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My family and I ran our first 5K race last week. Even though this is what we set out to do, I was surprised (and a little scared) that we were actually doing it. The night before Andy decided to run with us.
“I can do a couch to 5K,” he said.
“Great!” I said. “If you start running now, you can join us for the Color Run in October.”
Andy snickered. “Nah, I’ll run with you guys tomorrow. I’m on the couch now and I’ll run the 5K tomorrow.”
(Perhaps the biggest success of race day was we didn’t spend the afternoon in the ER with Andy.)
The kids and I have been running together for months. I like our runs on the backroads that cut through corn fields and wildflowers. I like to press on with them and to find out together that we can do tough things. I like to unplug my earbuds and blare some Ramones — “Eh Oh, Let’s Go!” — just when we think we might give up.
I like the feeling of finishing an everyday, ordinary run. For me, it is the routine that I like best. I could never run another race and keep running on the ordinary days. It’s not the hoopla that keeps me running. It’s the moments carved from the day where we claim together time that keep me running.
Jordan keeps running to be football strong. He turns on his running legs and chugs until it’s time to stop. He rarely talks, but always keeps churning his legs. The high school football players sat at turns and crossroads to help racers keep the course. They cheered for Jay and he ran faster. He kept plugging along. We ran the last mile together. The high school boy’s soccer team lined the path before the final turn. Jay ran down the line slapping high fives like he was a hero in a big game. His legs quickened and he knew he would make it to the end without stopping.
Hannah runs because she knows it’s healthy. She smiled and waved at community members, friends, and family who encouraged her. She kept ahead of me, setting a pace that surprised even herself.
Stephanie did not want to run. (Stephanie never wants to run.) We told her she could quit, she didn’t have to run the race. She crossed her arms, set her jaw, and we knew we’d see her at the finish line.
Sam took off, faster than the rest of us. Of all of us, he is the one with the runner’s build, although he doesn’t always have the wherewithal to keep going. “Do your best,” Andy told everyone. “Don’t wait for anyone. You run your very best race.” Sam took off and didn’t stop.
He caught up to Martha. She was walking and he said, “Keep going! You can do it!” Martha and Sam ran the last leg of the race together. She beat him in the sprint to the chute. (We decided since her legs are as long as Sam is tall, she had a bit of an advantage.)
Hannah came in next, then Jordan and me. We all cheered Stephanie in and then Andy came down the final stretch, going strong and almost meeting the goal he sat for himself (while on the couch the night before).
It is very good to do hard things with people you love. Even though we were all out there for our own reasons and we each have our own motivations, the end result was we became closer as a family.
It’s not always easy to press on, but when you are surrounded by people who love you and are pressing on too, it gives you resilience.
Running together is making our family more resilient. In a world that is screaming and tugging, resilience is a necessity. It is resilience that will save us.
After the race, we all found one another like magnets. The event volunteers handed out red, white, and blue popsicles and the sweet ice tickled our too hot mouths.
“I never knew I loved running!” Sam said. “Thanks so much, Mom, for waking me up all those summer mornings. I feel like you gave me a big present I didn’t even know I wanted.”
Isn’t this what happens when we press on? On the other side, we find an unexpected gift.
And usually it is wrapped in resilience.