From RRR Member Stephen Miller:

Weekly track workouts with the Rockland Road Runners are right around the corner. As a way of saying thank you to the club, I thought I’d take some time to convey much my then eight-year-old daughter Ava’s running benefited from the 2012 track workouts.

Ava had completed several 5k events with me prior to the family joining the RRR. During the first summer session’s three-mile time trial, on May 2, her time was 32:16, which was just about the time she had posted in the George Wodicka 5k the prior month. A scant three weeks later, Ava lowered her 5k time to a 30:21 in the Demarest 5k, on a hot day and a lumpy course.

Running has become Ava’s sport, even if her classmates don’t always acknowledge track as a sport. Stick and ball games have their place, but Ava likes running. Sometimes traditional team sports put unnecessary peer and parental pressure on kids. With sports like running, and the swimming that Ava’s older sister does, the kids have their own elapsed times, and their own distances, as their own goals. They see their own progress in every lap in the pool and mile covered on the track.

Although Ava had not quite developed the stamina to complete every scheduled interval during the summer track workouts, she made continual progress. Her one-mile time trial in early July clocked in at 8:30.

Of course there’s not always a perfect arc to lower times despite consistent training, but I was certainly happy to see Ava’s 32:28 in mid-July’s Women’s Distance Festival 5k. It was the first event that she completed “solo,” even though some new friends from the RRR shepherded her through the first water table while I waited near the finish line.

The August 29th session ending time-trial should have been a culmination of Ava’s on-track progress. But she pulled out of the time trial without completing the distance. You will understand my concern for her the following week when she was scheduled to run our town’s event, the, the Dom Merkovich 5k in Closter, NJ on Labor Day.

As a volunteer for the Closter event, I positioned myself at the two-mile marker to call out the times to passing runners. My idea was to be there to meet Ava if she again had to stop running early in the event. Her mom and sister were waiting at the finish. A marathon the following week precluded my involvement, so Ava was on her own again. We had run the course several times, so I didn’t have any concern that she’d find her way with so many friends and neighbors around her.

Talking through a race plan, I suggested keeping to a conservative 9:30 pace for the first mile before evaluating the pace for the next two miles. Well, I have no idea what her first mile pace was, but she surprised me by passing mile two about two minutes faster than anticipated. She popped out of pack, looked great, called “Hi, daddy,” and went on to finish in 27:47!

There are many similarities between my daughters. There are many differences. As a parent, I am continually discovering these similarities and differences. While Ava’s sister isn’t so motivated by trophies and championships, Ava has wanted tangible proof of her physical efforts, and I don’t mean blisters. One of Ava’s running goals was to earn a trophy.

Three weeks after the 5k in Closter, Ava achieved that goal in the Haworth 5k. She ran hard with another girl who happened to be in the same nine-and-under age group. Ava finished a close third, earned a trophy, and lowered her personal best to 26:27.

Now that she has turned nine, Ava has a similar slate of races planned for 2013. This year she should have a chance for a good place at any event with a nine-and-under age category. An age-group second place on January 1st, in Hillsborough, NJ certainly was a good way to start the year. If you ask me, the duffel bag she received was a better “trophy” than the hunk of metal with a clock in it that they gave to first place.

Anyway, as a parent, I’m happy that my daughter has found a sport that she enjoys, is sticking with, and to some extent, for now, I can do with her. Ava and I look forward to resuming the summer track workouts with the RRR and the running season ahead. With any luck, she will even entice her sister to join us. See you on track!

1 Comment

  • joanie Posted February 21, 2013 5:27 pm

    how wonderful this is
    so proud of your accomplishments
    Ava, and you’re only nine
    keep this up and you can come here
    and do the toronto marathon and i’ll meet you at the finish line, with hugs and kisses…my trophy to you
    love you all

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