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Run, Forrest, RUN!

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Our school has a cross-country team and I really wanted my daughter Hadley to join because she’s a talented runner but she was reluctant, citing she’s more of a sprint and middle-distance runner, not long distance.

Fair enough. I’m wisely learning to pick my battle with my tween so made the deal that if she joined, I wouldn’t make her do any of the meets…that she could just do it for the joy of running. I motivated her by promising that her increased fitness and endurance would help her with hiking, something she is passionate about (read about her first 14er she climbed last summer).

Out of nowhere, my son Bode piped up. “I want to join the cross-country team.”

“You know it’s running, right?”

“Yes, I know, Mom.”

Bode is many things but a runner is not one of them. First, he has my side of the family’s build (short and stout), not long and lanky like Hadley from the Johnsons. Second, he jerks his head around like a bobblehead because he thinks it makes him run faster. Third, he’s never shown any interest in running and thinks our longer hikes are downright painful.

To his credit, he has enthusiastically attended all his twice-weekly practices, even during sweltering temperatures. And in typical optimistic Bode fashion, he never complained. Another perk I hadn’t anticipated: he has never been better at soccer. That kid can run faster and for longer, which has increased  his confidence and enthusiasm for the game. It has been a joy to watch him this season.

I kept  my promise to not make my kids actually compete until Bode casually mentioned he wanted to try one of their meets.

“You know it’s running, right?”

“Yes, I know, Mom.”

I picked Bode up early from student council and we tore over to a neighboring school that was hosting. He was delighted that in addition to his own peers, most of his soccer team’s buddies were racing as well.

Denver hadn’t seen rain in what felt like months so, of course, the sky was heavy with dark, drooping clouds. A few raindrops started falling so the organizer made the decision to start the boy’s race a bit early. The 1-mile course covered a series of hills and I quickly lost sight of him.

Enter: the downpour.

And then the hail.

Most of the parents ran for cover but I stubbornly stood out there getting pelted. If my boy was going to run through this weather, I was going to be there to greet him at the finish line.  Besides, if anything, seeking shelter from the hail would just make him fun raster, right?

As Bode rounded the final hill, I shouted, “Run, Forrest, Run!” Of course, he didn’t understand the Forrest Gump reference but I beamed with pride as I watched my “non-runner” run his guts out to the finish line.racehailsm

Bode was drenched and his skin flaming red from getting pelted by the hail but he was beaming. Out of a field of about 40 boys, he took 12th, narrowing missing the top 10 medals but he didn’t care. His first cross-country race taught me a thing (or 12) about what it  means to be a runner. And it’s not about running.He’d tried something new that was hard for him and he did his very best. For him, that was enough.

Though, unlike Forrest, he unambitiously stopped at the finish line instead of running from coast-to-coast for an additional three years. 

Better luck next race.

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