I began this blog to keep me motivated to write about sports. For some hare-brained reason, even though it’s been more than a few years of playing the Grantland-Rice Wannabe on an every day basis, I thought my friends would still be interested in my worthless ramblings on what took place in the sports world.
Of course, now I mainly write about my adventures running with Ryan.
It comes as a shock when I meet people who read this publication (can we call it that?) and they find out I actually have three other sons. Everyone who reads it knows of Ryan. I have mentioned the other three from time-to-time.
One of my “Four Horsemen” though constantly gets lost in the mix. Wendy refers to it as the dreaded “middle-child syndrome.”
Believe it or not, sometimes when we are out, people, who don’t know us well or we haven’t seen in a long time, will come up to us and say, “Who’s friend is that?” After we tell them he’s ours, the reply usually is, “Oh, I didn’t know you had four.”
That other one is Luke – the third oldest of the Fabulous Rueff Boys. Luke’s a lot like me in that he’s constantly trying to find his niche. I’m 45 – be 46 soon and still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.
He’s tried Taekwondo. He played the drums. Luke participated in Bible Bowl. He’s played soccer. He also belongs to the local TrailLife group and enjoys camping out and also shooting his guns and archery.
For the better part of the last year though, Luke has struggled to find himself and what he likes to do – aside from school, video games, helping Wendy with her Sunday school class and TrailLife.
Since I spend a lot of one-on-one time with Ryan on our morning runs, I usually take each night of a weekend and spend it individually with the other three. Fridays with Andrew, Saturdays with Micah and Sundays with Luke.
The Sunday night after Ryan had run in the Greenwood Christian Academy Hokum Karem and we had our worst long run ever, I took Luke for my ultimate guilty pleasure of Dairy Queen. We were in the booth eating blizzards (his a cookie-dough and mine a M&M-Oreo).
During our conversation, Luke paused and asked a question.
“Do you mind if I go with you to practice tomorrow night?”
“Why?” I replied. “You’d be bored to death. I usually read a book or text back and forth with friends or with Uncle Bill. What would you do for two hours?”
“No,” Luke said. “To run. What would you think if I went to practice tomorrow night and ran. Ryan along with Donavon and Garrett looked like they were having a lot of fun with each other Saturday at the meet. And, I’ve missed being part of a team.”
For those who know our family well whenever they see Luke the first question usually asked is, “What sport does he play?” That’s because out of my four sons, Luke, is the one who looks the most athletic. A majority of my friend’s jaws drop to the floor when I tell them he doesn’t or hasn’t played any sport since trying soccer when he was 5-years old.
I basically had the same reaction when Luke replied to me that Sunday night. My spoon left my mouth and missed the cup holding my concoction as an M&M and a small piece of Oreo melted off the spoon on to the table.
I also need to preface this because the week before, Luke had chased Ryan around the house and caught him. Luke came in the house and said, “See, I could run like he does. I bet I could beat Ryan on a regular basis.”
Wendy and I had challenged him to go to practice, but Luke declined the invitation. “We all know who the fastest is in this house. I don’t need to prove it every day.”
I looked into my third oldest son’s eyes to gauge the seriousness of his comment at the restaurant.
Yep, it was that intense look he gets when Luke wants to be competitive.
I instantly texted Coach Ben Houston. He said he would be glad if Luke joined the team for practice the next night.
We asked Ryan what he thought. In typical Ryan fashion, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “uh.”
Luke went to practice Monday. Most of the team ran their “Mileage Monday” workouts while Luke ran and walked around the circle with the team in the neighborhood next to the park where we meet.
On Tuesday, the day I ran to push Ryan during his tempo workout, Luke had his mile-time trial. He was pushing himself and as Ryan and I passed him one time he was wheezing hard to catch his breath.
As I drove home that night, Luke sat in the passenger side of the car and declared.
“I’m done! I can’t do it. I told you Mom and you, I’d give a shot, but after tonight, I don’t want to.”
We left it at that. I texted Houston and told him of Luke’s decision. I could tell by the response, Coach was a little disappointed.
“Is he sure?” Ben asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
I left it alone on Wednesday with Luke. Neither Wendy or I brought it up or asked if he had any second thoughts on going back for the next practice on Thursday night.
I got home from work Thursday evening and yelled at Ryan to go upstairs and get ready for practice. I went upstairs as well to change clothes.
When I returned to the first floor, not only was Ryan on the couch dressed and ready for practice with his water bottle in his hand, but Luke was as well.
“Uh, I thought you were done,” I said to Luke.
“I kept thinking about it all day yesterday and today,” Luke replied. “I’ve decided to stick it out.”
I knew before I texted Houston that Luke was returning for practice, after I had told him late Tuesday night Luke was done, Houston was going to tell me that by the end of practice he would expect Luke to give a definite yes or no for the rest of the season.
That’s exactly what I told Luke.
“You have tonight,” I said. “But understand at the end of practice, your answer to Coach Houston’s question of yes or no is final.”
“Yes, sir,” Luke said.
He went through practice and the exercises after practice that night. As everyone else on the team gathered their belongings, Houston took Luke aside and asked him what his decision was going to be for the rest of the season.
Luke answered that he was committed to the team.
We went and got his gait analyzed and his feet properly fitted for shoes. We also got him some running gear for practices.
On the days that they don’t have practice with the team, but have miles scheduled by Coach Houston, I continue to run with Ryan in the mornings and now with Luke in the evenings.
When I run with Luke, I always talking about his form. I am trying to slowly get his mind and body acclimated to the newness of running. Although he gets frustrated because he sees everyone else being faster than him right now, the key will be to constantly be positive. Coach Houston is convinced if Luke stays with it, he can turn into a solid runner not only for himself, but the team as the season progresses.
Since Luke didn’t start right when the Genesis United Cross Country team was formed toward the end of July, he’ll probably spend most of this season trying to catch up with the rest of the team. The only thing any of us want to see from him is constant improvement. The good thing is we are seeing it.
Luke ran in his first ever race Tuesday night in the Lutheran High School Invitational at Southeastway Park. He got out too fast and already looked out of energy by the time I saw him at about the half-mile mark of the course.
The 12-year old kept pushing though and just when you thought he would stop running and begin walking the course, Luke picked the pace back up. Once he got through the wooded area to head down the finishing straight, Luke put his kick in and finished strong.
It was a proud moment because Luke had that same determined look at the end of Tuesday’s race as he did that night when he sat across the table from me and asked if he could go to practice.
If things continue with Ryan as they have after our bad run that same Sunday when Luke said he wanted to run, I am going to need my third-oldest son to get up speed quicker than expected.
Because at the rate Ryan’s going, he’s going to need a faster-running partner sooner rather than later.
I can’t think of a better one than Luke.