Back in 1987, when my four-year-old son announced that he wanted to be a runner like his brother, I was not surprised. Big brother was having a bit of success at local road races and I’d learned that the running community was encouraging and supportive of young runners. So I filled out an entry form for the Autumn Chase Run. It was only a mile and if he finished, he got a neat t-shirt. Why bother to tell him that he was built more like an offensive lineman than an Olympic-caliber runner?
I deliberately put a red shirt on him so I could keep him in sight. Most of the course was in the open but there was a small patch of woods. Course monitors would keep an eye on all the children so there was no danger of him getting lost. And after all, isn’t the purpose of childrearing to raise an independent child who can stand on his own two feet? Or run as the case may be?
The starter fired the pistol and a crush of preschoolers surged across an open field in pursuit of trophies, ribbons and those coveted t-shirts. I kept my precious baby in sight as long as I could and then he disappeared into the trees. Imagine my surprise when the first clump of runners emerged from the woods and my child was among them! My offensive lineman might just be a runner after all.
He was thirteenth across the finish line and brought home a ribbon in addition to the shirt. I washed that shirt almost daily until his brush with fame faded.
As night follows day, so spring follows winter and the track club sponsored the Spring Fever Run. My little champ was determined to run again. Armed with confidence, he tackled the challenge and this time emerged from the woods in… first place? Ah, the thrill of victory! He wore that t-shirt like a crown of laurel. And little did I know what lie ahead for him and us.
More Autumn Chases and Spring Fevers.
Qualification for the state sports festival.
As a six-year-old veteran of the local racing circuit, he set a state age group record for the five kilometer distance that still stands.
In his senior year he won five individual gold medals in indoor and outdoor competition along with the Most Valuable Player trophy for his outstanding contribution toward his team’s state championship titles.
He earned a full college scholarship and in the spring of 2004 he achieved one of his major goals – a conference championship. His eye is on the Olympic rings and I’ve no doubt that he will get there. Why? It’s not that he likes to win.
It's that he hates to lose.
Because I never told him he wasn’t built like a runner, he never believed he could be anything but a runner. I let him dream his own dream and achieve it. What better gift could I give my son?
One of #2 son's heroes is the late Steve Prefontaine, an American Olympic runner who at one point held the American record in every running event from the 2000 meters to 10,000 meters. Prefontaine was killed in an auto accident in 1975 at age 24. As runners go, he's a legend, and my son has a collection of shirts and posters with "Pre" quotes on them. Here's a sample:
You have to wonder at times what you're doing out there. Over the years, I've given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.
I've had a few minor successes as a writer -- some online magazines and blogs, a regular feature piece on an author's website and an article picked up by a couple RWA newsletters. That sense of achievement keeps me going because I don't want to be eighty and singing that old Peggy Lee song "Is That All There Is."
I believe I am a writer.
And if you believe you are a writer, then you are. Period.
#2 son competing in a EuroCross