I took my place near the front of the throng of runners, ahead of the recreational crowd but decidedly behind those who high-kneed it back and forth across the breadth of the start line. No sense in getting trampled within the first ten seconds as the crazies in front jostled for first place. Fifteen years of competitive running had taught me to steer clear of that first clump who could be easily identified by their high-waisted shorts, visors, and by the way they fussed over their running watches.
I looked more closely at the crazies and noted that there was a smattering of hopeful young boys among them. I saw a familiar blond head and realized that it was my own Twin B.
Oh, for crying out loud. The child had signed up for this 5K on a whim and had absolutely no business up there. Sure, he was a good athlete. Wiry and strong. An avid swimmer and soccer player. But most definitely not a competitive runner. Did he think he was going to clock three consecutive six-minute miles and win the whole thing?
At the start signal, the crowd lurched forward, and Twin B disappeared from sight. Good Heavens, I thought as I settled into a comfortably brisk stride. Has the boy already been claimed as a stampede victim? My mind’s eye fixated on a morbid, picture book-inspired image image of him - Flat Twin B – until the crowd thinned and I spotted him about thirty yards ahead.
He looked good.
So the kid can run, I thought proudly. Good for him. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I guess.
Be that as it might, it quickly became clear to me that I was gaining ground.
Not that it was all about winning. Because it
At the one mile mark, I approached on his right. Red-cheeked, he cast me a sideways glance. ”Hey, Mom.”
“Hey, man…Just run your pace, ok? There’s two more miles to go.” I overtook him, made sure I was a respectable fifteen feet in front so as not to cut him off, and then worked my way back to the left to hug the curb a I rounded a bend in the road.
My mind began to wander as it often does when I’m out on a run. At about two and a half miles, I was mentally going over the contents of my pantry and thinking about Crock-Potting it for dinner when I heard heavy breathing on my right. A quick look over my shoulder told me that Twin B was on my heels.
This was getting interesting.
I let him pass. I’ve never been the type to alter my own pace to hold a spot midway through a race. ”Hey, man.”
“Hey, Mom…catch you later.” And with that, the boy cut sharply to the left and directly in front of me. No fifteen foot grace space. With a smirk over his left shoulder, he shot off, leaping to grab a leaf off of a low-hanging tree.
Catch you later?
No grace space?
Leaping and grabbing?
Very interesting, indeed.
I trailed my son until the final two tenths of a mile, at which point I turned on the reserves, pushed past him a final time, and crossed the finish line twenty seconds ahead of him.
He threw me a champion’s grin when I high-fived him at the end. And I was as proud of him as I’ve ever been.
Because children need to know that they can’t always win.
Just as I know that I won’t the next time I race with Twin B.