Running (and thinking) like a kid

As a parent it is hard not to see the world through kids’ eyes a lot of the time. Usually our role as adults is to guide them and re-direct them to see the world through the perspective which we have gained through experience. There’s a reason we are boring to them – we are grounded in reality. “No, you can’t wear a cape and ‘fly’ off the roof.” “No, you can’t eat glow-in-the-dark slime and become a radioactive superhero.” “No, you can’t shoot firecrackers behind a skateboard for propulsion.” You know, the usual. But in observing my son and his friends in sports, I noticed something we could all stand to re-learn.

My son is 10 years old. This year he decided that he wanted to learn to snowboard. It did not suit our family schedule (or budget) to get him lessons, so he was left to learn on his own for a few hours every weekend. I had never witnessed him in action, as I was either off cross-country skiing or reading in the chalet. However, he would regale me with tales of his carves and “wicked airs”. I knew that in reality he was probably spending a lot of time on his butt, but in his head he was basically Mark McMorris. He never got discouraged or lost confidence.

To you it’s the bunny hill. To them it’s Pyeong Chang.

My friend’s son is the same. Despite never actually having played football, he is such a keen fan and observer that he could “pretty much basically probably make it into the NFL”. My nephew is “basically the 11 year-old equivalent of Lionel Messi.” While watching the Olympics my son will muse, “I wonder which sport I’d like to go to the Olympics in.” Never once questioning that he might not make it.

I don’t think this is false confidence. They know that they fall and lose and drop the ball a lot. What it is is fantasy which fuels their action. They are doggedly optimistic and happy in their fantasy worlds, which is why they keep dusting themselves off. While they are out doing their thing, in their heads they are the best. They go all in with enthusiasm and joy and dreams.

I think I remember a time when I would run this way. When I was 15, in my head I was Uta Pippig (I know this dates me – today it would likely be Shalane Flanagan). I would run imagining the glory of being the fastest runner in the world. I wasn’t constrained by the boring reality of my actual split times or paltry training regimen. Fantasy fueled me and energized me and propelled me forward.

This is something I want to get back. To live and think a little more like a kid and allow my fantasies and dreams to excite me instead of being grounded in the mundane reality of my actual racing potential. Olympics 2022, here I come!