I just finished a little 5K put on by the Arizona Road Racers as part of the Desert Classic series.

We’ve done this race three years in a row, but usually I do the 30K race (which Bill is running at this very moment).  Today as I stood at the starting line with all the other runners hopping and stretching in anticipation of the horn, I felt sorry for myself. Only two weeks off of my last marathon (which, as noted in an earlier entry, was VERY tough for me) , and having made the decision that I need to lay off the long races for a while to let my foot heal, I felt left out of the “real” runners’ club this morning. Boo hoo for me.

Then the horn sounded. I picked up what I thought would be a good pace for myself and heard my right  foot scream at me. I told her not to worry, that this would only take a half hour. She quieted down a little after the first mile and we managed the rest of the race in relative peace. 

About two and a half miles in, I ran past a young girl of around eleven. I’d seen her start the race with her dad, but he’d run ahead by this point and she was alone on the course, crying.  My heart jumped into my throat when I saw her tears. How many times have I cried in the last miles of a race? Even as recently as two weeks ago I did so. 

“Honey, it’s gonna be okay,” I said. “Just keep putting one foot in front of another and keep your eye on the person in front of you. You won’t get lost and you’ll make it over the finish line. I promise!”

She nodded at me but didn’t say anything (she’s probably been taught not to talk to strangers).

As I ran on, I found myself feeling mad at her dad for leaving her back there alone, and I resolved that if he didn’t turn around at the finish line and go back to her, I would go back. But when I crossed the finish line (at thirty-three minutes, according to the time clock), she was there right behind me. And her dad was waiting for her with his arms open.

Yes. Yes, I know that every runner’s race is her own and that “dad” probably did the right thing by letting her figure out her pace and work it out. She was safe, she was close to the end when he ran ahead, and he was there for her when it was over. I know all of this; I just keep forgetting. I keep forgetting that the struggle is INSIDE – that being “real” is about listening to your body and not about putting in as many miles as the other guy. It’s about being authentic and not about being tougher than your (husband, friend, rival, dad, etc.).

So, I’m back at my water running tomorrow. And I’m sending good thoughts to the little girl whose first 5K ended with a few tears and a big hug from her dad.

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