My son made his first New Year’s Resolution this year. I asked if the kids had any more or less as a goof. They’re kids, what kind of changes would they really want to make in their lives?
But my son said he wanted to run a 5K.
He’s never shown any interest in running and I’m not one of those parents that force their own activities on the kids. I mean, sometimes I try to influence them, sure, but I don’t think I force anything.
Anyway, yeah. He wanted to run a 5K.
I downloaded a Couch to 5K app that I used when I was going through physical therapy with good success and we started going out three times a week.
The structure of the program is very simple for about half of the eight weeks you’re supposed to take to finish it. There are breaks in between the runs and you’re only increasing your running duration minimally. Make no mistake: you are making progress. It’s just easy to look down on it since there are walking breaks between.
Until week 5, that is. Then you have to do a run with no breaks. Twenty minutes.
My son did the twenty minutes with no problem, but then he started to waiver and started to think about what else he could be doing with his time. He could be playing video games or playing with action figures or something. He could be climbing trees with his friends. But instead, he’s out here with me sweating and trying to keep a good form and breathing pattern so he doesn’t cramp up.
And he thought about quitting.
We had a big talk about it. He’s the kind of kid that really feels things out. He takes in information, asks his questions, and then he disappears. He might come back if he has more questions. But eventually he emerges from wherever it is that he hides and declares his decision.
We talked about how everything in life requires practice and even those with talent only get a head start – they still have to develop that talent and shape it to carry them further. And because everything requires work, there will always be a moment where you have to ask yourself whether what you’re doing is worth working on. If it is, you continue on your way and you try your best and eventually build an accomplishment that is forever yours and no-one can take that away from you.
Or you can quit. You can wait for something that is worth pushing through the hard work to get to.
But, I said, running is a pretty easy one to do because it only takes up a sliver of your day. Forty-five minutes at most of your whole day spent running and, in return, you get stronger legs, lungs, heart, and maybe even a rush of endorphins and a runner’s high. You build to a 5K and you’ll be the only kid on the block who runs 5Ks. You’ll get medals and the work will be worth it because you’ll have this thing.
He decided to stick with it.
Through the year I’ve been gone a lot and, since I’m his running buddy, he couldn’t run alone and there were also times when he tripped on runs and had to take breaks or got sick. For various reasons, it was only yesterday that we were on the last week. We had one more prescribed run and then the next one should be a 5K.
We were taking it easy on the pace, making sure that he had the stamina to complete the prescribed 28 minutes of straight running. We hit about 1.7 miles and he called out that he was feeling good.
Then he said we should just finish the 5K.
In my parental brain, I thought “why not?” I figured we could run until he couldn’t run anymore. The furthest he had ever run was 2.4 miles so I braced myself for the eventual point where he says he can’t run anymore and started building up reassuring comments about trying your hardest and doing your best and that’s what really makes me proud.
But he did finish it. We ran the whole 5K. The distance even accommodated a quarter-mile warm-up walk so the total distance was 3.36 miles so he legitimately ran 3.11 miles on his own.
I couldn’t be more proud of him for sticking with it and doing this. You could go on any Couch to 5K’s Facebook page and see adults asking people to motivate them to continue running because they’ve hit that point where it stops being easy and starts being work and here’s my son, eight years old, finishing his first 5K.
I was thinking about that a lot when I was stuck at a stop sign that I always seem to stall at, thinking about how cool Vespas are. They’ve got great lines, built in storage, a USB charger and closed compartment for your phone, and a history that’s beyond awesome.
And they’re automatic, which means I would never have to worry about stalling at a stop sign again.
The stop sign in question is right down the road from my house. For whatever miracle of a reason, I’m always able to get there and I think it’s because I don’t want my neighbors to see me struggling with the stupid clutch and this somehow triggers the instinct or repressed memories for the MSF Basic RiderCourse in my brain and allows me to get moving with minimal stalling.
It’s still embarrassing, though. Nobody says they struggle with the clutch and part of my brain says this must be because they’re lying and trying to save face. After all, you have a mostly male base in the motorcycle community which is already heavy on machismo and posturing in general with its vests, beards, loud pipes, or ridiculous top speeds. It’s bro if there were ever bros to bro.
I’m not saying there aren’t women or anything – I’m just saying that there doesn’t seem to be much room to be… a little more open and honest.
But I’m way too punk rock to care about that in the motorcycle community and tell anyone who asks that yeah, I’m having a hell of a time. If I’m right and in any way an example, someone will later be able to say they too were having issues with the clutch or at LEAST they could feel better knowing they aren’t alone.
Still. There I was at the stop sign on stall number eight or whatever, wondering how many times a bike can take being stalled and restarted before it exploded and how likely it would be to get a straight trade for a 150cc Vespa if I offered the Grom.
But then I thought of my son and how bad I would feel if I gave up now. My love of motorcycles is now well-established in the house. My son made me a Lego Vespa for Christmas and my daughter likes to talk about how excited she is about getting a Honda Rebel and going on road trips with me.
So to get the Grom home and give up on it – to give up on all of this in its infancy… seemed wrong.
I just had to do it. Maybe my mind would be changed after some success. So I started being more deliberate with the controls and eventually was able to take off. I turned around, went back to the same stop sign, stopped, and tried again.
And took off.
I went around and did it again and stalled.
And stalled again.
But then I took off successfully.
For three hours I did this loop and got to the point where I was taking off WAY more than I was stalling. I tried to make a game of it. I would take off successfully from the dreaded stop sign of doom five times in a row and then I would ride around the neighborhood.
I took off successfully four times and then stalled on the fifth. But I said screw it and went around the neighborhood anyway. There’s a busy intersection and I stalled a bunch trying to get going from a stop there, but chalked it up to nerves and relaxed. I was way more calm than I had been on previous attempts at riding and it worked pretty well. I stalled rarely. I began to run into the weirdos in the neighborhood. You know the types: the ones that know it’s still early in the morning and the roads are fairly deserted so if they needed to find a CD or something, it would be perfectly acceptable to stop their van in the middle of a tun in an intersection to look for it. Or the two vans parked in the road so the drivers could talk to each other.
I even came to a stop sign to see my neighbors across from me. Recognition flashed across their face and I pulled away nicely with no stalling.
Eventually I figured out that my left hand needs to be loose THIS much for the clutch to grab and then I can accelerate.
I had achieved some level of success.
I was feeling good about this.
I rode home and came inside feeling victorious and told my family that I almost had it. I was almost to the point where I was comfortable to ride on the real roads. Maybe one day of early morning riding on the weekend when nobody’s on the road so I can get used to lane changes, traffic lights, the feel of the road under these different tires, etc. etc.
And then I can go out and get more footage for my YouTube channel and all the videos I plan on putting up.
They reacted… well, they didn’t react very much. I guess they either expected this or I took too long for this to be applause-worthy. Such as life, I suppose.
Still. I feel good about the accomplishment. It’s mine and nobody can take that away from me.