Thursday, June 2, 2011

Run for Fun

"Now don't forget to stretch a little and pace yourself." I say to my son as we cross the street and enter the lush green lawn surrounding the school. The crowd is milling around, some people lined up in front of tables, waiting to sign in and get their number, some getting in some last minute stretches. My son jogs off to join a group of friends, all greeting each other and just excited about the events this Memorial Weekend. The first event of the weekend is why we gathered at 8:45am on Saturday, its the annual James E. Kearney Run for Fun, a 3K run starting in front of the school, winding up through town and concluding at the track behind the school. Its my son's first time running it and I just want him to have fun with his friends and finish the run.

I keep my distance from him and his group as we line up at the starting line. With the sound of a chirp from the police cruiser leading the pack, the run is a go. I immediately settle into a steady cadence as the pack passes the first intersection. All ages participate in the run and all I see in front of me are kids sprinting ahead, a burst of energy that will flame out before we hit the first hill. Next are the high schoolers, dressed in track uniforms, running together like a school of dolphins, graceful and competitive, passing the little runners and swiftly setting the pace. My son's friends are in an uneven line, like bees buzzing around trying to hit every flower in the field.  

The first hill is a steep and winding climb. The little runners are beginning to realize that the race is longer than advertised and are slowing, which causes their parent to ease up. I am still keeping to my pace and finally spot my son up ahead, also maintaining a steady stride, staying with his strategy. I slowly catch up to him and give him some encouragement. "Do-in - Gr-ea-t!" I manage to get out as we reach the summit of the first hill. The pace kicks up with the little runners reaching over the hill and somehow finding the energy to race each other to the bottom. My son even speeds up a bit and passes me as the downward grade is very inviting. We turn the corner and start to climb the second hill, this time the little runners are not having it. Luckily there are families parked out on their lawns, clapping and cheering the runners as they pass, some even set up cups of water and sprinklers, knowing the sun would start to bare down on the pack. We reach the one mile mark.

The next mile consists of more winding streets, uphills and downgrades as the runners spread out. The little runners are now either hand held by mom or up on dad's shoulders. I even spotted some dad still trying to run with a five year old nested upon his neck (ouch, my aching spine!). Even though we did not plan on sticking together during the run, my son and I trade leads during this section, with me in front on the uphill parts and he leading on the downhills.

After I pass the mile two marker, I was running as one, my son slowed on the last hill and I told him to grab a water on the table to refuel and push towards the end. A few low lying hills later, I can see the entrance to the track. I speed up my pace and after running half way around the track, I cross the finish line as the completed runners greet the oncoming finishers. I quickly grab two water bottles and get my camera ready (yes I carried a camera the whole time) and await my son's arrival. About three minutes later I see my son enter the track and he ramps up his gallop like a race horse on the final stretch. I hold the camera up and snap a shot just as he crosses the line. "Congratulations!, you just did your first run!" "I feel like I'm, going to die!" He huffs and puffs as he downs the water. "Don't worry, you will be fine in a few minutes." I reply and direct him to where his friends are recovering. I join the crowd to greet the other finishers, some younger than me and some older, the elderly couple running in tandem, the paunchy head band wearing middle-ager, even the dad with the five year old perched on top, bouncing around like she is riding a mechanical bull, as the dad happily stumbles over the threshold. He finally gets to lower the child onto the track and watch her run to get her medal for finishing the race. 

I scan the crowd and settle on a group of kids off the the side, shoes off, sitting on the turf. My son and his friends, talking, laughing, and comparing their experience being part of the Run for Fun.

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