, and Kaitlyn decided that she wanted to run races solo.
It was easy for me to be OK with her running her first 5k by herself since it started and finished at her school, and the course traced a neighborhood that we frequent when we go for walks as a family. Plus, with so many of her friends and school staff out there running and supporting the runners, there was little chance that she would go off course (and she didn’t).
Picking her next solo race was tough for me. I wanted to enter her into one that would be on a relatively closed course, which means I had to find one that didn’t get her too close to the crazies who take to the streets around here. I settled on one that benefits our local Girl Scouts, the Run 4 the Cookies 5k.
Throughout the week, I kept checking with Kaitlyn to make sure that she didn’t want me to run with her, and she assured me that she didn’t; Amber kept telling me that she would be fine, too.
We showed up this morning at the site of the race, our local community college, ready to race. Kaitlyn told me her race strategy, and assured me one more time that she was running this one solo.
I ran next to her for about 100 yards after the start, then I was on my way. I saw Kaitlyn on the course twice during the race, once right before mile 1 and again right before mile 2, and it made me happy to see that she was pushing herself and that she was having a blast.
I finished a little bit ahead of Kaitlyn, so I was waiting for her when she crossed the finish line. She finished in 31:02, which shaved over 2 minutes off of her first solo 5k time.
As we were walking back to the car, Kaitlyn kept asking when she could run another race by herself (she wants to use these as practice for when she tries out for cross country in middle school this fall), and I told her we would have to look at the calendar to see which ones looked interesting to her. For me though, not running with her and crossing the finish line with her signals another part of her that I have to let go, and while I know it is inevitable, it doesn’t mean I have to like it (I know I will get to run at least one race with her…the Turkey Trot 10k in November).
Amber and I are extremely proud of Kaitlyn’s determination to succeed and keep getting better with each race she runs. Before too long, I think she will spend a lot of Saturday mornings riding with me to one race or another. I can’t wait!
It is rare for Kaitlyn to show this much enthusiasm over so many different things all at once, but I have a feeling that this weekend will rank right up there with the best she has had. Certainly one of the most memorable, without a doubt.
Amber and I did something that we would not normally do this past Friday, and that is allow Kaitlyn to intentionally miss school. Shoot, I am honestly surprised that Kaitlyn did not put up more of a fight to go to school, but she didn’t even bat an eye. We all had the day off so that we could head a few hours up the road to Columbus, Georgia. Specifically, our destination was Fort Benning. For the second year in a row, I was running in the Soldier Half Marathon (in honor of Captain John Tinsley), and this time, I was taking the whole family with me. Kaitlyn was finishing off her “Kids Marathon,” where she had to log 25.2 miles from early September until last Wednesday, and would put in the final mile outside the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning.
In order for Kaitlyn’s absence to be considered excused, we had to make the trip educational. No problem at all. When we arrived at Fort Benning, and after we got Kaitlyn and I checked-in for our respective races, we went through the Infantry Museum. I was a little concerned that the noise (simulated explosions and gun fire) at the beginning of the museum, dubbed “The Last 100 Yards,” would bother her, but it didn’t at all. She took time to look at each of the displays that showed an important battle in which the Infantry made an impact throughout the course of our history, and she took time to learn about the battles. After the entrance, we went into each specific “generational” room; there are several rooms dedicated to each era in the history of the Infantry. Kaitlyn was eager to learn about World War II, and took quite some time studying the map of the Battle of the Bulge. The final room we visited was the room dedicated to the over 2,000 Army recipients of the Medal of Honor, and Kaitlyn enjoyed learning about the Medal and some of the recipients.
Kaitlyn’s race started at 5:30 on the Avenue of the Flags, and she was excited to get going. She ran a great mile to finish her marathon, and then got in line to get her finisher medal. She was moved proud that she was given her medal by a soldier, and she told us that it was her “favorite race ever” because of who gave her the medal. For her to have such reverence for a soldier makes us very proud. Amber and I know that this past weekend’s race, and getting a medal from a soldier, will be something that Kaitlyn will always cherish, and it is just another accomplishment that Amber and I proudly were a small part of.
Our trip to Columbus was brief, and we headed home right after my race Saturday morning. We got home in time to watch the second half of the Noles’ demolition of Wake Forest and to relax a little. We had a big surprise lined up for Kaitlyn for Sunday.
For about the last year or so, Kaitlyn has been steadfast in one thing: she wanted to see Florida Georgia Line in concert. We found out in September that they were going to be coming here for FSU’s Warchant concert to kickoff Homecoming, and it was a no-brainer for us to buy tickets. We kept the secret for two months. On the way to the show, we had Kaitlyn wear her princess sleeping mask so she could not see where we were going. Once we were at the Civic Center, we got in line, and Kaitlyn was clueless as to why we were there. We waited until about 5 minutes before the doors opened to give her a ticket, and her reaction was one of shock of why we were there, and feigned anger at us for keeping the secret. In reality, she was happy to be seeing her favorite band. Once they hit the stage, she sang along with every song they performed, and I know she had a great time (surprisingly, however, her favorite song that was played last night was “Chillin’ It” by Cole Swindell, one of the opening acts).
All in all, I think this was a weekend that Kaitlyn will remember as one of the best she has had so far.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the relationship I have with Kaitlyn is that she has taken a real interest in running. She has, over the last two years or so, turned into my running buddy. She will run around the neighborhood with me on occasion, and has run in several local one mile races, plus one in Jacksonville. She gets upset at me when I dare enter a local race, or any race, and run it by myself.
This past Saturday was one we had circled on the calendar for a few months. This past Saturday, Kaitlyn ran in her first 5k (3.1 miles). The event was sponsored by her school and benefitted their Relay for Life program to help find a cure for cancer. I ran the 5k last year, and Kaitlyn did the one mile, and she was determined to run the 5k this year. It was all that she talked about all week, and she was happy to get out of bed around 6:30 Saturday morning.
Saturday’s time will not go down as a personal best for me in the 5k, but it will go down as the absolute most enjoyable 5k that I have ever run. Kaitlyn did a great job. She made it well over a mile before she had to walk for the first time, and really and truly ran like the wind; her little arms were just pumping the whole time. We finished with a time of 35:55, placing 231st and 232nd in the event; Kaitlyn even got a high-five from her teacher at the finish line.
There are no races on Kaitlyn’s schedule until the middle of March, so it will be a while before she gets to toe the line of a race. She’ll probably run one or two more before the end of school, which also happens to be the time that our local races take somewhat of a summer hiatus. For the fall, we are considering entering a 5k together at Disney, will surely do the Turkey Trot again, and I have already signed Kaitlyn up to join me in Columbus in November to run her final leg of the Soldier Marathon’s Kids Marathon.
I have come to realize that running is a really good metaphor for raising a child with Asperger’s. There are times where you run great, there are times when you run bad, but no matter what, just keep running. And of course, no matter if you have gone on a good run or a bad run, you will be very tired at the end of the day.
Thanksgiving was awesome. Anytime I get to spend a day in the middle of the week with Amber and Kaitlyn is a great day. We had quite the long day yesterday, but it was a really good day, and so I am thankful today for yesterday.
We were up bright and early (ok not so bright, but it was early) to get ready to head to our local Turkey Trot race. Just like last year, I had signed Kaitlyn up for the one mile Turkey Gobbler before I ran in a longer race (the 5k this year for me). It was not as cold before the start as last year, and Kaitlyn chose to wear shorts and short sleeve shirt, just like her dad (we are not crazy I tell you).
Overall, 942 runners ran the one mile race. Kaitlyn finished in 9:55, and like she always does, ran the entire time. She finished 124th, ahead of 818 other runners. That is very impressive.
I don’t know who enjoys her running more, me or her. It is something that the two of us can do together, and something we both enjoy. She has been asking to run a 5k soon, and we have one in our sights in January. I am not expecting her to cover all 3.1 miles of that race without stopping, but I will not be surprised if she does.
It’s been a while, but Kaitlyn still loves to run. A few weeks ago, we went down to the new sporting goods store here to look around, and left with a whole new running outfit for her-new shoes, new shorts, and a new running tank top. She had been wanting some new running gear since I talked to her about running the Trick-or-Trot in October.
As much as she loves running the one mile races with me, it seems like that is just not enough for her. She wants to run further. I had been balking at that prospect, mostly because of her age, for a while now, but I am finally at the point where it is time to give in and let her get a taste of a longer distance.
First, we have a few warm-up races. In a few weeks, it will be the first of a few mile races as we build up to a longer distance. For the next few months, I will enter her into at least one mile race per month to get her back used to running with a large group of people. Leading off is a race at the middle school that is right by her school; I figure there is a good chance that some of her friends from school will be there, so she will enjoy herself. Next will be the Trick-or-Trot in October; that one is a Friday night race, which should be pretty interesting for both of us. Then we will do the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, and be ready for a longer race.
Of course, we will not jump right into the next longest distance offered, a 5k. I think we will brave the masses and do the Jingle Bell Run this year downtown during the Winter Festival. It’s a shade over one mile with some pretty decent hills to run on. If, after that run, she is still asking to do a 5k with me, I will have us registered for a 5k early next year. My hope is that once she has that goal in place, and she already knows the plan, she will stick with it and do the 5k.
For me, there is a lot of joy in being able to run with her. She ran with me for a little this past Tuesday, and when I came home after finishing the rest of my run, she greeted me with, “how was your run, running partner?” That was really cool. I’m happy that she gets so excited about running, and to see the joy on her face while she runs is awesome for me.
I’ve read in a few places where people with Asperger’s tend to excel in individual sports (although they can also thrive in a team environment). The physical and individual nature of running is something that seems to have really taken hold of Kaitlyn. It helps burn off some of her boundless energy, and gives her a sense of accomplishment and a way to tangibly measure her progress.