Teens on the Trails
Next up in our series of stories featuring families who take to the trails together, a mom and teens combo.
Allison Lamb is a single mom who encourages her teen daughters in to the great outdoors as often as possible. She introduced her youngest, Kara (then 13 now 15) to trail running during the Merrel Night Runs. Kara was hooked, and progressed to the St. Lukes Superheroes race, and the Wildrunner Trail Series® events where she has achieved frequent podium positions.
Rather than pushing her girls, she gives them the space to decide when to take it up a notch, with events like the Jonkershoek Mountain Challenge (where mom will do the 24km while Kara runs the shorter option) on the near horizon. Every Sunday they do a 7km Newlands forest jaunt with a friend and dogs, and on a Wednesday night they do the VOB 5km time trial.
It is important to Allison for each of her girls to shine in their various sporting endeavors.
“My eldest, Caitlin, is 18 and in matric. She is a really good swimmer and says she is not a runner but trained for and loved the 15km Strongman obstacle race. When she was training we hiked together for stamina, but she ran with friends and entered a few 10km races as training (I made sure not to enter Kara and I into anything she was using as training so that it became ‘her thing’ and we weren't breathing down her neck).
It’s hard to get quality time with teens with their busy school and social lives, so exercise is an ideal way of doing that.”
Allison’s own running passion began on the side lines during childhood, and escalated in to a life-changing passion.
“My dad was a pretty good runner, loved the Oceans Ultra, and my sister and I spent a lot of time at race finish lines but never thought of it as something for us. I was beyond useless at school sport and spent all my time running away from the ball, which I could barely see as I wore glasses. Ten years ago (and 17 kilograms overweight) I found myself on a treadmill at the Virgin Active Constantia pounding out my frustration and grief at a rapidly disintegrating marriage. From the treadmill I progressed to the Constantia Greenbelts, found the wonderful 6min/km group leader Joe at KWAY-VOB, as well as the Celtics Harriers Thursday night trail runs and the Table Mountain Trailers. As the bug bit and my running fitness improved I entered as many of the awesome trail races I could find, from the one-day events in the Mountain Challenge Series to the multi-day events like Pondo Drifter and Oystercatcher (only manageable distances under 30 km though!)”
The single biggest thing that running has brought to Allison’s life?
“Calm. Everyday life is go-go-go with work, busy teens, falling-apart house and a partner all needing my attention. My mountain time is sacred and without it I would not cope with the day-to-day.”
During the April School holidays, Allison and both her girls will hike the Whale Trail.
“I try and get us into nature as often as I can with day hikes on the weekend. We rafted the Orange River a while ago, undoubtedly one of the best family holidays ever, and I’m hoping to recreate that off-the-grid experience with my girls on the Whale Trail. When you are out of the busyness of everyday life and in nature, your thoughts flow and you have time to connect properly as a family.”
What has running brought you and your daughters’ relationship?
“Downtime in the outdoors, time to chat and catch up on relaxed training runs, a sense of adventure as we find new trails, and some healthy competition as we push one another to do better.”
Do you think that there is enough of this kind of thing offered at school level – sports beyond a court, pool or field?
“No, this is a more challenging version of cross-country and you tend to find some of the good cross-country runners entering trail races but not enough. Cost is also an issue, you are looking at one parent and two children spending at least R400 a race in entry fees and that gets expensive if you want to enter a Series as a family. It would be great if race organisers could encourage schools to send teams.”
What is your advice to other single parents reading your story and wondering how they could bring their own children in to the world of trail running?
“Make being outdoors as much as possible just part of what the family does when they are with you. Start with walks in the park, greenbelt or forest. Once they are fitter take them on day hikes with plenty of snacks to keep them motivated. Younger children like challenging hikes with a bit of scrambling like Lions Head or the Wolfberg Cracks. Teens need other teens so encourage them to bring friends and that way they combine exercise with socializing. Do the Parkrun with them and enter short trail races like the Merrel Night Runs and Wildrunner Summer/Winter Trail Series®, gradually increasing the distances as they get fitter. Make them part of the trail running community by volunteering at races; they get inspired and caught up in the hype, and its fun!”