Today I ran my slowest 5K ever. In fact, I hesitate to use the word “ran” because it was more like a slow trot. I came in last place in my age group. But none of that matters … because I won.
My boys, ages 4 and 7, have come to quite a few races to cheer on the grown-ups. They love the races that have kids’ activities, snacks, and prizes. (Especially prizes!) Somewhere along the line, they decided that wasn’t enough, and that they should actually RUN in the race — And not just the “fun run” or the kiddie distance, the actual 5K.
Besides running with them, my husband and I also talked a lot about how going to a race is not about beating other people, or winning a medal, but is about doing the best that YOU can do. (I knew we were getting through to them when I went into their room one night and heard one of them mumbling “personal best” in his sleep.) Above all, I wanted their first race to be a positive experience. Something they would always remember, and hopefully would want to do again.
Unfortunately, as we picked up our “Jog Into Spring” race bibs, a snow squall sprang up. Seriously?!? We were being pelted with tiny balls of ice and I thought for sure the kids would complain. But we bundled up and headed to the start line. Thankfully, it stopped snowing and stuck to being “only” cold and a little windy.
My husband ran with Boy #1 so that they could go a little faster. I stuck with Boy #2, who started off at a nice, steady, but sloooooow pace. Once the 1-mile walkers peeled off at their turn, I realized we were at the very end of the runners — what a strange feeling! Then we came up to our first mile marker, and we were already getting passed by the race leaders heading in the opposite direction. I did what I could to keep my boy focused and steady, but by the second mile marker, the wheels were starting to come off.
My mom and a friend did their best to make it fun for him, running ahead and letting him catch up to “beat” them. I
bribed him rewarded his efforts with jellybeans. I even resorted to singing to him. (I’m sure the complete stranger that had fallen to the back of the pack with us was very amused by my a capella rendition of “Eye of the Tiger.”) We managed to avoid a full-blown meltdown, but that third mile was tough. All along the way the race volunteers and police officers cheered for him. I know they were probably freezing, and since they were basically only waiting for us at that point, I tried extra hard to thank each of them as we passed.
Finally, the finish line came into view. Pretty much the only people left were our friends, and the family of a woman who I think accidentally found herself on the course for the 5K instead of the 1-mile walk. (Poor thing!) But their cheers were enough to spur Boy #2 on to a strong finish, with a smile on his face.
We met up with my husband and Boy #1, who had also struggled a bit through the last mile, but stuck with it. He even snagged an age group award for his efforts! But he was not the only winner today.
Plenty of other people showed up, ignored the weather, and finished the race they started. Winners.
More people showed up, ignored the weather, and cheered for the participants. Winners.
Race staff, volunteers, and police officers helped support us and keep us safe. Winners.
As for me, my moment came during the drive home. Knowing how much Boy #2 had struggled, I asked him if he would ever want to do another 5K. “No,” he said, “I want to run a marathon.”
And that, my friends, is WINNING.
The author is running the 2013 Rock ‘N’ Roll Cleveland half marathon while raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Please consider making a donation: http://pages.teamintraining.org/noh/rnrclevh13/MileageMama
Follow her journey on Twitter @MileageMama: https://twitter.com/MileageMama