I am delusional.
5k to raise money for C&K swim dues. I paid .YES I willingly parted with money for the uh…privilege of walking/huffing/sweating and genuinely embarrassing myself.
I am the same woman who had back fat so bad she has to put an overshirt over her tank top. Yep. That’s me. I had to wear track shorts covered in paint streaks because they are all that fit. Yeah I am 5k ready.
I am also the woman who bought herself a honey-lavender truffle from condor chocolates today as a reward for walking a 5k. And I wonder why I very closely resemble and linebacker.
But I was determined.
1/8 of a mile in I cursed myself for thinking there was any hope in hell of my finishing. Unless the stretcher they used to carry to large, limo body out had to cross the finish line to load me into an ambulance.
My sweet girl and her sweet friends were very graciously walking with me. All of them in jaunty cheer clothes and HUGE bows. How do they stand upright-much less run with those things!! Anyway-she kept giving me little goals. “Let’s run to the stop sign. C’mon let’s go. You can do it.” The bold indicates things said in her super perky cheer voice.
I hated her.
The first 4 times I did as she instructed. The 5th time I was panting so bad I could even tell her no. Probably a good thing since I would have used some “adult words.”
I made it off the asphalt and onto the trails. At this point I am concerned that the friction of my thighs rubbing together was going to start a forest fire!
But I kept going. I was sweating in places I didn’t know could sweat. I stunk. Even the bugs were like “ahh hell no-I don’t want none of that.”
But I kept going.
Miss perky pants and her perky friends decided to take a short cut (cheat) after the first water station: one mile in. I was so short of breath I couldn’t even give her a mom speech on determination.
I must have been a sight. 2 shirts. Thighs going “whoosh-whoosh” with every stride. Breathe going “hhhhhhhh” “uuuuuuuuu”. Sweat dripping. Bright orange tennis shoes slapping the ground like clown feet because I could barely lift them. Alone in the woods. To add insult to injury thru the trees I could hear crowds cheering for finishers. Fi-inn-ish-ers. I had made it, gratefully, to the first water station and runners were done!
What is the point! I thought to myself. But I am no quitter. I kept going walking. Alone. Exhausted. Embarrassed but moving.
I kept my head down and my eyes averted at the “cheer stations” where volunteers shouted “keep going” and “you got this”.
I kept walking. I tugged my shorts and flapped my arms. I panted and panted and panted and almost cried there alone in the woods: fat, out of shape and ashamed.
And than I met J.
I had either gotten a second wind or I’d realized the faster I walked the faster I would be DONE and home to my truffle. My strides had gotten longer. Soon I wasn’t alone on the trail. A woman and her son were in front of me.
In sympathy I noticed that the little guy seemed over it! I couldn’t hear his words but I could tell he was asking how much farther-how much longer. His mom noticed me and told him to move over so I could pass. I was about to just that when my downward angled eyes noticed hard plastic pieces tucked into the boys nikes. They were braces. “Don’t worry about me passing!” I said.
The woman took the boys hand and gave him some encouragement. We all kept walking. Passing him didn’t feel right so I slowed my pace and stayed behind.
A little bit later he appeared to be agitated and irritated and over the whole darn thing. She encouraged him to keep moving. She looked back at me as quietly said,”this is my J-he has cerebral palsy-this is his first race.” (She gave me his real first name but I don’t want to put it here)
“You are doing so great!” I said to him.
And so we walked. Me behind J and his mom. (Probably a little closer than their noses wished.)
We’d walk. They would talk. Every little bit I’d encourage him. She kept urging him to try and run a little. So he did. I did too. We all shuffled our feet in a slow jog. When he slowed to a walk we did too.
At one point we realized we were both parents of summer swimmers. So we talked about that a bit. “J wants to try next year. We are going to get a few private lessons first so he’s more comfortable.” So we talked a little more about swimming.
Once again he seem to wither a bit. “You know J-I wanted to quit back there but I didn’t. I saw you walking and what an awesome job you are doing so I kept going.”
And we walked. At one point J and his mom were discussing cross country running. I heard her say “I wondered if maybe this was something you’d want to do but now I am not so sure” we were all dodging roots and crevices and a slippery little incline. “I might like swimming,”he said,”but I can do anything I want to do!” And she answered,”Yes, yes you can.” I felt so lucky to be behind them and getting to hear the interchange.
And we kept walking. We made it to the 2nd water station. By now we were being passed by the true runners who were running the course in reverse as a cool down.
Being passed no longer bothered me.
We started up a hill. A gaggle of cheerleaders were at the top. “Ohhhh- cheerleaders,” said the mom.”you want to be running when you pass them.” This time he gave no argument. “Maybe I should start now,”he said. So he picked up his feet and ran-not shuffled- up the hill right past the cheering girls. His mom and I picked up the pace and ran UP THE HILL- behind him. Lord why couldn’t the cheerleaders have been on a flat stretch I wondered.
We made it up the hill and around the bend before we all slowed again. He had a pep in his step now. Our pace got a little faster.
Soon the cheering got louder. J’s dad had come down to meet him. J had run ahead to him. The mom and I were talking and strolling along. The cheering got louder. J started running. “Go and finish with him,” I said. She jogged to catch up with him.
Up another incline and around the bend waited the finish line. Groups were cheering us on. J was ahead. I jogged to close the gap. I wanted to be there when he finished. Friends of his brothers called his name and cheered as he got closer. It was electric. I heard my sweet girl shout,”go mama! Go mama! I am so proud of you!” It made me feel awesome. But not as awesome as what I saw next.
J crossed the finish line.
His brother was waiting there. J launched himself into his brothers arms. I saw his mom burst into happy tears. I saw tears on J’s face.
I’ve never been so happy to finish behind some one in my life. I felt honored to have seen the finish. Proud of a little boy I didn’t know.
I saw him again as we were leaving. I called out how awesome he did and how props I was. He shouted back that I’d done a great job too. It was the sweetest thing. Here-a boy who had to work so hard to finish was congratulating me for doing the same.
I am not going to eat my truffle tonight. Am I proud of myself? A little. But I did something that was hard for me because of choices I’d made (like the truffle). Celebrating that felt silly after watching J finish overcoming odds that he didn’t choose.
I finished behind a little hero tonight. And I am so glad I did.