What My 10-Year-Old Taught Me About Racing

It's nice to be reminded what it means to have fun, to run with a light heart and an energy that can't be contained. My wife, my two youngest kids, and I pulled up on a grey morning to run the Children for Children 5K. The 11-year-old race director, Natasha, organized the race to raise money for a children's charity, and she did an amazing job. She even handed out personalized, hand-written thank-you cards to everyone who ran the race. More 11-year-olds should be race directors.

My son, Beck, had been talking about this 5K since I told him that I signed us up for it a couple weeks ago, and the morning of the race, he couldn't stand still. There was no conserving energy, no feigned calm, just bouncing and jumping off every raised surface he could find, 360 spins and sprints to the next obstacle. This was before the race had even started.

Once the 5K did start, it was the same, no focus on the competition, no concern about passing the people in font of us or being caught by those behind, just detours to climb rocks, jump off boulders, and quick stops to read signs that marked the historic trail. He probably added 5 minutes of extra running to his time, but I didn't say anything about it. There was no reason to interrupt the pure enjoyment of the trails.

As he started to tire with about a half mile to go, I pointed out some boys a hundred yards or so up the trail, and told him he could probably catch them. I now regret injecting my own competitive motivations into his race, but it seemed to work, and he picked up the pace. I told him that it always hurts close to the finish line, but this is the time to accept the pain and to imagine himself crossing the finish line knowing that he had run well and with joy. As he sprinted to the line, dropping me for what I'm positive will not be the last time, I was able to watch as he finished, arms raised in victory. It didn't matter who finished before or after him, he had won.

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