When my teenage daughter wheezed and bent over, crying out, “I don’t know why you do this!” I almost sent her home. Instead, I told her to keep going, that I knew she had it in her. I really wanted her to enjoy running like I did. She didn’t.
Nevertheless, she’d show up at some of the 5K races I did and cheer as I crossed the finish line. Ignoring the fact that I never won a medal, she bragged to her friends about her mom’s amazing ability to run such a long distance. I could then relax in the recliner the rest of the day while she fetched things for me.
But then something happened. The girl who loathed running went away to college and discovered that maybe it wasn’t so bad. It could even be fun, especially while sporting spandex athletic attire in neon colors (definitely her style and emphatically not mine).
After her freshman year, she signed up to run her first 5K with me. She asked me to please, please wait at the finish line when I was done and get a picture of her crossing. Only it didn’t happen as she had pictured.
We ran side-by-side the first mile until I stopped for a quick break in a small portable building along the route. “I’ll catch up,” I said, waving her on.
After I did my business, I got down to the business of locating my new running buddy. All I had to do was pick up my pace and any second I would stride right alongside her. She’d be somewhere over the next hill, around the next corner, past the next group of runners who, gasp, began passing me as my stamina stifled and I trailed further and, pant, pant, further behind.
“You can do it!” I heard a familiar voice shouting as I neared the finish. “Come on, Mom!”
And there she was, enthusiastically waving me forward, having crossed the line herself minutes earlier. I stumbled over it and collapsed in the grass nearby.
She plopped down next to me and handed me a bottle of water. “Remember how I used to be impressed that you could run three miles?” she asked. “I thought it was so hard. Crazy, huh?”
I would’ve agreed, but I hardly had the strength to nod.
She tilted her smooth face to the sun and smiled, not a drop of perspiration on her brow. “Thanks, Mom.”
“For what?” I asked, wringing out my sweat-soaked headband.
“For believing in me. I never would’ve done a 5K if it wasn’t for you. I feel great.”
Forget a medal. I’d just won the grand prize.