During the Olympics, on one of the many channels showing the events, we happened to catch part of the men’s marathon. Soon after, I began the typical Q&A with my kids that accompanied the viewing of every competition:
- Which athlete is from the U.S.?
- What place is the U.S. athlete in?
- What do they have to do to win?
Those of you with grade-school-aged kids will understand when I tell you that these are just a few of the many, many questions that six-year-olds ask … often, on an hourly basis. But I do my best to answer them all.
When I tried to explain the distance of a marathon, they had a hard time grasping it – such are the failings of a young mind. Time, distance and other spatial concepts are difficult to grasp because of a young child’s cognitive ability and lack of reference.
I tried putting it in terms of how many times we would have to run to the grandparents’ house and back. I tried to make the same example, using trips to school. Both explanations were met with blank stares. So I considered driving the distance of a marathon to help them understand. But then I realized that this effort would also be wasted, since, during car trips, the mind wanders, arguments break out and lost marbles or army men are often found and put to use.
So I decided on the next best solution: I would make my kids run a marathon.
Now, before you report me to Children’s Social Services, let me tell you that there’s a catch: we’re not going to run it all at once. Rather, we’re going to break it up into many manageable pieces.
Our good friends live a quarter of a mile down the street. Every time we go to play with them, we’re going to run down there, play and then run back. And after about 52 trips, we’ll have done it.
Granted, it’s a tall order and – maybe – they still won’t understand the enormity of a marathon’s length, but they will have a better understanding. Plus, they’ll be off the couch and exercising … and that’s an event worth competing in.