“Daddy, I don’t think I’m going to win today.”
It was a strange thing for my son Alex to say. Not just because he was running in only his second race, and his first 5k, and not just because we had started together in the very back of the pack, spotting the front-runners a 10-minute lead. It was that Alex was 4 years old.
“That’s ok. Let’s just have fun.”
Actually, I was surprised that we were running at all. My wife Stephanie and I had registered for the Crystal City Twilight 5K, mostly because it was one of the very few races to allow the use of strollers, provided that those racers start in the very back. After parking, however, we discovered that we had left behind one of the wheels to our Baby Jogger. Disappointment rolled past like a summer storm, and Stephanie and I resigned ourselves to skipping the race.
Alex had other ideas. “I want to run!” he insisted.
The race had a double out-and-back course, which we realized would make it simple to cut the course short if Alex got tired or bored. Stephanie also offered to stay with Alex if I wanted to run ahead. We decided to give it a shot, and off we went, gathering admiring and bemused looks, as well as a few scolding stares. “Hey,” I wanted to shout, “it was his idea!”
We ran, we took walk breaks, and on occasion I carried Alex on my shoulders. Alex seemed to accept that he would not win. At one point, I ran ahead to the turnaround, and then caught them heading back towards the starting point, which was also the finish line. The course would continue past there to the second turnaround before heading back. As we passed, Alex looked at the finish line and exclaimed, “Daddy, this race is never going to end.” I knew that feeling well. But then we heard the announcer reminding everyone to grab a banana upon finishing. This fascinated Alex. “Everyone gets a banana?!? That’s great! Bananas for everyone!” Agony and swag; Alex now understood much of what racing’s all about.
It was my slowest 5K ever, but perhaps my most enjoyable one. Afterwards, Alex began planning for his next race. In October he got his chance at the Anthem Great Pumpkin kid’s race. He would be running only against his peers, and was determined to do better.
He started near the front, and after the starter’s whistle blew, he ran like a bat out of hell. Afterwards, he insisted that he had won, despite that a few other kids had crossed the line before him. He had kept it pretty close, though, so I gave him the benefit of a doubt. “Yep, I think maybe you did!”
“Daddy, let’s do another one!”
You’ve gotta hand it to the kid; sometimes he knows just what to say.
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