I became a runner about 4 years ago. By some people’s standards I’m not a runner. I have been last to the finish line on more than one occasion and the runners in my age bracket are mostly twice as fast as I am with times in the 20’s to my times in the 40’s to run a 5K. Here’s the thing. I don’t care if someone thinks I’m a runner or not. I am a runner. I am a Turtle runner, and some days I think a real turtle might just beat me to the finish line. I don’t care. I don’t care what anyone thinks of me, however I do care what they think of my son, the runner. He’s 11, he runs faster than me, yet he too is slower than many in his age bracket. I’ve tried to teach him, it doesn’t matter. It is the joy of getting off our butts, putting one foot in front of the other, and making it to the Finish line, however we get there. Running, walking, crawling, we did it!
I took up running a few years after a heart exploding cancer diagnosis. My youngest son, the runner was just 2 years old. My son, the runner, stood in the kitchen of his grandmother’s house and watched her die in a hospital bed set up in her living room. He was 9 years old and I was cancer free, while my mother was not.
My son, the runner only became interested in running a 5K, not because of my running, or my pushing him to run, but because of the size of his heart. He wanted to run the Andrew Kuebrich 5K Memorial Run. My son, the runner did not know Andrew, the runner, but he met Andrew’s Mom. And Andrew’s Mom, even in the depths of her grief was and remains a huge encourager in not only my son’s life, but in the life of so many other’s who have taken her, Andrew’s mom, into their hearts. Both holding on to her in this unthinkable grief and taking joy from her love. This is why I think my son really became a runner. He’s not good, he’s not fast, he bellyaches about it a lot, I mean a LOT, but he keeps on running. He won’t run with me on the streets here for practice anymore and I never push him too anymore, after one day, just once he told me, he didn’t want to because of where I ran. My path, close to home, ran by kids he went to school with. He didn’t tell me they said anything to him, but how many 11 year old boys really want to be seen running the streets with a mother, who looks like his grandmother, running slower than a turtle. I cut the kid some slack.
My son, the runner started 6th grade this year, which meant Jr. High, which meant he had a couple, only a couple sports available to him, one of those sports, Cross Country running. Here was an opportunity for my son to run with his peers and not the old lady. I gently nudged him to join. OH happy day when he agreed. He still bellyaches and thinks its unfair the amount of conditioning he has to do, yet he had his first meet yesterday. I was there to cheer him on. And yes as I spoke to him, called him by name, told him he was doing good, I could see the sideways glance, the dance in his eyes and yes a tiny fraction of a smile. I was so very proud of him, He kept his pace even and then a sprint through the chute that I had to witness from a distance, because parents (well the ones who follow the rules anyway) were not allowed any where near the finish shoot. It was good enough for me. I saw him, from my spot in the parking lot and my heart soared to see his sprint. He IS a runner. He made it to the finish line.
So Coach, choose your words! When I tell you my son, the runner can’t make this Tuesday’s meet because he has a previous commitment (because my son is a baseball player too) think twice before you tell me ever again, it’s not an issue. I do know what you meant, but still, think about your words. Not an issue, means not important. It is an issue, my son IS a runner, he crossed the finish, he wasn’t last, he wasn’t first, but he crossed the finish. He never stopped running to get there and you don’t know the journey he took to get to that finish line.
Next time Coach tell me, “I’m sorry, we’ll miss him”.