I admit that I've never been a sporty person. Watching sports on TV bores me to tears. Sitting at a soccer field or the bleachers at a football game makes me wish I had a good book in my hands. The only high school sports I participated in at all was cheerleading---as the mascot. It was the only way I could get through an entire game. When our older children played soccer, ran track, and swam on swim team I went to a number of their events, but I always had babies or toddlers in tow, which meant I was chasing after them the whole time. But last weekend when we attended our daughter's cross country district meet on a soggy field on an unusual balmy fall day, I understood.
We thought we got there late because we got lost numerous times. When we found out we actually had hours to wait until our daughter ran, I had that feeling of dread that I get at sporting events. What in the world were we going to do with ourselves for four hours? No chairs, no book, no Internet. It turned out that we ran into a number of old friends whom we hadn't seen in a long time, so we followed their children's races while we caught up and ate concession food. When it was finally time for our daughter's race, I felt nervous and excited for her, and I offered up a prayer. A prayer that she would do well. That she would be able to finish. That she wouldn't throw up and be embarrassed. That she wouldn't be last.
Because she's running with a very good team of extremely fast girls. She used to be the last one to cross the finish line when she ran track in middle school. She'd be near the end of the line of boys and girls when the track team practiced. She was usually the last one to reach the school in the evening at the end of their cross country practices. But she persevered.
And because she has persevered in a way that I've never seen her do before, I wanted so badly for her to do well. She has pushed through the sore muscles. She has run in the rain and the wind. She has covered miles that I never imagined she could just a few short months ago. She never quit. And this is the girl who used to go up to strangers to show them a hangnail and dramatically go on about how much it hurt until they offered her a bandaid. But this fall, I've watched her turn into a young woman with stamina, dedication, and fortitude.
I held my breath as I saw her running up that first steep hill. We ran farther up the field to see her again, and she wasn't near the back of the line. We crossed the muddy fields again to see her make that final stretch before she reached the finish line. And we waited. And waited. So many runners passed us. My heart sank. Did she fall? Did she stop? Was she sick? Finally, finally we saw her...but she was walking! Her dad started cheering her on. Her coaches cheered her on. Her fellow team mates who had finished cheered her on. Her little sister and I cheered her on. And I wished her all the positive energy I had inside of me and hoped she could feel it.
And she started running again. I hurried to the finish line so I could see her cross, and I made it just in the nick of time. As I approached, she was coming across, and she was not walking, but... sprinting. She was hurting. She was sweating. But she was running, and she didn't throw up. And she beat her personal record by two whole minutes. I was so proud of her, and I couldn't stop the tears from coming.
It turned out that she placed high enough to earn her very first medal. And her team finished first in their division, so along with the rest of the girls, she got another medal.
And I finally got why people like sports. Or at least why parents enjoy watching their children play in sports. It was exciting. It was nerve-wracking. It was exhilarating. And with every photo I looked at, I cried some more. And I'm tearing up now while I write this blog post.
So I have a whole new respect and appreciation for athletes, and for all those parents who spend countless hours in the gyms, the pools, and on the fields. And I am awed by the transformation I've seen in my daughter this season. And I am humbled by the eye opening I received on those rural, muddy cross country fields last weekend.