The race against the clock: Balancing priorities and the time demands of running

Growing up, I did pretty much everything under the sun (besides running). I attended an arts school, was heavily involved in dance for hours after school every day, and also took music lessons. My few hours off from extra-curriculars were spent cramming in assignments and studying for tests. It was the busy lifestyle I grew to love, and it felt normal to me. I was lucky enough to be raised by a full-time mom who helped me navigate all of these commitments. The classic dance mom, the music recital mom, the homework-helping mom. She did it all (and still does)…except drive. That’s where my dad came in: the professional carpooler. Running was never something any of us had to factor into our schedules. 

My mom proudly founded the love for running in our close-knit family of three. She started running when I was little – her feelings towards running never growing, but never diminishing, remaining ever-constant. My mom runs solely for the sake of running. She runs three days a week, for 25-30 minutes, and rarely changes her route. It has become her routine. She doesn’t hate it, she doesn’t love it, she just does it. This part of my childhood didn’t impact me all that much because she would run during the day when I was at school. It wasn’t really until she forced my reluctant dad to start running that the race against the clock began.

My dad landed a time-demanding full-time job when I was in middle school. Around the same time, my mom was trying to convince him to be more physically active – i.e., the classic “you should run”. I don’t think she realized this harmless prompt would ever turn into the running addiction it did. What started out as small runs turned into a fascination with times and distances, which prompted my dad to join the University of Toronto Masters Track Team. Increasing physical activity levels can only be good, right? Running is healthy, right? Here’s my (somewhat selfish) perspective as the child of an ‘obsessed runner’:

My dad went from being a work-from-home dad to working full-time hours, overnight. This didn’t impact me all that much because he maintained his job as ‘carpooler’. He would still drive me and my friends to school on his way to work, and he would take us to dance and music lessons at night.

When running was added to the mix, he would do his runs when I was at my extra-curricular activities. This changed when he joined the track team. Then, he would disappear two nights of the week – driving straight to U of T’s campus and not getting home from work/practice until nine at night. I would find rides home from dance with other parents or I would walk home. What I soon began to realize was that it wasn’t the ride home that I wished was still there, it was that the car rides were the only time I actually got to spend time with my dad. Since my mom doesn’t drive, the time my dad spent driving me to school, driving me to dance, and picking me up from music: that was our father-daughter time. I knew no ONE could take that from us. But running did. 

The more my dad ran, the less he was able to spend time with my mom, and the less I got to see him. The ‘carpooler’ disappeared. It was this way until I started running. My dad is no longer the ‘carpooler’. My dad has become my ‘running buddy’. We’ve spent more time together over the last two years than we did my entire childhood in the car. 

So, what does this all mean? As the child of an obsessive runner, I’m not telling you to stop running. I’m not telling you to prioritize other things. You need to do what’s best for you as a parent, and that might mean prioritizing your run so that you can be truly present for your children the rest of the day. What I am saying is: ask your kids what time they appreciate and value spending with you! My dad viewed carpooling as carpooling, and probably didn’t know how much I valued it as quality time. Finding out what little, seemingly insignificant, times throughout the day that your child looks forward to could help you to prioritize those moments, instead of sacrificing them for your run. And, at the end of the day, finding a form of physical activity that your family can all engage in may help to maximize that quality time and strengthen family bonds!