Sunday, August 19, 2018

When together, we are usually clad in running shoes and athletic shorts.  However, we gussied up for the local street dance.

Welcome to the 40s little brother!  The years look good on you!

I was so proud of Connor's first cross country race.  Thanks to my mom for these pictures and for cheering her grandson along in the race.

To make the 6:50 a.m. cross country bus, Connor's alarm buzzed at six on a Saturday morning.  I readied myself for his reaction to the early wake-up call.  

"I can't get up early on the weekends," Connor announced in the past.  "I need to relax on the weekends."

Relax from what, I'm not sure.  At 13, Connor's life appears pretty comfortable, minus a math test or two.

To my surprise, Connor awoke without a huff.  He pulled on his blue cross country shirt; he tossed his running shoes and a water bottle into his bag.  Within minutes, he arrived at the breakfast table and deferred to my breakfast choice for race day.  Then, we jumped into the car and careened down the road.  

At 6:50 prompt we arrived at the middle school.  Connor exited the car without protest and jogged over to his friends.  I sat in my car.  Perplexed.  Was this child really mine?  When did he start waking up early and listening to his mother?  Was cross country some sort of cult that brainwashed our children and transformed their DNA?

While Connor and his teammates rode the bus to the middle school race course, I drove my car to the fields.  I arrived early to help my friend, the coach.  Coach Kara handed me race chip tags for the runners.  I attached the chips to the running shoes while the kids began to stretch.  Recent rain transformed the course into a marshland.  Mud caked their shoes and splattered onto their legs.  As an added challenge, humidity hovered over the fields turning the entire area into a sticky sauna.

While most would deplore these conditions, I was in heaven.  The setting transported me back to my own high school cross country days.  In high school, I adored the camaraderie of the team, the challenge of pushing myself, and the electricity of competition.  While soaking in the scenery, I instantly broke one of the cardinal rules of parenting:  I began living vicariously through my child.  


It. Was. Awesome.

I tried to play it cool.  I attempted to blend in with the other parents.    To the best of my ability, I acted like cross country was just like any other sport my kids would attempt.  Sure, it's just like watching football!  But better!  Inside, I couldn't really contain my excitement.  I was one step away from clanging a cowbell on the sidelines of the course and blowing on an airhorn.  I desperately wanted to paint my face and belt out cheers.  

Connor stepped up to the starting line.  The gun fired.  The packed surged forward.  I was inches away from Connor when he ran by my spot.  I cheered him on in a dignified manner while internally my head was about to explode.  My kid is doing something I love, I chanted in my mind.  I was so very happy.

I spotted Connor at the 1K mark.  He was holding strong and staying squarely in the middle of the pack.

At the 2K mark, he continued to dash forward. His cheeks burned red, and he refused to make eye contact while his mom belted out encouragement.

I stood at the finish line, and I watched Connor sprint down the shoot to the end.  He was drenched with perspiration.  His soppy shirt clung to his torso.  The sweat didn't deter this mama from pulling her son into a hug.

"I'm so proud of you," I whispered into his ear after he finished.  "You did it."

I think it took him a good day to appreciate the race.  Pain and discomfort is an acquired experience.  But, the glow of accomplishment and the thrill of an achievement dwarfs the memories of agony and the aches.  The day after a race, memories change and soften.  This I know as a runner.  

Going forward, I plan to continue to cheer on my son.  It's his race, I know.  I pray my sideline spectating days continue for years to come.


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