My Little Runner

Yesterday was the City Finals in Cross Country.

It was the first time I got to go because it was the first time one of my kids made it that far!!

Josh came in 19th for first round as I talked about here.

He then came in 30th in the second round. I didn’t get to see this race:( I have never missed one of his races. He has gone on to second round every year, but then gets eliminated in second round. This year, I wasn’t able to make it, and of course, this was the year he qualified to continue on to City Finals. Sad to miss it (and have guilty mother complex) but so proud of him!

So yesterday was the BIG race.

It was at different location than he has ever been to, so the path he was running was unfamiliar. He was at least running with two other grade 3 boys.

They all lined up at the start line. It was freezing cold out (and wet, rainy and muddy) so at the last minute he decided he wanted to run with his hoody on. He looked a bit like a ninja, all dressed in black.

The horn went and he got off to a good start. Unfortunately, a boy beside him went running and must have stepped into a giant puddle that was more like a sinkhole! The kid looked like the field swallowed him up! The water splashed up on Josh a bit, and I saw him turn and look at this poor kid with some compassion; but it is a race, so he carried on.

I went over to where the finish line was and waited; praying for him to do well.

The first place little guy came in miles ahead of everyone else. The crowd cheered him on! Then everyone else started coming in. Having been to enough of these races, I know Josh would typically come in the top 1/3 of runners.

I waited and waited.

The runners kept running in.

Josh’s Dad was there with me, and both of us had our eyes peeled, but no Josh. We were a bit surprised.

Then we saw the last Bunny (there is a Bunny that guides them and a Bunny that herds them from behind) who was encouraging on the last runner.

“Oh no”, I thought. “I missed Josh coming in! I didn’t get a picture! I didn’t even see him!”. I felt so bad. His Dad and I decided to try to see if we could find him in the crowd.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a little black blur and then heard his Dad say, “There he is”.

Off in the distance was my little ninja. Running his hardest.

(As he was coming closer)

My heart sank. My eyes welled up. Yes, I know it is only a grade 3 race, but to him, it was important. I knew coming in last would be devastating to him.

He kept running and I cheered him on. He crossed the finish line, turned to me and burst into tears, while clutching his crotch.

He explained that about halfway there was another tumble in the forest and a few kids toppled down, one of them hitting him hard in the “you know where”, which took his breath away. He got up, but was still winded, so waited until he caught his breath. By the time he was ready to go again, everyone had passed him and I guess the Bunny didn’t realize he was still there either.

But, he started to run again and gave it his all.

He collected his ribbon (7th one in 3 years he proudly told me later whejn he was feeling better) and was a sport and posed for some more pictures.

He went back to his teammates. They of course wanted to know what place he came in.

“Last” was what he answered with his eyes about to overflow with tears.

His coach came up to him and said, “That’s great!” and high fived him. I don’t think Josh bought the “That’s great” but then his coach went on to tell him that this race represented the top 7% of grade 3 boys in the whole city – so just making it to this round was a huge accomplishment!

Then other kind parents came up to him and congratulated him on finishing the race. He cheered up a bit; enough that he didn’t want to ride back with with me in my car, but to ride with his buddies in his friend’s car.

That night I got home from work and he was playing on the front path (as usual!). I asked him where he wanted to go for his celebratory dinner? He turned to me and said, “Mom. We’re celebrating me coming in LAST”??

I told him that coming in dead last was quite an accomplishment! Normally people come in close to last – but to be absolute last? That is special. That made him smile a bit.

We went out for dinner to a local diner that is one of his favorites and of course he had his favorite strawberry milkshake.

That night, when I tucked him in, I told him I had never been prouder of him. He looked surprised. “Even more than when I came in 7th place”? was his question.

I told him that like the poem I talked about here, what is important is to get up and finish that race!! He did that. Despite falling, despite knowing that he was going to be last, he got up and ran his hardest.

There is nothing that makes me prouder because I know that in life, we come in last way more than we come in first. We face so many obstacles that can bring us down, discourage us and make us want to give up. We must always do our best and get to that finish line. It doesn’t matter what place we come in in the end. Finishing is what counts. And finishing with such grace and class, even better (that in itself is another huge accomplishment for Josh since he really doesn’t like losing).

I kissed my little runner goodnight and know that this race will be the one he remembers throughout his life; the one he will likely tell his kids one day when they fall and feel discouraged. I hope Josh will remember this experience as a good memory and be filled with pride.

Because in this race, he was the winner.

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