When I began running a couple of months ago I knew it would be a process. I knew it would be hard, that it would take resolution, and there would definitely be some embarrassment involved. I actually prefer running in the early morning or at night to secure as much solitude as possible and avoid said embarrassment while relishing the time alone. As I started thinking about races I wondered and worried about coming in last place but thankfully dismissed the notion since many people walk the entire course, giving me some room for accomplishment.
Well, it happened.
I was last.
And actually, it wasn't so bad. I crossed the finish line smiling while every other race participant looked on, cheering. It was however, my second race of the day. The kid's fun run I did with Bella after my own 5k on the morning of the 4th, of which while close, I did not come in last.
Bella has been vying to join me on a run and in a race since I started telling her about my first 5k. Since she can't make it down the block without lying prone on the sidewalk I seriously doubted her commitment or ability to either of these endeavors, but not wanting to quash a worthy ambition I indulged her and paid the $10 to register her for the 'Fun Run'.
From the onset there was an abundance of complaining to which I responded by informing her of my impromptu first rule of running: There is no whining in running. I told her that running is hard and everyone knows that running is hard but we can do hard things. Apparently my pep talk didn't have much of an impact on her because not more than a few yards in she lost the capacity to voluntarily propel herself. The rest of the race consisted of me holding her hand, more or less pulling her along, continually telling her she was doing a great job, asking if she was ready to try running again, reminding her that there was no stopping during a race all the while observing kids of every age running past us. At some point a bribe of chocolate milk was offered.
By this point we are secured in our hindmost position, nearing the finish line with everyone watching from the sidelines. I try to inspire her to finish strong and somehow, perhaps motivated by he crowds, the cheering, the promise of chocolate milk, she runs. Everyone who has participated in the event and the event planning is standing on the sidelines cheering, singularly for Bella. An older gentleman reaches his hand out to give her high-5. The announcer calls her number and congratulates her. Hundreds of people, from young children to seniors are all clapping, calling, and cheering for this one little 4-year old as she pushes herself and those little legs over the finish line. I lope along just behind her, a bit sheepishly but mostly blissful as she crosses and a medal is bestowed upon her neck, a prize awarded to all the kids in the fun run. As she receives this commendation she aptly responds by declaring 'I never dreamed of this!'
After this she doesn't seem to have any recollection of being last, only of finishing. Only the applause and the award. We stop at the grocery store on the way home for our hard-earned recovery chocolate milk and she wears her race bib and her medal through the store frequently telling me she 'can't believe she got the first medal!' Why would I correct her?
I doubt she'll remember this for very long, having the fickle memory of a 4-year old. I hope she will participate again so she can experience the thrill of victory, the triumph of effort and the sound of hundreds of voices raised in chorus of praise for her alone, if only for a moment.
How often do any of us get to appreciate that?