Her stride is long and graceful, her form better than mine will ever be. She’s running down the street laughing so hard, she’s snorting. She’s only five years old. She can run a mile in nine minutes and seventeen seconds and she’s taught me more about running than I ever thought possible.
Addy’s my oldest daughter. I should have known she’d love to run; I ran during my pregnancy and of course she’s always seeing me travel to races or asking me why she can’t have a turn on the treadmill. What has come at a complete shock to me is how much I’ve learned from this kindergartner about running.
Ok, I did have a hand in getting Addy started with running, signing her up for a few kids races. Admittedly, I’m a running geek and the idea of my little one running a race just gets me excited. The first time I watched her run a short little kids dash, my face beamed with pride.
Last year we upped the ante by signing Addy up for the Mashed Potato Mile on Thanksgiving morning. I was stoked to run with her, figuring we’d probably only run about half of it. Addy started off at a sprint and quickly became winded. I told her it was ok to take a walk break. She looked at me and said, “let’s go get those doggies,” pointing to a lady running with her dogs. We sprinted, walked, jogged and sprinted again the rest of that mile until she caught those dogs.
She was four at the time and she finished in about twelve minutes. She didn’t care that it only took twelve minutes for her little legs to cover a mile or that she had even run a mile. She was just chasing some dogs and having a blast doing it. I have to remind myself of that when racing is no longer fun.
[pullquote]”“Mommy, sometimes friends are more important than racing”[/pullquote]
Addy ran CYO cross country this year. Since she’s in Kindergarten, there were just four races, each one mile long. After the first race, I was so proud of my little racer and couldn’t wait to see what she would do during the rest of the season. The following week I sprinted around the course like a lunatic so that I could be sure to see Addy several times during the race. Soon after the bell sounded, I noticed she kept turning around and cheering for one of her teammates. As the race went on, she continued to wait for her teammate and at one point was holding the little girl’s hand and walking with her.
The stage mom in me was thinking how she should leave that little girl and run her own (much faster) race! The reasonable mom in me just cheered her and the other little runner on. After the race I asked her why she didn’t leave the other little girl.
“Her stomach hurt,” Addy said.
“Well you know you can always let a parent know and then just run your own race,” I replied.
She looked at me very seriously and stated, “Mommy, sometimes friends are more important than racing.”
During one of the first cross country practices we had at least four kids fall down and need band aids. After that, Addy decided she was afraid to run because she might fall down again. But she kept at it. Just a few days ago, Addy and I went for a practice run for this year’s Mashed Potato Mile. She fell down and scraped her hands up. “It’s ok tough girl, let’s keep going,” I said in my most encouraging voice. Her little face screwed up in determination. She got up and ran again.
During Addy’s third cross country meet, I watched nervously as she bolted out with older kids. I was sure she went out too fast, but I hoped she could hold on and finish strong. About a quarter mile from the finish, she grabbed her stomach and explained, “I have to stop. My stomach hurts.” Of course her stomach hurt. It was about 90 degrees out and she went out way too fast; been there, done that.
But I knew if she just slowed down a bit she could still finish strong. I told her that her stomach would stop hurting as soon as she finished and to dig deep. Of course she didn’t listen to me. She’s only five, she has no idea how to pace or handle the discomfort that comes from running. She walked while girl after girl passed her. She reached the final stretch and was still walking while all the parents cheered her on. Finally the crowd got to her and she sprinted the last bit in, conquering her own self doubt.
During one of Addy’s last cross country practices she simply did not want to run. I walked along side her trying to motivate her to run, but it wasn’t working. I have paced friends through hundreds of rough miles. I yammer on and distract them with enough positive thoughts to make a care bear barf, but somehow I could not motivate my own daughter to finish that run. A group of girls in front of us screamed as they just missed running through a muddy puddle. This sparked an idea!
“Hey, Addy, go run ahead through that mud puddle and see how muddy you can get!”
Before I knew it she was running from puddle to puddle, jumping, splashing, laughing, and having so much that she didn’t realize that she was still running.
I love Addy and her little sister to pieces, but lately with two little girls in our house, it seems that the drama level is an 11 on a scale of 1-10. Needless to say I’ve been a little crabby and not as patient with my girls as I should be. When Addy and I were on our practice run for her upcoming mashed potato mile we both noticed a sock laying on the ground. We both said at the same time in the same voice, “look a sock.” We both found this hysterical and started cracking up.
Suddenly I wasn’t annoyed with my daughter who had been whining and complaining all afternoon. Suddenly I was enjoying this little person. We talked, we laughed, we raced and by the time that mile was over we were getting along again. The simple act of running has the amazing ability to heal.
When I see Addy run, I get a glimpse of the woman she will be: strong, determined, brave and beautiful. I hope she finds her passion. A selfish part of me hopes she runs. And I hope she runs with me.