As E. grows up, I’m finding more and more ways she’s like me. She’s outgoing; she loves watching, playing and talking about sports; her body is always covered in scrapes or bruises from playing too hard (or falling too much); she loves to sleep in and she has an uncanny ability to memorize song lyrics.
But sometimes, if I hadn’t carried her for all 14 months and 300 pounds of my pregnancy, I’d swear she wasn’t mine. For example, she seems to show some ability when it comes to math; she loves my mortal enemies — snakes; she’s a very graceful ballerina; and, most startling of all, she not only loves to run, she’s pretty dang good at it.
I’ve already told you about her 11-minute mile during Disney’s Marathon Weekend this year … at the age of 4. That was our first indication that she just may be destined to be a runner.
When I recently went to Syracuse, her father, against my protests, decided to sign them up for a 5K in our neighborhood. It was a fun run that benefited the schools in the neighborhood and it even ran right by our cousin’s house and our house. So, worst-case scenario, they could drop out.
But it wasn’t necessary. He forgot to track their time but he said she not only finished all 3.1 miles but she even ran most of it.
I had to see this feat for myself.
Thankfully, we quickly had another close-to-home opportunity — a St. Patty’s Day 5K, also in our neighborhood. It’s the same race I ran last year, and even then, E. was mad she couldn’t run it. Crazy kid.
To make the race even more fun, I let her get decked out in Irish gear (well, commercial USA’s version of Irish gear, at least) for the race.
Yes, my grumpy morning kid was the proverbial bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when we got her up at 6:30 a.m. for the race. Thankfully the start is only about a 5-minute drive from our house, so we were able to wait until about 7:10 or so to leave for the 7:30 start. Why can’t every race be like that?
When we got there, we shivered in the unseasonably cool 48 degrees. Even as people were complimenting her on her green tutu and braids, she could barely get out her “thank yous” over her chattering teeth. Florida wimp. This woman loved their matching tutus so much, she asked E. to take a picture with her. Our cold-hating girl did her best to muster up a smile.
She also thought it’d be hilarious to stick out her lower lip in every picture I tried to take with her. Yup, she’s inherited her father’s love of pranking.
Right on time at 7:30, they gathered everyone toward the start, said a prayer (it was at a Catholic school) and played the national anthem.
Then, we were off! Since there were less than 200 runners in the race, there was no need to rush across the start. There was tons of space on all sides of us — and people very forgiving of E’s bobbing and weaving across the track. We’re still working on race etiquette with her.
Pretty quickly, we were exiting the track and heading toward the first really cool part of the race for E. — crossing a normally busy road while the cops kept traffic stopped. She thought that was just great.
After about a half-mile, she was starting to huff and puff a bit. We asked her if she could keep running until we hit a mile. I had the RunKeeper app on my phone going and it was announcing time and distance updates, which E. loved. She thought she could but she was also getting more winded than she should have because I kept trying to run ahead a bit to turn back and snap some pictures and that stinker kept SPRINTING toward me so I couldn’t get a steady shot.
After about a mile, she was definitely starting to slow down. And that’s when the whining began. There wasn’t too much of it but DadJovi later told me she hardly whined when they ran together; I guess it’s just something about Mom that brings out the whines. She also insisted that we run holding hands, which I think made both of us more tired than we should have been.
Miles 1.4 through about 2.7 were definitely a challenge. She was walking more, which is fine, but she was kind of moping. This is where parenting gets hard. I struggled to know what was healthy pushing and encouragement and what was cruel. My husband is much better at pushing in a way that keeps her moving forward; I definitely tend to baby her a bit more.
He kept trying to get her to do some run/walk intervals (“E, can you run to that truck up there? Then we’ll walk again?”). And that would work for a little bit, but then she’d get distracted and just start walking.
One thing almost always got her running again — getting passed by a kid. She did NOT like that.
During this time, I also decided music always helps everyone run better. So I pulled up the Disney station on Pandora and played it on speaker. The distraction and fun music definitely got her to run.
Just when her complaining was starting to get bad, I finally said to her, “Hey, this was your idea. If you don’t ever want to run again, you don’t have to. But, if you don’t start running now if you feel like you can, then we probably won’t sign up for another race for a long time.”
That was all she needed to hear to start running again.
Lest you think I’m cruel, she was never really struggling physically. Sure, she was panting a bit but she was definitely OK. And if you ask her now, she’ll claim she was never tired during the race. It’s all a mental game, one at which she excels on a daily basis. Her “whining” during the race was NOTHING compared to her histrionics over taking a bath when she doesn’t feel like it. But I digress.
When we made the turn to head back toward campus, that old horse-returning-to-the-barn instinct kicked in for her, and she was ready to bolt. From about 2.7 to the end, she was booking it. She was tracking down runners in front of her, kids and grownups alike, and passing them. Then, when we got onto the track, the adrenaline really kicked in.
There were a ton of kids lining the track and they all started cheering and going crazy for her and her green tutu.
As she neared the finish, she had her eyes locked on one thing: the big Bulldog.
As she approached the finish line, the announcer excitedly told the crowd to watch the 5-year-old racing toward the finish and the crowd actually went wild. I couldn’t hear if he said she was the youngest or not because the crowd in the stands was cheering pretty loudly.
She did it!
And when all was said and done, we were all Top 10 finishers.
I really would love to know how old the other kids were. The top 2 finishers finished in under 30 minutes, so I suspect they were just a wee bit older than 5.
And dang, if I’d actually been running this one on my own, I could’ve placed in at least the top 5, based on my previous 5K times. Oh well. This was by far my Personal Best anything. I’ll never forget how excited E. was to not only run the race with us but to finish it strong.
And let us not forget about the post-race snacks. She had at least one of everything and was angry we stopped her post-race munching to try and get a family picture. The glaring sun didn’t help either.
Hopefully, it’s our first of many family races. This just might be the thing I need to start enjoying running, too. If not, I’m always happy to go cheer my FAST running family members on because let’s be honest, it’s not going to be long until they’re leaving me in their dust!