March 23, 2005 - 5:37 pmGOLD
My Boy is not a competitive type. He’s very active and loves to run around and play and stuff, but just not when it involves knocking other kids down or getting knocked around himself. He tried soccer last year and made it through the mini season, but seriously, five-year-olds playing soccer is like swarms of fruit flies following a rotten banana up and down the field. So when the time came to sign up again he said he didn’t really like soccer so much. I asked him why, and he answered, “Because everybody pushes, and it’s not really fun, and it’s all about winning.”
Good enough, I said. No more soccer for now.
So when one of the bazillion fliers sent home in his school folder mentioned a weekly Track Club culminating in a One Mile Fun Run, I presented it to both kids for their consideration. I thought, this is a sport that centers around personal achievement rather than competition. They’ll like that.
Both of them were interested, and I took them after school one day to the mall for running shoes. After I vetoed shoes with flashing lights or Disney characters, the Boy settled easily enough into a pair of nice flexible Nikes. The Girl, however, had a Prissy Girl Fashion Fit because she couldn’t get the coolest lounging shoes by Sketchers or Vans. I explained that you would never wear pajamas to go swimming, and you can’t wear fashion shoes to run in. You have to wear the appropriate gear for the sport. So she cried and cried and begged and cried some more.
And she did not get to join the Track Club this year. She’ll try again next year.
On the Boy’s first day of practice I came to watch him run, but stayed hidden because my mere presence already embarrasses him. When practice was over, I came out of the shadows to take him and another little girl, a second grader named Audrey, over to their after school art program. Well, I’ll be damned if he didn’t want to know where I was the whole time, and would I stand where he could wave to me next time? Wow. Okay, then.
So I came and cheered for him every week, and he smiled and waved at me and was so proud of himself. I got to know Audrey – very cool kid – and eventually even met her dad, who was going to be running with Audrey in the upcoming One Miler.
Then, last Friday, the day before the race, I ran into Audrey’s dad at the art program. Naturally I had to rub it in his face that the Boy and I were going to leave him and Audrey ALL SHORT AND IN THE DUST! Poor, delusional fool that he was, he disputed my prediction in favor of his and Audrey’s own imminent win.
Because running is all about personal achievement rather than competition and all.
Okay, Saturday, Race Day: The Boy and I head over to Decatur High School at 8:00am to sign in and get our race numbers. We listened to the White Stripes on the way over to get pumped up. The weather was cool, the humidity was low – perfect running conditions. The Boy was ready to go, and probably ran at least a mile around the field with a few friends before the race ever started. Audrey and her dad were there too, and the Boy and I shook hands with them and promised we’d wait for them at the finish line. Heh, heh.
The course was basically around the block, starting at the midpoint of one side of the square. We had just rounded the first corner, one half block from the starting line, and the Boy says, “A mile is a lot farther than I thought it was. I don’t think I can do this.”
I assured him that he could do it, and had been doing it every Friday at Track Club, and we could just slow down and take our time. Finishing is the important thing, not time. So we did. We walked/ran for the next block and a half until it happened…
…Audrey and her dad came blowing past us.
The Boy darted along beside Audrey for a few paces, and then fell back as she ran on past. He looked crushed. But then we rounded the last corner for that last half block of the mile, and it was all downhill. The Boy looked up at me questioningly, and I looked back at him and smiled because I knew what he was thinking. I asked, “Do you want to try to catch up with Audrey?”
He didn’t even answer me, but took off down the hill at break neck speed! We hauled ass for that last half block, and can I tell you? WE CROSSED THE FINISH LINE AT THE EXACT SAME TIME AS AUDREY AND HER DAD FOR A 10:00 MILE!! WOO HOO!!
Then I ran the 5k afterwards and won 2nd in my age group, and when I gave the Boy the plastic water bottle I’d won, you’d think I’d have given him a gold medal. He was so proud of himself, the smile didn’t leave his face all day.
I was pretty proud too. And not because we'd tied anyone or had a great finish time, but because he’d done something he’d prepared for but didn’t think he could do when he started. It was truly awesome.
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