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How a day off of school earned me a new running partner
Anderson mountain bikes while mom Arianne runs behind. - photo by Arianne Brown
On a recent morning, my husband woke up feeling a little under the weather and decided to take a sick day. After an assessment of his condition, I found that while he may not be up to dealing with hundreds of middle school P.E. students, he could easily deal with two small children for a couple of hours while I took advantage of his day off to go for a long run.

Just as I got myself ready and woke the other five kids up for school, my oldest son, Anderson, who is in the sixth grade, asked me if he could please have a day off, too. Normally, I wouldnt be so quick to say yes, but on this particular day, he was to go on a field trip to a museum that our family has a yearly pass to. I figured this was a good a day as any to take off, but there would be one condition: Anderson would need to join me on my run, for at least part of it.

In my conniving parental thinking, I figured that this could end in one of two ways. Either he would see this as cruel and unusual punishment and never ask for a day off from school ever again, or he would love it, and I would have myself a new running partner. It was a win-win.

When I told him my stipulations, as expected, there was some bargaining to be had. Anderson said he would not run but he would ride his mountain bike.

I figured this was fair enough since I knew all too well that he enjoys running only if there is a soccer ball at his feet. So we agreed that he would ride his bike while I ran, and we set off for the nearby foothills.

For the first mile or so, we were on an open dirt road that headed in the downward direction, and it was quickly apparent that his bike was much faster. I found myself running near my marathon race pace as he laughed at my inability to keep up.

That is when I decided to make it fun.

I turned off on a single-track dirt path that wove along the hillside, complete with man-made bridges and teeter-totters. There were also some hills that I threw in there to test out his ability and to humble him a bit.

As we reached one particular crest, Anderson stopped, and I was sure he was going to beg that we turn around and head back home. As I waited for what I thought was going to be an imminent complaint, Anderson, in his best excited pre-teen voice, blurted out, That trail was amazing! This is way better than the museum! Can we keep going?

Surprised at his enthusiasm, I stuttered back, Um yes, if you want to.

For the remainder of the run, I followed as closely as I could behind my son as we wove along the foothills in areas he had never seen before, completing a total of 12 miles together.

When we made it back home, and as I reached for the front door, Anderson thanked me for taking him, and I thanked him back.

Sure, this may not be the last day he asks for a day off from school in fact, I may have only encouraged more. But I got myself a new running partner.
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