By Heidi Coryell Williams
Writer/Editor, Creative Services
I’ve been running for a little over a year.
Color runs, mud runs, and the everyday, ordinary 5K. It gives me a goal and a reason to keep going to the gym at 5 a.m., otherwise, I’d probably curl up and go back to sleep most mornings. But my favorite runs are the ones where my daughters can participate. They’re 6 and 4, now, and they’ve cheered me on at enough races to be interested in doing one themselves.
Last year, we went to the local elementary school to participate in a fundraising running event. The prior year, the same race gave the kids an opportunity to compete in a one-mile fun run—about six laps around the little elementary school track. But apparently that was too far to go, and so in 2012 the fun run was scaled back to just one lap around the track.
By the time you start, it’s already over.
My then-5-year-old had run three laps around that track three minutes after we’d arrived on race morning. So, I anted up. I bought two 5K registrations, one for her and one for me. I declined the T-shirts and got to the business of safety pinning her race number to her hot pink shirt. She’d been fixated on those safety pins for the full ten minutes that we’d waited in line to register, and she didn’t miss a beat when I said no thanks to the shirt; yes, I’ll take eight safety pins.
Now for my part, I usually run about four miles on the treadmill a few times a week (if I’m lucky) at the gym. Ashby, then 5, now 6, probably runs 10 miles a day, since she never stops moving, but in honesty, before that race, she’d never actually run more than a mile or so at one time. Long story short, she finished the race, all 3.1 miles of it, and swore up and down she never wanted to do THAT again. Except for the part at the end, when she spotted about 100 yards ahead of us, the nice man from our church – interim department chair of industrial engineering, Scott Mason.
He has three children several years older than mine. He’s as friendly as he is loud, and he had challenged Ashby to beat him when he passed us about two-thirds of the way through the race.
She spotted him as she was nearing the finish line, and then she sprinted. Full speed. Toward the handful of cheering volunteers, and ducked in under his arm, and beat him. Fair and square. (He told me later he’d heard her coming, which makes the memory even more sweet.)
She’d wanted to collapse and be held the moment she crossed the line (even though I was 50 yards behind her). She was beyond tired. I think we finished the whole 3.1 in about 45 minutes, jogging most of it, walking some of it.
But just as Ashby was preparing to melt into a whimpering blob, we looked up the hill toward the school, and we saw it. We saw that one-lap fun run — the run where you actually get a medal at the end, and it was starting. And we weren’t there to line up.
So, Ashby sprinted anew.
Up the hill, as the horn sounded. Across the starting line, when everyone else was already halfway around the track. And then she crossed the finish line a second time. It was a fraction of the distance, and she was exponentially more tired than she’d been just a few minutes before. And then she stood still. For the first time in an hour … a day … a lifetime?? She got her medal, and all that fatigue and exhaustion and desperation (When will we be DONE, mommy? WHEN?!?!”), well, it just evaporated.
Her soaked pant cuffs and failing ponytail and pounding heart just stopped mattering.
In my head, I think to myself, ‘This child was made to run.’ It’s in her blood: uncles, grandfathers, cousins … they were born runners, PE teachers, cross country coaches, and if anyone has the boundless energy and determination to start running and not stop until — oh, maybe — 30 miles later, it’s Ashby.
I loathe a distance run. I run because it’s good for me, and I count the tenths-of-a-miles and the minutes and the songs playing in my earphones until it’s over. After that race, Ashby declared she would NEVER do THAT again. And that was fine with me. I can appreciate her feelings. If she’s one and done, I’m A-OK with that.
But then a funny thing happened later that day, a few hours (and about six race-day bagels with cream cheese) later. Out of the blue, she made up her mind to do something that she’d really been set against since, well, forever. Piercing her ears. “It hurts,” I warned her. “It hurts when they shoot them in there, and it hurts for a while after it’s done.” I continued, “There’s cleaning, and turning for months. If a ball hits your ear, there’s usually blood and more ouchy.”
Those caveats more than a year ago had been enough to convince her that ear piercing wasn’t for her — at least for a good long while. But then all of a sudden, she decided that that day was the day she’d like to get them done. She was sure. She was determined. She was ready for the pain, even if it lasted longer than the minute or two after they shot those suckers in there.
So, we went. To Walmart of all places, where I’d heard they actually did a pretty good job on things like this. We picked out earrings — tiny flower studs, with five different colors, one for every petal.
Ashby hopped up on the stool. A momentary whimper. A few seconds of squirming, and then she was still for the second time today. “One, two, three,” the Walmart women counted, and them bam, it was done. She cried. Real tears. She didn’t want to look, for at least 30 seconds, and then she took a deep breath, leaned over to the mirror and flashed a weary but proud smile.
For Ashby, it was another milestone — one more thing to add to an already pretty momentous day in the world of 5 year olds. (“You’re in 5K and you ran a 5K!” I told her.) The other great thing, I told her about that day, is that you only have to get your ears pierced one time, and then you get to wear earrings forever. One and done.
Nope. There’s not a thing the matter with that.
This write-up was edited from a blog Heidi wrote in January 2012. Heidi’s daughter Ashby has since run in several more fun runs, and has cheered her mom across the finish line for many more. Heidi and Ashby plan to run in the Staff Senate’s Sprint for Success 5K Saturday, Nov. 9, to benefit the Staff Senate Scholarship Fund.