"I will be your coach," he said. I am used to his confidence, but this time he spoke with authority. He went on. "I will be your coach and I will help you. I really will. Mommy, I really will be your coach."
I loved every bit of that authority and then the near-pleading that followed. I told him about the possibility of the relay and I told him I was nervous about it because I wanted to show him that it is OK to be afraid to do something new but to take it on anyway. The truth was, I felt terrified. But I took on the run and I took him on as a coach because, even more than my fear and his sweetness, I desired the courage and the purity of his kind of kid support.
With the passing of weeks and surpassing of goals, I've shared what's been challenging, what's kicked my ass and what's gone really well during our "5 things" sessions on car rides home and sitting at the dinner table. He's invested. He cheers for me and gives me a little "woooo! wooooo!" train whistle. He makes suggestions -- inviting me to walk around the block once and then once around, running as fast as I can, or hopping on one foot to alleviate the pain I am feeling in the other. Most of the time, his advice is actually good (OK, so the hopping bit was a little nutters).
He knew I'd been plateauing in the 3-mile range for a few weeks, edging slowly and frustratingly up to 4 miles at a much slower pace than I wanted to when we drove to his school on Monday morning.
"Mommy," he piped up from the backseat. "Today, I know you are going to run 4 miles."
"Oh, you think so?" I smiled to hear that authority return. "I will certainly try."
"No, Mommy," he said. "I KNOW you are going to do it today. And when it is really hard and you think you can't run up to 4 miles, I KNOW you will think about me and how I said I know you can do it. Thennnnn...I know you will just do it. I know it!"
And there he was, the kid with the bedhead buried under a knit cap and syrup still glossed at the corners of his lower lips and holding a Curious George and Lego Clone Trooper in each gloved hand, and he was coaching me, the mama.
"OK, then," I smiled into the rear view mirror at him. "We shall see."
Hours later, on the treadmill, I peeked under my jacket, strategically covering the numbers ticking all too slowly on the treadmill. I was at that familiar point, and the thought came to me that it would be just fine for me to stop if I needed to stop.
Then I did exactly what Lil E told me he knew I'd do. I remembered. I kept on. I knew.
I did run 4 miles that day. In fact, I ran 4.2 before I was really done, sweaty and tired and smiling. That night, I beamed as I buckled Lil E into his car seat and asked him, "Guess what is the first thing I have to tell you I did today? Guess what I did?"
When I told him, he beamed back, reached out to kiss me and told me he was so, so, so proud of me.
And then, like any coach would, he pressed before the pride sank in to deeply.
"AND TOMORROW YOU CAN RUN 5 MILES!"
I haven't seen that enthusiasm on his face since Santa left a living room full of Star Wars ships for him.
I laughed, stumbled trying to explain it might take me weeks, maybe even a month to get to that point. He was only feet away, but he spoke as if he didn't hear a word of what he clearly thought were excuses.
"OK, next week then. Next week, I KNOW you will run 5 miles."
"OK, then," I said as I had that morning. "We shall see."
And we shall. My coach is going to make sure of it.
I've been writing about becoming a runner over on Shine. Click on over to read up on what I have to say about running skirts, treadmill training and what I've learned (so far) about getting (and staying) motivated.