J has just completed 1 month of running on his own. I call it the “off-season off season.” It’s that time after regular season XC finishes and before the “off season winter running” begins.
Because we’ve had an early winter and J’s a better runner, I haven’t been able to trail him with my bike or run a close distance behind him like I have in the past. J’s been running almost every single day after school, on his own, on the XC practice routes that run closest to our house and have the minimum amount of road traffic or intersections.
As proud of him as I am, it made me extremely nervous every single time he went out. Running by yourself comes with risks, whether you have autism or not. Even in my own running experience I’ve had some bad encounters. A couple of years ago, I was almost hit by a car when it was pulling out of Taco Bell because it was turning right and watching for traffic coming from the left and didn’t see me crossing the intersection from the right. I’ve also been bitten by a dog on my arm while running and crossing a major intersection (luckily it was winter, and I didn’t get bitten through my coat). So yeah, there are legit concerns about running on your own. It’s not 100% safe, even when you’re being 100% aware.
My two biggest worries about letting J run out on his own this time of year are daylight savings and ice. It gets dark SO early now and I wonder how many commuters are looking for runners at dusk when they’re commuting home from work. I also worry about the ice–icy intersections make it harder for J and cars to slow down for each other. Plus there’s always the concern that might hit a patch of black ice during the middle of his run and injure himself. When he’s all by himself, who helps him home?
This summer, however, was proof to me that J can manage himself in the neighbourhood on his own. It was the first summer we let J take his bike around the neighbourhood by himself. I had those same worries the entire time he was out, but we had strict rules. He had to stay in our neighbourhood, he had to wear a watch, and he had to be back at a certain time. He did so well with that–if I told him 5:30, he was in the front door at 5:30. Every single time. He figured out on his own what time he needed to interrupt his ride and turn around to get back on time. But even then, we still had an incident where he came home with a bloody knee and bent up handle bars. When I asked him what happened, he told me he accidentally ran into a tree (because, depth perception issues). As worried as I was about it, I had to remind myself that 1) he still managed to make it home on time and b) managed to get himself and his bike home–with the chain off and everything.
So for the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to remind myself that J can handle this, and even if something goes wrong, he’s starting to figure out how to manage that too. I ordered the neonest neon toques off Amazon so cars can see him coming a mile away. He wears his Road ID bracelet if, heaven forbid, anything does happen. I make him recite my phone number before he heads out. And really all I can do is hope for the best when he’s out there doing his thing.
It’s hard to let go and trust him but I know it’s something I need to do. Running has been such an outlet for him. He loves it so much and one day he will graduate high school and won’t have the running structure of XC and track and a big group of friends to do it with. He’s got to learn how to do the things he loves when life changes and things look different.
He starts winter running today and he is BEYOND excited for it. He’s been counting down the days since XC was over. I’m excited because he won’t be running alone on the ice in the dark anymore 🙂
Drops in the bucket. I’m glad he’s had a great month of running on his own, but I’m even more glad he’s back with his running gang again.