Today I ran the Literacy Run with my son, James. To date, this has to be my favorite race experience yet. It seriously was just amazing.
James has been asking me to let him run a 5K since he was 5 years old. I have always told him he had to be 8. Well, he turned 8 in August and I decided I would let him take a swing at it. Like most kids, he is very active. He plays soccer and flag football for hours on end, he can do this.
If you are a parent, you will know kids are so different in their personalities and what drives them. James is a smart, great kid. And he is competitive. However, he also notices everyone else and often sees his shortcomings. He notices that he is the shortest kid in his class. And that he isn't the best soccer player, etc. And no matter how much I encourage him, these are things he sees and feels. I knew the 5K would be very hard for him if he was thinking negatively or worrying.
Two weeks ago, we went for a run on the trail. It was 85 degrees and pretty miserable. From the get-go, James was concerned about needing walk breaks. I told him walk breaks were fine, but that he shouldn't think about not being able to do it. Those thoughts are negative and will not make the run fun. I said, ignore it. Let's just talk and have fun. And we did! It was great. We briefly stopped at .5, 1 and 1.5, but ended up logging a nice 2 mile run with the second mile faster than the first.
This week, I think James started getting a bit nervous about the race. So this morning, I kept smiling at him and asking, "are you ready?" He'd return a little smile and say, "yes!" This happened at least 30 times this morning.
Once we picked up our chips and got to the start, I could tell he was a little nervous again. He said, "what if I come in last?" I said, "don't worry, we'll come in last together." The gun went off and we started down State Street. Almost immediately, he said, "I'll tell you when I need a break." I said okay. Then he started getting into the crowd and the sights. All of a sudden he jumped on this big platform and jumped off. It surprised me and I looked at him and he said, "sorry mom." I said "don't be, that looked like a lot of fun." Yay! He was enjoying this. From that point on, he was super happy and noticing everything. He loved the change of scenery when it came and loved the cheers from the crowd (and he thanked each person who cheered him on). He started saying "hi" to other runners and he told me he loved the race. He also decided he was going to try to do the whole race without stopping. I told him I knew he could do it. We hit the turn-around point and I could tell he was just thrilled with himself. He looked at me and said, "there is no turning back now, since we are already on the way to the finish!" Oh yeah!
We ran past the clock with one mile to go and he saw the time was 22:5x. He had told me before the race that he wanted to be under 30 minutes. I told him that was pretty fast, but he stuck with that number. He saw the clock and told me he'd have to run the last mile in 7 minutes. I told him not to worry about it (but was impressed with how focused he was). He then started to pick it up. Not significantly, but I could tell we were moving faster. We finally got off the bike path and turned back towards State Street. A police officer was directing traffic and James thanked him (what a good boy!). Once we hit State Street, the kid found some real focus and WHEELS! Spectators were cheering him on and he was thrilled. He was all smiles and I told him he rocked and patted him on the back. With about .2 to go, I told him the finish was right around the corner and he started FLYING through. It was awesome. He finished in 31:33, beating his mom by one second. He never stopped and he never uttered a single self-doubting thought. Awesome.
Mile 1: 10:58
Mile 2: 10:43
Mile 3: 9:05
Last. 1: 7:24 pace
He has been so proud of himself since and has been telling everyone with such a big smile. He made me comb through the results with him to verify that he was indeed the fastest 8 year old boy. He was and he even beat a 14 year old. And he did not come in last. He was before 102 people. And he loved it. And was very, very proud of his accomplishment. Boy was it amazing to be a part of it. Awesome. Just awesome.