Picture May in North Carolina. What do you see? The sun shining, birds chirping, nice warm weather? Wipe that picture out of your head. I live in the south and we haven’t seen 70 degree weather in weeks. We’ve also had a decent amount of rain. Spring has been pretty miserable and the time of year I’m usually starting to turn on my air conditioning, my heat is still busy pumping instead.
As this past Sunday’s race approached, so did the threat of rain. A lot of rain. Cold rain. This was just a little local fun run, so normally I would have just skipped it. But this time, I couldn’t, this race was special. It was my 8 year old son’s first race. He has been begging to race with me and we promised he could do one of the kids’ races at Disney when we went as a family for PHM next year. He wanted to do the Color Run with me last fall but I didn’t think he was ready for a 5k. So this seemed like a good time, a smaller race and just perfect for him. We started his weekend off right with packet pickup on Saturday.
This was a little rite of passage for him. I made him tell them his name and collect his bib and shirt. He was quite excited.
Sunday morning brought doom and gloom. And cold. The race wasn’t until 4 pm and up until Saturday, they said it would just be windy and cold, with rain starting late afternoon. I had hopes that it would hold off until after the race but no such luck. It started raining by 11 am, and it didn’t stop. A few hours before race time the situation looked a bit like this…
I can deal with the cold. I can deal with the rain. But the two of them together? No thank you. I seriously thought about just staying home, but I knew that would break my son’s heart. So we decided to suck it up and deal with it. We dressed in layers. LAYERS!! In North Carolina, in May, we dressed in layers. Stick that in your global warming pipe and smoke it. I told my son that the fast we went during the race, the sooner we would finish.
We headed out to our race destination, with the rain picking up as we drove. The race started at a local high school, and we were at least able to take shelter in the school, the warm, dry school, before the race. We stretched and I dreaded the actual race. This was a color race of sorts, where they squirted paint on you as you ran. This sounds fun, but not in the rain.
As starting time approached, we were forced outside to the starting line. The race was supposed to go at 4 but they didn’t start on time. I’ll admit, this race seemed very unorganized, and for a control freak like me, I didn’t like it. We stood there in the rain, cold and wind, waiting for them to give some kind of instruction. Finally we were able to start.
My son wanted to take off like a little speed demon. But I made him stay with me. He had never run this long before and I didn’t want him to burn out. I set my Garmin watch to 2:2 intervals, thinking he would want to take it easy. Let me tell you a little bit about my son. He is not the world’s strongest athlete by any means. He really isn’t all that athletic at all. He prefers to play a video game or bury his head in a Harry Potter book. He isn’t lazy by any means, but when it comes to work of any kind, he is an instant gratification kind of kid, and if something takes a long time or a lot of work to achieve, he loses interest fast. He is just like his mother. So I really expected to be walking most of this race, with a lot of complaining from him. But I grossly underestimated him. He kept pace with me and he kept running. He would dart ahead at each color station. Ah, the color stations. Unlike the Color Run, this color isn’t in powder form, it’s in liquid form. The volunteers, bless their hearts standing out in the cold rain like that, had large trash buckets full of the color and large water squirters to shoot the runners/walkers as they passed by. I will admit, this made it that much more miserable. We were already getting rather wet from the rain, and the cold colored liquid they squirted on us as we passed made things that much worse, that much colder and that much more wet.
Cold or not, my son loved it. We made it through the first mile in under 11 minutes. After around 1.75 miles, he started to fade a bit. I expected this, but much earlier. He asked to walk, and was ready to go again after less than a minute. We passed a couple who overheard me talking to him about it being his first race. They were thrilled for him and they kept pace with us for the rest of the race(I actually think they liked my constant updates about time, pace and mileage that I was giving my son from my Garmin). We came closer to the finish line. I talked to my son about finishing strong when he asked to walk. We were soaked, we each wore two pairs of socks and 2-3 shirts, all that were wet all the way through. The male half of the couple we kept pace with during the race came up from behind us in the last stretch. He tapped my son’s shoulder and told him to come on, speeding up. I yelled for him to go, to keep going. He dug deep and he sped up with the young man. They crossed the finish line together at 34:01, and I crossed 3 seconds later. Not the world’s fastest 5k but I was thrilled.
Normally, this would have gone down in the books as my worst race ever. I have never raced in conditions like this before, I purposely avoided this kind of weather. Being cold and wet was miserable, and the race itself was poorly organized. But I consider this one of my best races ever, for many reasons.
First, it was my first race with my son. This was very special to me, because it was something we could share together. I want my kids to grow up to be active, and I’m thrilled to have shared an activity I love with my child. I hope it inspires him to keep going and to keep running. It was also great to have the “us” time. Having 3 kids, it’s hard to have individual time with him. Having 2 younger, much more demanding little girls, my son often gets the short end of the stick when it comes to one on one attention. He is a very good kid, does well in school, behaves as well as an 8 year old boy can, so often I don’t hover above him like I have to with my girls. He is not as demanding of my attention, so sadly he doesn’t get as much. That’s why I refused to give up on this race, because it was for us, and I wasn’t going to bail on the opportunity unless I really had to.
Second, this race made my mama pride meter shoot through the roof. I was hoping for a 40-45 minute finish with minimal complaining. I got so much more than that. He never once complained about being cold or wet. He never once complained about being tired. He communicated with me about what he needed to do, when he could run and when he needed to walk. He dug deep at the end and finished strong. I couldn’t have been prouder of my boy during his first race.
Lastly, I’m very excited that he got a warm welcome to my runner family. Runners, whether they know you or not, are one big happy family. We wave and high five when we pass each other. We encourage each other, we give advice. I love my running friends and family. Having that random stranger there for my son was awesome. The man who encouraged him during the race and took him and pushed him in the end recognized our family’s bond and brought my son into our fold. I’m glad that my son got to see how kind and encouraging our community is.