At this Saturday’s cross country meet, it was one of those “close” meets. It was less than 15 minutes from the house, so we got to sleep a little more than most Saturdays. And, this may have been part of the problem with our excessive energy levels and the need to “share” it with the unsuspecting masses. (The above picture is of both my daughters at the sidewalk running the perimeter of the course. It appears someone with limited mental capacities took two big steps through the wet concrete while nobody was looking. And, nobody looked again until after it dried. The secondary theory is some super hero living among us stepped on the sidewalk without “turning down” his super powers. He inadvertently burnt a “hole” into the concrete before he realized what he had done. As you can see from my daughters footwork, the steps weren’t baby steps…)
Having sat in the intermittent sun for over 2 hours, having endured nearly 3-4 races already of primarily 2 miles each (The HS boys run 3 miles) and with it getting on toward lunch time even though our commute home was short, we were excited to have my youngest daughter run her race. As all of the girls lined up on one end of the field, there is always some narrowing of the course that takes place by design. They know not all of the kids will maintain that line for very long as they work their way down the course. So, by the time the course goes a couple of hundred yards, the width of the course is probably 1/2 the width it was originally. On Saturday’s run, my wife hops out to take pictures of the runners (specifically my daughter and teammates as they line up). As she looked to the left and saw all of the parents encroaching on the course, she could not help but put her I-want-to-help-people hat on. Even though she did not have any event related paraphernalia on, she started pushing and/or strongly requesting the crowd back up so the cross country runners would have a little more space to jockey for position before the course “officially” narrowed. Her words did not fall on deaf ears. They people backed up without much hesitation. She acted like she had authority, and I suppose most of them pulled out the GPSes on their phones and realized the course went right through where they were standing. Regardless, the athletes got a little more space to shuffle into the position where they would run/walk the better part of their race.
I used the term athletes above somewhat loosely. I am truly confident some of the girls found out the day before they were running a race the next day. I believe many of them were walking before they were 100 yards into the race. One whole team of girls provided the entire tail for this beast that weaved its way through the course. After my daughter and her teammates worked their way through the course, my opportunity to embarrass “my ladies” presented itself.
The last 100 yards of the course was a straight away right behind the teams tent. I was impressed by many of the girls who hit this last stretch. They seemed to be able to pour it on and pass 3 or 5 or 10 people in that last stretch. It made me wonder how many of these “2 Milers” were really sprinters masquerading as 2 milers. When the sprinters stopped appearing, we had a huge quantity of the “participant” class. I started walking down the line yelling out words of “encouragement” to the runners. Things like, “You aren’t allowed to walk once you turn the corner.”, “Don’t be last. I can walk faster than you are running.”, “I don’t tolerate any walkers back here–get moving!”, “You can rest all weekend. Right now, you need to finish your race strong.”, and “You may have walked most of the rest of the race. Right now, you need to finish for yourself and your team.” I probably did get a little more colorful at times. If I said anything else, it was quotes like these that provided my inspiration. Although my lips may not have always obeyed my self-imposed rule, sometimes, in the moment, the creative “encouraging” phrases just can’t be held in! 😉
I was mostly relieved of my duties as the last few girls struggled in. Faster fellow teammates were running/jogging alongside their slower counterparts in matching jerseys. Everyone at the race-participants and parents-realizes someone has to be last. If done correctly, you can be in last place with class. I am not a proponent of the the fluffy, “Everyone is a winner.” Everyone who tries and tries to always be there best, is a winner in my book. Bad days excluded, not all girls who ran this race were winners. (More accurately stated, they probably don’t have a winner’s attitude. Without the proper foundation, they don’t have anything to build on.) I am not blaming coaches or any of the other parents who were there this weekend. If parents make kids their priority, maybe kids will find the inner winner. As middle schoolers or older who don’t already have a winning attitude, there is likely to be lots of losing in life before they find their inner winner–if they ever do.
Now, back to those embarrassing parents….it is our job to take pictures when they don’t want to pose. It is our job to give hugs and tell them we love them and are proud of them no matter who is around. And, if the coach says something inappropriate to them and makes them want to be done with cross country forever, it is our job to tell them not to quit and to get up on Monday at 5:00 AM so they can go through another week of fun. Behind every “winner” is a parent (or an adopted “parent”) who is willing to be whatever needs done to best prepare their kids for life….or the next meet. I love my winners!