Jon Bolling and his son Clay.

The other day I received the most delightful and endearing email from a proud father and his even prouder son who will be running in the Freedom’s Run Half-Marathon for the second time. I’d like to share it with Natural Running Center readers. (This year’s race is on October 13, and also features a full marathon, 10K, 5K,  and one-mile fun run for kids.)


Dear Dr. Mark:

My son Clay and I ran Freedom Run’s Half-Marathon in 2011. He was 10-years old at that time and was truly inspired by the race and his accomplishment.  He wrote a “race report” and wanted to know if you’d be interested in posting it on the Freedom’s website.  He hopes that it will inspire other runners to try this run, whether young or old, very fit or just getting there. We plan to run Freedom’s next month (although the race is just after his birthday, and he’ll be a “young” 12 year old for this year’s race).

See you then!
Jon Bolling


Ten Year Old Conquers Freedom Run’s Half-Marathon
by Clay Bolling

There I was, in the middle of a battlefield.  My clothes were drenched in rain and sweat, my face was red and my lips were blue.  My hands were cold and shaking.  No I wasn’t in the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, although my Dad did spill a drop of blood when he pricked his finger adjusting his bib with a safety pin while running, but that’s another story.  This story is about me, so let’s start out at the beginning.

My name is Clay and I was 10 years old and in fifth grade.  I was sitting at home one afternoon doing my homework, when my Dad came through the door and asked if I wanted to run another half marathon.  At first my reaction wasn’t enthusiastic, but I did say yes.  Dad said, “Great, training starts this week!”

My first half marathon was the first annual Harper’s Ferry half marathon.  I was 10 years old during that run as well.  That was a lot of fun.  We trained for the 7.7 mile, This Race is For the Birds (my first big run more than a 5K), but when that was cancelled we received a free invite to Harper’s Ferry half-marathon and my Dad and I decided to continue training and we ran that.

Training.  That was a tough time.  Whine, whine, whine….that’s all I can say.  We ran in the heat.  We ran in the rain.  We ran up hills and down hills and sometimes there where no hills at all.  We ran through smelly farms and dodged a couple of cars.  But all the training paid off in a big way and I’m glad I did it.

On race day I woke up at 5 a.m. and I was really nervous about the race. I don’t know why, but I just was.  We drove from Woodsboro, Maryland to Shepherdstown West Virginia, and each car we passed I thought they were going to the race just as we were.

At the race the announcer played a song to keep away the rain, but he must have played the wrong song because after mile 1 it started to rain.

So back to the battlefield in the rain and in the cold, I wasn’t in battle but I was running 13.1 miles.  Although it was raining, the views were beautiful.  As I ran up and down those hills, I could only imagine the thousands of soldiers who lost their lives on those hills.  Maybe that’s what kept me running through the tough parts.  There were times when my hands were freezing, but my body was hot.  I was exhausted but I was excited to run.

Freedom’s Run half marathon was a lot of fun, but the best part was running with my Dad.   Even though my Dad made me wake up early on the weekends to run our long runs during training, he’s still the best Dad in the world.

When I stepped across the finish line I felt such an achievement that I finished another half marathon.  All my training up hills and down, in the rain, and in the heat, paid off in the end.   I couldn’t have asked for a better race or a better 2 hours and 16 minutes.