Sorry to disappoint but this post will not be a breakdown of Tuesday’s “First Four” games of the NCAA Tournament. We’ll resume hoops talk tomorrow.
For the past several months this is how I have been awaken in the mornings. It’s not my alarm clock. It’s my 12-year-old son, Ryan, who has Autism. The thumps are the sound of Ryan’s feet pounding the hardwood floor of the main level of our house. The “heeee…weeee…aaahhh…heeee” are the sounds he makes as he runs or after he stops running his path from the kitchen to the bathroom several times. Ryan began running in the house in the mornings when it became too cold to go outside and swing last fall.
My “Oldman Hoops” league neared its end of the winter season. I asked Ryan a question to gauge his interest in an idea I had in my head. I asked if he would be interested in running with me in the mornings or afternoons.
Ryan’s reaction was not what I expected. He got extremely excited even to the point he hugged me. I told him like I would tell anyone I would “coach” I wanted a full commitment from him. If we were going to do this together he had to listen to me.
From the beginning, I knew there are two things I will really have to focus on with Ryan to get him to become a runner but to also enjoy it. The first issue is I would have to make sure he understood this was not a full-out sprint. Much like at the start of a race we need to come out with a decent pace and then build to have that solid kick at the end. Along with this, I would also need to teach him proper running form. The second concern was making sure the runs were fun and keeping him focused throughout.
The league finally completed last Thursday when we lost in the tournament. After the game, Ryan came up to me as I was getting my clothes changed and asked, “Now we run?” I told him not yet. Actually I needed to get to the running store and buy new shoes.
I had been running with my old pair of Brooks Ravenna 3s after my 4s had fell apart during my run on Thanksgiving morning. I had the replacement in sole’s in those shoes. I wasn’t running far distances – three-to-four miles at a time, but the 3s had enough mileage in them my legs were feeling it after every run.
My wife was having a “curriculum party” for the home-school group on Friday night. Making a trip to the other side of town was going to be impossible as I needed to help clean the house – mainly the bathrooms, kitchen and my office. Saturday was going to be impossible because of my work schedule. Sunday was such a nice day out the boys and I spent it playing basketball and baseball outside as I waited for the time to go into my man cave and watch the selection show for the tournament.
Monday would have been the prime time to go and get the shoes. I was heading to that side of town to get my haircut and talk brackets with Bud the Barber, but I had my third-oldest son, Luke, with me. Ryan and our youngest son, Micah, had an evaluation that day and after getting my haircut I knew it would be of the utmost importance to get home. Thus, I bypassed the best opportunity since Thursday I had to go to the running store.
Last night prior to going to bed I asked Ryan when he wanted to run today. Did he want to run in the morning or run after I got home from work? He replied he wanted to run after I got home from work.
Perfect, I thought. After I got off work this afternoon, I could drive the 465 loop and head to the running store and buy the new shoes. Unfortunately, I am in a substitute role at work for what seems an eternity. I didn’t get off work until 5pm and when I saw the traffic on 465 it was at a complete standstill.
I decided to just drive home.
We had dinner and around 6:30p I told Ryan to get his shoes on and let’s go for the run. He had asked to run this evening and even though I didn’t get the new shoes I wasn’t going to let him down.
We walked out the front door and out to the road. I explained to him I wanted him to be “tall” and loosen the grip of his hands and just relax. He had his hands clenched in such tight fists. We started out and a pretty good pace. We ran to the end of our street and then went down another street and then onto the main thoroughfare, which connects our section to another subdivision and then on to a path.
As we approached our first mile I asked him how he felt and he said he could feel a pain in his side. I told him he was developing a side stitch and we should walk a little ways until he felt ready to continue on at the pace we were running. He also took the water bottle and got a drink for a moment.
We walked a little more. The path ends on an incline. I decided we would break the rest of the run into segments. We would run a distance and then walk. We would alternate that the rest of the way. I said, “let’s run from this tree to the end of the path.”
We ran from the tree to the end of the path. Then we walked down the street until it met another street. I had us stop when we got to the corner. I told him to look to his right.
“Eventually we are going to run that direction and turn around and comeback this way,” I said. “That road has a decent incline we will run. But that’s far off in our running future. What do you think about that?”
“Uh huh,” Ryan said with a smile.
We then ran to the corner of another street without stopping. Then we walked for a little bit and talked. I asked him how he was feeling. He said he didn’t have any pain in his side anymore. I told him that was good.
I let him run ahead of me a few times I wanted to see his form. Of course, I am not coach but giving him some basic tips to start will help him here in the beginning. Ryan’s gangly body makes it look like he’s dancing more than he is running. Like anything, it’s going to be a matter of getting out there and doing it consistently.
We ran from a mailbox to a fire hydrant. Then we walked from the fire hydrant to another one. Another street was in sight and I told him we were going run from the last fire hydrant to the corner without stopping.
As we ran to each landmark I kept encouraging him saying, “Keep running, Ryan. There’ll be time to walk in a moment.”
We ran a couple of more streets. We were getting ready to make the turn for home and I said “Would you like to wear the water belt?” He said that he would like to wear it.
I adjusted the straps of the belt and wrapped it around his thin torso and we resumed the run.
There was a gust of wind as we started running on Wakefield Road. Ryan looked at me and said “Fight the wind. We must fight the wind.”
During a walking break I asked him if he liked the run. I wanted to know if we were going to do this again or was this a one-time occurrence. He gave me the thumbs up.
“So you’ll be ready tomorrow? You’ll be ready Thursday, You’ll be ready Friday and Saturday?”
“Yes,” he replied.
We were approaching our mailbox and I said “This is it. When we get to the mailbox it is a full-out sprint. Give it all you got and let’s finish strong to the stop sign.”
He listened and as we came even with the mailbox we both picked up the pace. Ryan wasn’t too far behind me. I looked back and I said, “Come on Ryan. Finish it strong.”
Ryan about caught me as we reached our “finish line” for the night.
I couldn’t be more proud than I am of Ryan tonight. I hope this is just the beginning of what will turn out to be a great bonding experience. In back of mind I really do think a race could be in store for him. Ryan looked good enough tonight if we stayed consistent we could try and run the Final Four 5k April 4 downtown. That might be pushing it this soon, but maybe late in the spring or early summer we can find one to do together.
Note before bed: Last year Seth Davis got my factual-oops award during the NCAA Tournament when he said prior to 2005 no Indiana school had made the tournament since 1975. Actually it was 1973. Well, this year’s award goes to Cedric Golden from the Austin Statesman. Golden reported in his blog Chris Holtmann replaced Todd Lickliter as the Butler coach this season.