“You cannot catch a child’s spirit by running after it; you must stand still and for love it will soon itself return.” — Arthur Miller
Every August, the volunteer fire department in my little town holds a fundraising event called “LobsterFest”. In addition to the three-day long festival itself, where you can get yourself a boiled lobster, chowder (or “chowdah” to some folks here in New England), corn on the cob and a beer for $18.00, there is a 5K race held this weekend, called “The Lobster Loop”.
I tried to run this event a couple of years ago, which ended up being a slap in the face as to how not ready I was to run a 5K. This year, however, I was ready! At least mentally. I showed up at around 8:00 for the 8:30 race, parked my car, and…didn’t see anyone else around. No runners, no booths, no start line. Granted, I was tired because one of my daughters had a sleepover the night before and they kept me up late, but I was fairly certain that it was Saturday morning right at that moment. I googled “Canton CT Lobsterfest 2014, Lobster Loop”, and sure enough, it listed the start time as 8:30…on SUNDAY. I blamed exhaustion for this little error, since I stopped having “blonde moments” years ago. You know, when I stopped actually being a blonde.
So I started the whole process again on Sunday morning, but this time, my 9 year old said she wanted to come with me. I asked her if she was sure, she said yes. I asked her if she would run the whole thing, she said yes. I asked her again if she was sure…Yes Mama, yes!
Not being much of a runner, I had set a mental goal of anything under 40 minutes. Because if there’s anything I’m known for, it’s my precision in goal setting. We met up with my friend and fellow blogger/town resident, Amy, at the start line. As per usual with these events, there was a diverse crowd lining up. There were the super runners, who I would later see speeding in the opposite direction toward the finish line as I was approaching Mile 1. There were a few 70-something ladies wearing tennis/running skirts and the kinds of late summer dark tans that were reminiscent of the raisin-like badge checkers at New Jersey beach entryways. There were kids and parents, barefoot runners, matching team t-shirt runners, and the woman in front of me who looked at the cup in my hand and said, “Are you drinking coffee before a race?? You are my kind of girl!” I’m not exactly sure what she meant by that, but I felt like it was a compliment, a verbal affirmation of just how flipping cool I am. When really, I was still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes and needed that coffee so that my feet would actually move when I told them to.
And then the starting buzzer sounded and we were off! The race starts off with a long, flat stretch which we tackled with ease, at a pace that was definitely faster than speed walking. We were able to run and talk and even passed a few people. In my head, I was like YEAH! In your FACE! to those people who were obviously not the super athlete that I am, and were merely strolling along. We looked at each other, the three of us, as we approached the one-mile mark. There were people standing there with stop watches and they yelled to us, ELEVEN MINUTES!
I did that little solo YESSSS fist pump and reached out to my kid to high five her on this awesome pace. We were going to do this in under 35 minutes! I wasn’t even winded! I felt great! I could go faster! She’s a kid with boundless energy, I’m so totally sure she can do the same!
My high five hit empty air. I looked behind me, and there she was, walking, closed-fisted and snarling at me. She was done running. Like, DONE done. It’s not that she couldn’t, it was that she was hot and she didn’t feel like it.
(not an actual picture of my kid giving me the finger. Credit: Google Images)
So we walked. And we talked. And I tried to get her going a few times. We’d run for a minute or so and then she would slow down and ask if we could walk for a little bit. And I’m not going to lie, we fought a little bit, I got exasperated and so did she. We both crossed the finish line completely pissed off at one another, nearly 50 minutes after we started.
But then something happened, after the eye rolls, the “What-EVER”’s, her threats of walking home alone and my threats of making her run for three hours every single day had died down. We talked. We commiserated in our sweatiness. We giggled. We got some food. And giggled some more. We watched the coverage on Robin Williams and I put aside my desire to place my baby in a bubble and we had an honest discussion about how this brilliant, hilarious man had this overwhelming sadness that got the best of him in the end. And we watched some of his work, his okay-for-kids-to-watch stuff. And at the end of our time together, before the interruptions of errands and little sister and dad, we shared a good, healing hug, and pinky swore that we’d both work on running together.
My takeaway? I am not going to set the world on fire with my running abilities. Sure, if I had run the race alone, it is entirely likely that I could have finished in less than 35 minutes and without any frustration caused by this miniature version of myself. But neither would I have anything to show for it. Sure, I wouldn’t have had the half hour battle of the wills with my daughter, but neither would I have had the truly funny and happy and free and honest moments that we shared together.
And for the record, I’ll take bonding with one of my babies, even with the pouting and threats and fighting and our eventual coming around over trying to beat some vague time goal any day. Besides, I’ve registered for the Rugged Maniac for late September, which my kids are too young to participate in. WOOT!