Thursday, January 9, 2014

Our First Marathon

After Will received his asthma diagnosis a few years ago, I, like any parent in a similar situation, started researching the condition, preventative measures, and treatments. I'd previously heard that kids with asthma were doomed to a lifetime of sitting on the sidelines, and because I knew that would never fly with my sports-loving and athletically-inclined little boy, I started looking for medical research to indicate otherwise.

A few months later I came across an article in which the author suggested that steering kids with asthma away from athletics was essentially the worst thing parents could do. Instead, the author encouraged parents to enroll their kids with asthma in swimming lessons and encourage them to take up running. These sports, the author explained, would strengthen participants' lungs, but perhaps more importantly, force participants to learn learn how to control their own breathing.

This all made sense to me, so I started encouraging Will to run. (Will'd already taken years of swimming lessons, and while he enjoyed swimming, he was clearly not good enough to participate in competitive swimming.) Kindergarten brought even more running, thanks to daily, full-out games of basketball or football at recess followed by organized games, calisthenics, and actual distance running during gym class.

At the time of Will's official diagnosis, we treated his exercise- and cold-induced breathing issues with Albuterol (via nebulizer) multiple times a year. Eventually we graduated to an inhaler (much simpler than a nebulizer, thankfully), but Will still needed intervention a few times a year. But by the end of kindergarten, all that running had strengthened Will's lungs beyond recognition. We rarely pull out his inhaler, even when the temperature outside is below zero.

I bring all this up because last month Will participated in his first run.

The day before the Bryan-College Station Marathon, the organization hosts a 1.2 mile kids marathon. When I told Will about the race he immediately asked me to sign him up (he was in as soon as he heard the word "race" - competitive doesn't even begin to describe Will). Parents were welcome to run with their kids, so Tom and I decided we'd run with Will and push Hallie in the stroller. The morning dawned cold and windy, both by Texas standards and by Hallie standards. In fact, Hallie cried for 45 minutes - claiming that day was the worst of her entire life - after we arrived at the race site.

When the race officials called the seven- and eight-year-olds to the starting line we lost Will. I panicked a little, because we'd yet to discuss what to do at the finish line or where to meet after the race, and I panicked a little more when the gun suddenly went off and Will was nowhere to be found.

I left Tom toward the back of the pack with Hallie, and took off. I literally ran as fast as I could, chasing Will for the entirety of the race, but I never caught him. I never even saw him ahead of me, for that matter. But when I crossed the finish line, there he was, watching for me and already wearing his medal.

He'd easily run 1.2 miles faster than I could sprint and was barely out of breath. No wheezing, no coughing, nothing.

Oh, and thanks to his buddy Dylan (on the right) who set a pace that Will attempted to match, Will finished ninth. He was SO proud, and so was I.

*I am not a medical professional. I am a mom of a child with asthma who on occasion shares with friends and family what has worked for her son. Please consult a doctor for information on treating asthma.

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