Saturday, October 5, 2013

Crossing the finish line

My son and I don't often -- as in we never -- run together.  We had great plans to run the half portion of the White Rock Marathon (as it was called back then) his senior year of high school. But Charlie did something to his knee while playing volleyball, and while the details elude me, I do recall that not wearing knee pads was a significant factor.

His physical therapist was pretty specific about the race, saying (or perhaps he shouted) NO RUNNING.

Charlie's knee healed, but then track season started and thus, the two of us running together was out. He graduated; summer came. Any race we would have trained for would have taken place while he was in college.

Last fall, his freshman year at Hendrix College, we did run the 5K over Parents' Weekend (a.k.a. the Campus Kitty). It was tremendously fun, but we didn't stay together. One of us had youth, long legs, and inherent ability on his side. We met up after it was over and recounted our respective miles and a good time was had by both.

When Parents' Weekend rolled around again, we of course signed up for the race again. As part of his shake-your-head-at-all-he-does training, he's been running on the (gasp) treadmill (for which I've forgiven him) -- a pretty steady 3.1 miles at a pace (surprise) faster than mine.

I assumed that on race day, we'd start out together and, in an echo of last year, he'd be waiting for me at the finish line. But when we began talking about the upcoming weekend, what he said surprised me.

"Mom," he said. "I have an idea. Let's run together, and when we cross the finish line, we can hold hands and raise our arms like the marathoners do."

"That's great with me, but are you sure?" I answered, secretly tickled beyond words. "You're so much faster than I am."

"Of course I'm sure," he said. "It'll be fun."

And it was. First of all, the race was much better organized than last year. We had NUMBERS! Plus there were water stops and someone on a bike showing runners the route. But mostly, it was great because we were running together.

At a point or two, Charlie talked while we scurried through campus. "Look," he said, pointing to a building as we crossed some railroad tracks. "That's the language house" (where he'll live his junior year and speak only German). I tried to answer, but could barely get out two words: "Can'"

We passed some fellow runners, grabbed cups of water, reveled in the relatively cool weather and in the orange and rising sun. I'd lent Charlie one of my Garmin Forerunner 10 watches, and we'd compare paces as we ran and the time each mile took us.

Way too soon, we saw tables set up and people gathered at what could be nothing but the finish line.

"Mom!" he said, jostling me out of the zone I tend to get into when I run. He reached for my hand with his own and, as planned, we held them far above our heads.

Then, because he is his mother's son, when we looked at our watches and realized the course was a bit short and that we'd only gone 2.9 miles instead of the 3.1 that make up a 5K, he said, "Let's go!"

We ran a couple more blocks, walked back and picked up our allotted share of apples and bananas and energy bars.

We couldn't talk about our race right then because we had to change clothes and go to a meet-the-professors breakfast.
Throughout the rest of the day and the evening, though, we did. We reveled in the beauty of the morning and of the campus and, most truly and especially, what we had accomplished together.

The rest of the weekend was fun, too. Charlie got a haircut from a white-haired barber who looked him right in the eye while doing a questionable Elvis impersonation. We had great meals. Charlie painted his face and chest school colors -- black and orange -- and cheered at the top of his lungs for the girls' volleyball team.

I remember all those when I look back on those precious 36 hours. But when I put my shoes on in the morning to run, or when I let thoughts that aren't particularly positive block out my blessings, or most especially when I look at a calendar and all but see the pages blowing movie-like away, I remember those 24:37 minutes on a beautiful fall day in Arkansas. A day my son and I held our hands high above our heads and, together, crossed the finish line. Just like the marathoners do.


Risa said...

Charlie has been such a great supporter of the Hendrix volleyball team; it is easy to see where he gets his spirit!

leslie barker said...

Thank you so much, Risa :-) He does tend to get a bit enthusiastic about...well, life (and volleyball in particular) !