A running adventure … and a new friend

I love running when I’m away from home because it gives me new experiences; different terrain, sites, sounds, smells, and weather turn each run into a refreshing break from my old routine.

The other day, I had a very unique experience running while traveling. The weather reports had been talking about a tropical hurricane for some time, but it had been continuously downgraded and eventually became what we thought was just some rain and a bit of wind. A few kilometers into my run, the drizzle turned into rain which then became heavy rain. As I continued it started to become fairly windy. I was about 5 kilometers along a road lined with sugar cane fields when I noticed a dog standing in the middle of the road about a hundred meters ahead of me, just staring at me. I had to think about what action to take. It was early in the morning, there was very little traffic, and most of the dogs here have some Pit Bull mix in them. There was no sign of anyone else around. I slowed down so that I didn’t appear threatening. As I walked up I realized it was not a menacing looking dog at all but a cute floppy-eared Pointer. I looked around and asked him where his people were and then decided to continue on. The wind was picking up and the rain was starting to hit me sideways. The dog seemed a little nervous and disoriented, bounding from one field, across the road, to another field and back to me as I continued along my way. A lone car drove by and the dog clearly had no traffic sense as it just missed being in the road at the same time. I tried not to engage him as I did not want him to follow me – I was almost at the halfway mark of my loop and would end up 6 kilometers from where we were. The dog had other ideas however, and bounded along beside me as I turned down a more remote cane field road. I began to think this was no ordinary storm as the wind gusts were blasting rain sharply into my face and at times would blow me sideways nearly off my feet. My buddy was clearly terrified of the storm, as every blasting gust would drive him either into the cane fields only to return behind me a few seconds later or directly into my body as he sought comfort. (I later learned that the wind was blowing at 50 km/hr with gusts up to 80 km/hr.) At this point I realized we were in it together and there was no getting rid of him, so I patted him and offered him some comforting words as we continued along. Tree branches and debris from the storm were littering the road, and I ran the last few kilometers with my arms at my head to protect myself from whipping debris.

my tree-lined route on a nicer day

my tree-lined route on a nicer day

status of many branches after the storm

status of many branches after the storm

We finally made it back to our rented cottage and I left my poor shaking friend outside while we called the animal rescue shelter.

waiting trustingly - he'd clearly put his faith in me to get him safely home

waiting trustingly – he’d clearly put his faith in me to get him safely home

It was a bit sad to drop him off – we’d shared an adventure together, but I knew his people were probably anxiously looking for him.

saying "good-bye"

saying “good-bye”

Sure enough, within ten minutes of leaving the shelter we received a call that his owners were on their way to pick him up. I’m happy that my friend found his home, but strangely, even though I was with him for only a couple of hours, I miss him. Maybe it’s time to get a dog…

How to: Selecting the perfect wine

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Role modeling running values

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the lessons and experiences I’ve gained through running have shaped much of who I am. I see much of the world through a running lens and it follows that I want to share that perspective with my children. I have a seven year-old son and a five year-old daughter. Of course I want them to share in my love of running by doing it alongside me and learning and benefiting from their own experiences in it. So no problem, right? Just encourage them to run, sign them up for kids’ races and kids’ running clubs and away we go. Ha!

It turns out kids (at least mine) have minds of their own. My kids have gone for runs with me (of their own accord) and have participated with varied success in kids’ events. My son also enjoyed going to his track club practices which I’d encouraged him to sign up for – it is a fantastic club with great coaches who introduce track and field to young kids in a very fun way. My son was always sweaty and smiling at the end. But then one day out of the blue he said:”Mom, you just want me to run because you do it. I have to find my own thing.” And that was it.

A few weeks ago when he still enjoyed running

A few weeks ago when he still enjoyed running

Looking back, I know that my passion for running as a teenager came as my own form of rebellion and self-discovery. My parents knew very little about the sport and took a detached interest in my passion. Throughout my high-school career where I trained with a club two times a week and raced often, they never once came to a practice and I think they may have come to a race once and only because it was in the neighbourhood. I liked it that way. Every time I raced my mother would ask how I did. I’d respond with my time and she always had the same response. “That’s great! What’s your PB (personal best) again?” Because she had absolutely no reference point and had to be reminded of my personal benchmark every single time. I could say I ran the 1500 m in 4:36 or 5:36 (vastly different performances) and she’d be just as happy and proud of me. I ran only for me – there was absolutely no judgement or pressure from the people who mattered most in my life. I truly believe that’s why I’m still doing it more than twenty years later.

Now back to my kids. I want them to benefit as I did from running, but I understand that I cannot force it. I can only be a role model in the best way I can and keep doors open if they happen to decide to get into it. So I’m watching my son skateboard and play basketball in the same detached manner my parents watched me run. I respond to his delighted shrieks of “Mom, I did an Ollie!” with a smile and a “That’s great sweetie.” I don’t know what that is but he seems to be happy with it.

How could a 7-yr old boy find this more fun than running?!?

How could a 7-yr old boy find this more fun than running?!?

My daughter is still a bit young to have found a personal passion, but I like to think she’ll find one that doesn’t involve make-up and fancy clothes. All I can do again, is try to be a positive role model. I was floored a while ago when out of the blue she said: “Mommy? Beautiful girls don’t like to show their muscles”. Gulp! I guess her Barbies don’t have very much muscle definition. I quickly showed her the cover of my latest running magazine and said, “Don’t you think this girl is beautiful?” She agreed and changed her mind. Whew! Then a while later she was fussing over which dress to wear to a party and I said “It doesn’t matter. Look what I’m wearing!” My daughter’s response:”Yes, but Mommy – you’re not a pretty girl.” Some people might take offense at this, but I was proud. No, I am not a pretty girl. That is not what I DO. (I may have played her some Ani DiFranco after that).

Kate VanBuskirk - a better role model than Barbie!

Kate VanBuskirk – a better role model than Barbie!

I will continue to run and show my kids how it brings a positive influence to my life. If they do ever want to get into it, I will try to let them discover it on their own. I guess what I really hope is that they pick-up on some of the values which I’ve learned along the way; the importance of perseverance, determination, enthusiasm, a sense of fun and the self-confidence that comes from being yourself. Whether they learn these lessons through running or something else, I will be happy and proud of them.