Posted on | December 16, 2013 | 7 Comments
When Banks injured his leg and the race coordinators announced that the one mile would be a “stroll” and not a “run,” J decided he wanted to participate in the full 5k with me for our local “Reindeer Run.” It wasn’t his first race, he’d participated in two one mile races in the past, but it would be the longest distance he’d ever even walked, much less ran. I was concerned but didn’t really want to advertise my concern to this fledgling racer at my feet, so I told him I thought he could do it, and pumped him up by telling him all my co-workers had pledged to pay him a quarter if he beat them in the race.
On race day, we pinned his runner number to his chest and he puffed with pride. Banks planned to meet us just past the half way point in case J tired and needed to be carried, and then with an abrupt countdown, we were off across the start line with my little boy grinning ear to ear. He stopped once to pee on a tree, once to look down at a train track, and once to wave to people passing him in the opposite direction.
Mostly, though, he was full speed ahead, running for as long as his little legs would allow then slowing down to a walk to catch his breath. I spent the entirety of the race jogging alongside him, encouraging him to keep moving, and reminding him to keep his eyes forward, as he kept turning his head to look at the people over his shoulder… the people he left behind. Somewhere around mile two, it occurred to me that this was life, this moment… this race… this was my whole life. His curls bobbing beside me, looking to me for encouragement and advice. His blue eyes full of wonder and light at seeing Santa on the race route, seeing everything stretched out before him. He didn’t care who won, not really. All he cared about was that I was there beside him, ready to reach out a hand or to offer a word of support. I didn’t care who won… all I cared about was that he was doing his best, one step at a time, trying desperately to keep his eyes on what lay ahead of him.
Sometimes we ran hand in hand, sometimes he walked slightly ahead or slightly behind. There were moments when he’d drag, wanting to stop, wanting to turn back… but I was always reminding him that the finish line was just ahead, just around the next corner. Moments when I was parenting, even or especially there on the looping 3 mile route.
Fifty minutes. 50 minutes was all it took for my son to finish his first 5k, with me and Banks crossing just behind him, all of us light and smiles and joy.
Fifty minutes or maybe a lifetime… watching my son reach out his hand and wrap it around the world with delight. Fifty minutes to see him reach the first of many finish lines, the first of many goals, the first of many steps away from the safety of my arms.
I watched Banks give him a high five, watched my son glow with pride at his accomplishment… and I knew that this moment was something I would remember forever.
J’s first 5k.
And, like so many things these past few years… although we did it together, it was all for him.