By J-dub Henness
Hello! They call me J-dub or “the bubs”, depending on the mood. I’m writing today because mama is busy. We’re going back to San Francisco again this week. She’ll write more about that later. So anyway. Let’s talk about Coaching Your Parents Through a Race!
Why should they run in the first place? As grown-ups, our parents have lost the ability to run with ease. Some even forget how to play properly! Sad, right? With steady running, these things get better! Their big people bodies will eventually remember how to make energy. It makes them more fun and easier to live with. They just need your contagiously playful attitude to get started.
What are my qualifications? I’m only 16 months old but I’ve been running with mama longer than that. Our first marathon together was nearly 2 years ago. I’m basically an expert. If you’re curious about how to actually train your parents for a race, hit me up on the baby cam and we’ll babble.
Coaching Your Parents Through a Race
Your primary job is make sure your parents have fun. If it’s not fun, they won’t want to keep running. That starts with picking a great race.
We chose the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon Relay [aka race with the longest name ever]. Two years ago, this was actually my first race with Mama, but she didn’t know it at the time.
This year, my parents didn’t really train for the race, but I keep them in pretty good running shape year round. We do Uh-Oh Sprint Repeats almost daily and I’ve stroller paced a lot of long runs. I knew they’d be alright.
Tips for picking a good parent race:
- Familiar start areas are best. The ORWineHalf starts at my parent’s favorite wine park (Stoller Vineyards). We know how to get there and we have good memories so we feel good going there.
- Access to food and drink keeps everyone happy. Mama’s VIP pass lets us eat brunch together at the finish line. She and I are both happier when food is readily available. Plus, all the adult beverages keep them calm.
- Find a course they’ll enjoy. My parents love the trees and vineyards of Yamhill County. Guess that’s why they moved here. Find a race with a course that’ll hold your parent’s attention. Bored parents get fussy.
Coaching starts when they wake you up. If you’re worried they’ll sleep in, you can wake them up sporadically throughout the night. That usually helps.
First, your parents need to wear their special run clothes and shoes. I like to be a good example of “dressing for success”.
Second, they need to put on their “race bib”, which is a silly thing to call it. It’s not absorbent and typically worn too low to protect their special run clothes from food or spit up.
Third, don’t let them eat anything new on race day. They’ll try to sneak one past you, so demand to sample their food and drink. Make sure they haven’t watered down their electrolytes.
Start line check list.
Get them to go potty before the race starts! Remember, they don’t have diapers anymore. They have to stand in line for a potty!
Pro tip: If they’re struggling to go then you can lead by example. Changing your diaper might trigger their nervous bowels into a proper release.
Start charming the compression socks off everyone. I know, it’s early. But there are few littles (if any) at the start line to compete with, so it’s not so bad. This has two important goals:
- It makes your parents feel good when runners are smiling at you. Compliments distract them from being nervous about the race.
- You can encourage others to help your parents. For example, we had to get on the school bus shuttle 4 times that day. Someone always volunteered to carry the stroller on and off the bus for us. You’re welcome, parents.
During the race.
Once the race starts, let them see what they can do on their own. You can trust them. There are benefits to being a stroller pacer and going with them, but that is a post for another time.
For the ORWineHalf relay, mama ran the first 6.1 miles. We didn’t see her start, as Dada and I had to leave for the relay transition. My job was to keep Dada focused and make sure he remembered sunscreen.
When I saw Mama come in to the transition she was looking happy. I was so relieved! She finished in about 1:04, got her medal, water and a bag of goodies for me. Then we were off to catch the shuttle to the finish.
With one runner done, my focus turned toward her recovery. I looked at every snack in the goodie bag to find something I could share with her. There wasn’t anything, unfortunately. Then I showed her how her finisher’s necklace can hold my sippy cup. A subtle reminder to drink more water.
Dada was now out on the road. He had an extra mile to run but it was the flatter half of the course. He came in to the finish in about 56 minutes, giving Team Henness a total time of 2 hours flat.
But my work wasn’t done yet.
Finish Line Priorities
If your runners want a photo with you, be a good sport. This means a lot to them. Remember, running is a lot harder for them.
Don’t let them forget to rehydrate and eat something!
Here I am with the VIP finish area brunch behind me. They had fresh fruit, potatoes and eggs, bagels and coffee, and adult beverages. Good post-race recovery fuel.
Pro tip: Run around randomly to keep your parents moving. This is called active recovery. You don’t want their muscles to tighten up because they sit too soon after the run.
After they’ve eaten something, help your parents debrief. Let them talk about the race and share how they felt about it. Show them you’re proud of them with high-fives. No matter how well they did or didn’t do, they are your parents, after all.
Encourage them to enjoy the festivities. The ORWineHalf has plenty of things going on; a band, several little tents with people handing out goodies and selling interesting things. Mama got some wine. Dada got some beer. I let them talk to some friends. This all may see humdrum to you, but it helps your parents associate running with FUN.
When I felt they’d had about enough, I started nodding off. They need their rest too, so showing them that’s ok to be tired is important. When they see your eyes droop, they’ll get tired too and head home.
I know my parents had a great race and I know they appreciated the part I played. Even if they don’t fully understand how much work I do for them. I’m just glad to see them having fun!