The Power of Example

4 November 2018


Sometimes I wonder, particularly when my alarm goes off at dawn, why I wrestle to keep running as part of my life.


I’m time poor, energy poor, and on my not-so-good-days, enthusiasm poor. Sometimes it’s a slog to get my shoes out of the cupboard, let alone on and laced, and getting out the door is another issue entirely.


So why do I persist when it feels like everything is working against me? Does it really matter? Am I any richer for knowing how to replace batteries in a head-torch, or the maximum time-window for refuelling after a hard workout? I suspect there are many people leading fulfilled lives without being able to pull out those fascinating tidbits at a party.


There are many reasons why I run. The joy of running free and fast. The way your legs burn up the biggest of hills but you know you’ve got it covered. The realisation that you may have trouble walking down stairs tomorrow, but that it will somehow feel so good to feel so bad.


But today I was reminded afresh another reason why I go to lengths to maintain my running routine.


It’s because, as a parent, I have significant influence over the way my children see themselves, and the role physical activity has in their lives. The habits of the household will set lifelong patterns of behaviour and, as they say, the buck stops with me.


The family world spins at a crazy pace and it’s often all I can do to hang on, squeezing in mid-week speed sessions at dawn and sweet talking my husband into watching the kids on Saturday so my long run doesn’t become a mythical beast.


I’m prone to bouts of guilt about whether the time I spend clocking up the kilometres is detrimental to my three boys. Shouldn’t I be there when they wake up every day? Are they going to need counselling because I dropped them at their piano lesson and stole 25 minutes for a quick dash?


And the recurring biggie: am I the most selfish mother in the world? The anti-mother?


Recently, I received a well-needed dose of encouragement.


I had long ago given up hope that any of my offspring would enjoy running, or have any interest in talking times, techniques, and programs with me. Running in our house is just something mum does. Like picking up after them and dropping off their school lunch when they leave it on the bench.


‘Anyone wanna come for a jog?’




‘Should we sign up for athletics this year?’


‘Ah, nope.’


‘Anyone want to see my race-splits graph?’


‘Yeah, ummmmm…….no thanks.’


So when my youngest son came to me looking for a signature so he could join the cross-country team I had a minor seizure.


‘You’re going to get up early twice a week for training?’


‘Yes.’ He gives me the Duh, Mum look.


‘And the note says you have to attend every single session?’


He shifts into the just shut up and sign the note look.


After I finished doing my happy dance (secretly, because I am under no circumstances allowed to dance near the children for fear that my style is contagious), I felt an overwhelming sense of joy.


Not because I was about to embark on a journey to groom an Olympic champion, but because I could see the possibility for him to reap the rewards of running. Of working hard and improving. Of knowing discipline. Of getting up when he’s fallen. Of coming last. Of winning. Of feeling the strength in his body, and knowing its limits.


Finally, today arrived. The first training morning. He was out of bed early, asking me what was best for breakfast? Do you think I should take a snack for after? Can we go now so I’m there on time?


Maybe, after all these years, my struggle to stay true to the cause was paying off.


I sat at the edge of the oval as my boy was torn between listening to the coach and tittering excitedly with his mates. I watched as he sprinted the first lap of his warm up before realising his error. I smiled as he corrected. I saw him concentrate, and grimace, joke, and listen.


I handed him his water bottle mid-session and grinned back at his red, sweaty face. I cheered for him and his teammates as they poured themselves out during the time trial.


I run because I want to be an example to my kids. So I can show them about living a healthy life. So they can learn about their strengths and weaknesses. So they don’t end up with couch-shaped butts and screen-shaped eyes.


‘Did I do okay, Mum?’


Despite how much I wanted to, I didn’t hug him, because apparently touching your mum in public is the cousin of leprosy.


So I looked him in the eye.


‘Mate, you were awesome.’



By Trina Denner



Women’s Guide 8

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