I am about to develop a new hobby. Race Stalking. Intrigued? You should be.
It’s also known as the Ultimate Free Way to Entertain Kids For An Extended Period of Time. That’s a mouthful, so I’ll just go with Race Stalking.
Here’s how you do it. Check your local papers and find a local road race. Any race, for any cause, any distance. In our case, it was the Covered Bridge Half Marathon. Then you find a nice grassy spot where your kids have room to roam and play while you wait for the runners to finally reach you. Remember to bring toys and games to entertain them, since you’ll be stuck in the same spot for quite a while. May I suggest good friends, golf clubs, trucks, bubbles, and baby strollers?
Yes, Jax’s buddy Andrew has a set of his own golf clubs. This kid is obsessed with golf, and for good reason. He’s good. I just hope he remembers us when he’s famous. Maybe Jax can be his caddy! Or Em could marry him. Either one works for me. I’d love to have my friends as in-laws!
Running, to a toddler, is like breathing. It’s like eating. It’s like whining. They do it all the time. Logically, one would assume that something so commonplace would be anything but entertaining. Especially because they aren’t the ones who are doing the running–strangers are. But trust me: line your kids up on the side of the road (a novelty in itself) ask them stand still and cheer for strangers. Watch what happens.
They will stand still. And wait. For strangers to run by.
And they will cheer! Like it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever seen.
And you will cheer, too, as you drink your Bloody Mary and eat your donut holes. Because those people are doing what you could but aren’t doing x 2: running and entertaining your kids. That certainly deserves a round of applause!
I could not believe how fired up our kids were to watch these runners do their thing. For my kids, I will assume its because they have never in their lives seen their mother (or father for that matter, sorry JDubbs) do something so remarkable that people line the streets to cheer them on, as they are escorted by police cars and the roads are closed. A band was playing a hundred yards away from us, and every time they would fire up, Jax would become very serious and stare into the distance, straining to be the first person to see the runner come round the bend:
Then he would shriek in delight that a runner was headed our way and would begin to clap excitedly while cheering, “Keep going! You can do it!”
And the runners would get an extra kick in their step and their looks of exhaustion (we were close to the finish line) would change into smiles as these little people helped give them that last boost of energy that they needed to get to the end. Or maybe I just hope they helped. I think they did.
Eventually, the novelty of the event wore off, and we had to do a bit of fancy footwork to keep them entertained. It’s not like we could go anywhere; we were trapped until the race was over, so we did our best to keep them engaged.
So then I tried bribing them with sugar. I have no shame. It worked for a little while.
Then my friend Sara had the best idea of all. The kid were still interested in the race, they were just tired of clapping. So we gave them a clapping alternative–banging pots and pans with wooden spoons. Jackpot!
The race suddenly got really interesting again!
Finally, as we cheered the last of the stragglers on, we allowed the kids’ attention to wane, fed them lunch, then headed on our way. But the total amount of time that was expended from this completely free activity? Over three hours!
Worth every penny.