Girl on the Run

Our kids have gone to Catholic school from K-8. Our oldest (now a senior) played travel soccer so she had some friends going into high school. Our middle child (now a sophomore) has never been to into sports. We were pretty concerned with her friend situation going into high school. Of her friend group, only a couple kids were going to the public school. We suggested (strongly) that she join some type of fall activity that started before school was in session so she could meet some people.

She ended up doing both marching band and cross country. Marching band was a given since she decided to do band and they require all members of the band to also do marching band.

We encouraged her to run during the summer but she really didn't run too much. We knew that cross country would be a pretty rude awakening for her. It started worse than we could imagine.

The first couple weeks of practice, she complained that she was so slow that she was essentially all alone out on the runs. She also didn't really know anyone else so it was a tough way to try to meet people.

After the second week, they do time trials at a park along with a breakfast for families. It's a nice way to meet the other parents and coaches. The kids had a 2-mile timed run to get an idea where everyone was at that point of the season.

The girls all went out on their run. The parents gathered around the finish line to cheer them on. The first girl came in. Then another and another. Based on what she told me, I figured she'd be last.

Finally, there was a long gap after one of the girls came in. The coaches all looked at each other and walked away with the other parents. But my kid wasn't back yet! I wasn't sure what to do. Do I start yelling, "There's one still out there!" and have all the parents and coaches come back? I'm pretty sure she'd be mortified by that. Instead, I just stood there alone at the finish line.

I waited another minute or so and then I saw her running towards me from the wrong direction. She was so far behind that she got lost. And then the coaches and teammates forgot she was out there. She jumped into my arms and was sobbing and telling me that she was going to quit cross country. I just tried to comfort her and told her she could do whatever she wanted. We went straight to the car and didn't join the team or families for breakfast.

My instinct is to try to do too much and say too much with the kids. This time I didn't say anything. I was pretty pissed at the coaches for forgetting she was out there. I don't care if she's good but the least you can do as a coach is know how many runners leave and how many come back. What if she had been hurt? I was writing the email in my mind but I have a 24-hour rule so it would never get sent. (Her coach was also my other daughter's track coach and teacher, so going full burn-the-house-down could have had some negative repercussions.)

I said nothing about what happened on Saturday and Sunday. I didn't comfort her. I didn't give her advice. I just went on like nothing happened.

Sunday night, she comes downstairs to tell us she'd gotten a text from our neighbor (and one of the top runners on the team) offering her a ride to 6 a.m. practice on Monday morning so we don't need to drive her to practice. It's amazing what just a little bit of kindness can do when someone is down. All she wanted was someone to notice she was on the team.

She went on to finish last in JV in the first 4 races of the year but improved every race. This year, she's continued to improve and is a middle-of-the-pack JV runner. She's made a couple friends on the team and plans on trying Nordic skiing this winter to stay in shape for track.

She deserves all the credit in the world. I know how tough that was for her to go through. We knew there would be some growing pains, but I couldn't have imagined what she went through and how far she's come.

I've always said my favorite thing about cross country and track is that you can compete with yourself and success is measurable. I was just glad this story had a happy ending.

13 thoughts on “Girl on the Run”

  1. I don't know about cross-country, but track (and swimming, and wrestling, and marching band for that matter) are all great activities because teammates perform individually (well, plus relays, of course) but the results affect the team, so you have a built-in cheering section.

    And if marching band is as big there as it is here, the parents get to know each other pretty well, too.

  2. I do the timing for our local cross-country meets. I have always had great admiration for the runners who come last or close to it. They know at the start of the race that they have zero chance to win. Most of the time, they know there is zero chance that they will ever win, or that they will ever even come anywhere close to winning. And yet, they still go out there, and they still do their best. It seems noble to me somehow.

    1. "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7

      This was the reading at my sister's funeral, and it always hits me hard. She ran cross country (and was always last, especially with her CF), so Algonad's post really hit a spot for me. Anyway, I think there's something about this verse and the kids who come in towards the end. The bible doesn't say "I won the race." It says "I finished it." There's something about finishing that is noble, no matter what place you come in. I love it.

      Also, thinking about this post, and my sister, and how upset I'd be in Al's shoes... and I'm sitting here crying at work now. Thanks Algonad.

    2. Cross-country is a great sport. I've seen so much camaraderie in it. Shared pain probably has a bit to do with it. You can't run those races without suffering.

      1. Agree. My youngest ran cross country for three years and never got higher than middle of the pack JV. But it was a fun sport with lots of kids. The girls and boys trained together and had meets together, which helped. Now my nephews have run in CC as well for many of the same reasons.

        Also, we as adults can learn some lessons from these kids. I have now participated in a handful of Tri-Loppets, snowshoe races, bike races... where I knew going in I was going to end of in the bottom 20%-30%. But it wasn't about that. It's about the challenging oneself, see if you can do something that is difficult. The sense of accomplishment regardless of place is quite wonderful.

  3. Both my kids ran cross country. My son ran it all his 4 years and was never varsity. The camaraderie is indeed awesome. It has helped him develop a healthy life style. As a freshman at the U, he still goes on runs and lifts a few times a week.

    The girl switched to soccer as a junior due primarily to cross country's negative impact on her speed for hockey. As a parent, I enjoyed CC meets. Every teammate and every parent roots for all runners, top to bottom. So healthy. You are right Algonad on the way something as simple as a ride to practice helps. When my daughter was a Sophomore in hockey, one of the seniors gave her a ride to practice everyday after school. The last 2 years my daughter has reciprocated and we have encouraged her to offer to some of the shyer JV underclassman, rather than the ones already playing varsity.

  4. As a parent, it's really tough to not intervene to try to make things better. I'm so glad this story had a happy ending.

  5. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this story. I saw many of our own experiences, our own behaviors, and helpful counter behaviors in what you wrote. Thank you!

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