(Previously, on the Heart & Sole race report …
Donald’s youngest daughter gave a beatdown to all the other 3-year-olds in the toddler trot, defending the title she won as a 2-year-old the previous year. His 8-year-old son emerged from a year of retirement to shave 2 minutes off his 5K PR.
Coming up: Donald’s middle daughter makes an appearance, and it’s the most dramatic children’s race ever … )
OK, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But my 5-year-old daughter’s story is pretty remarkable, both for what she accomplished over the weekend, and for what she was unable to achieve.
Actually, the story of Saturday’s race begins on Friday, when I took the afternoon off work to pick my daughter up at kindergarten, and bailed my son out of class early. Our whole family headed to the Carmel Art Show, an annual event that honors the town’s heritage as an artist’s colony, and features very impressive works of artists from all over the world.
Specifically, we were looking for this:
It was painted by my 5-year-old, and submitted to the Youth Art Show by her elementary school. She called it “Old Rose, New Rose”, and it won the “Best in Category” for watercolors done by kindergarteners (yes, the categories are pretty narrow – but best means best, right? And no, I wasn’t one of the judges.).
This girl is the budding artist in the family, and she was absolutely beaming as she told us about her painting, and showed us around the rest of the exhibit. That night, we all sat around the table eating cherry chocolate chip ice cream past the kids’ normal bedtime, and celebrated her artistic talents.
Suffice it to say, her self-esteem was pretty high when she went to bed that night, and when we went to the Heart & Sole races the following morning.
She also had reason to be confident about her upcoming race. Last year, she demolished the field in the 4-year-old toddler race, and she still occasionally mentions how she won her very first race. (As you might have guessed, I wrote about last year’s races, too. Click here if you want the long version.)
This year would be a different story, as she would be in the 5-to-8 year-old race. In addition to racing kids up to three years older, the distance increased from 50 yards to a half-mile. We mentioned these things to her, but she seemed unfazed – she just said, “but I won last year!” and brought that optimism to the start line.
They let parents run with the kids in this race (thank goodness – or this report wouldn’t have happened), so I lined up with her as a group of older kids started elbowing each other for room on the start line. Then the horn sounded, and the stampede was on.
Like most childrens’ races, the first 100 yards were a mad dash of youthful exuberance. My daughter ran strong off the start line, but couldn’t keep pace with countless kids who were sprinting away from her on the opening straightaway.
After about 200 yards, her breathing got heavy, her pace slowed down, and she shot me a look that was a combination of bewilderment and disappointment. It was a look that said, I don’t think I’m going to win.
I tried to play it cool – I asked how she was feeling, told her she was doing great, and said not to worry about how fast the other kids were going. She nodded like she understood, and kept plugging away. I also told her that she could stop and take walking breaks if she wanted to, and that’s when things got interesting.
Because she never stopped. Every time I asked how she was doing, she said “good” or “OK”, and kept trotting along. In the final 400 yards, she was clearly having increased difficulty with her breathing, and at one point she got a side cramp that caused her to bend over sideways. But instead of complaining or giving up, she got a look of determination on her face like I’ve rarely seen.
Apparently, and without discussion, she had decided that she was going to finish, and she was going to run the whole way - consequences be damned.
Finally, she saw the finish line ahead, and was able to pick up her pace once more. The rest of our family was waiting near the finishing chute, where the following exchange could be heard:
Son (shouting to my daughter): You’re 29th!
Wife and Me (simultaneously, to our son): Be quiet.
I met her on the other side of the finishing chute, where she wore a medal given to all the kids, and she was smiling. But it wasn’t a beaming, “I’m so proud of what I did” smile. It was an inquisitive, “Was that OK? I tried really hard” smile.
So I scooped her up and gave her one of the biggest bear hugs ever.
Afterwards, it seemed difficult for her to hear about how successful her siblings had been – my son setting a PR, and my 3-year-old singing “I won the race!” every few minutes. So when we got home, I took her over to our computer room, where more than 30 marathon medals decorate the walls.
We had the following conversation …
Me: See all those medals? They give them to everybody who runs, because those races are difficult, and anyone who finishes should be proud. Do you know how many of those races I’ve won?
Me: You got it. But I still love doing them, and it never matters to me whether I win or not. And you should feel the same way about your medal. Your race was difficult. I’m proud of you for doing it.
Her: I know.
It’s a pretty big concept for a 5-year-old to embrace, but I think on some level she got it, and here’s why …
Her painting from the art show came home this week, and it’s now hanging above her bed, with the white “Best in Category” ribbon still attached. She’s deservedly proud of what she’s done, and likes the daily reminder of the beauty she created.
But she’s also wearing her race medal to school this week, and shows it to her teachers and anyone else who asks. And after she’s worn it a little bit more, that medal is definitely going somewhere on her bedroom wall as well.
It’s not as pretty to look at as the artwork - but in my eyes, what it represents is just as beautiful.