“Aunt B, I can’t. I just can’t.” Those words came out of Bella’s mouth for the entire first mile we were running. My patience was growing thin. I may not know many things in this world, but I’ve been around this child her entire life. I was there when she began to walk. I was there when she ran her first half mile, her first mile, and her first race (the 1k at Over the Bay Bridge Run two years ago). Today was her first 5k as part of her elementary school’s Run Club. I knew down to the depth of my toes that this was totally within the scope of her abilities and capabilities. Listening to her tell herself that she couldn’t do it was more than I could take. It was breaking my heart.
“Bella, stop saying you can’t. I know you can. You are strong. Don’t let your mind tell you that you can’t.” I chided her. Desperately trying to find something to get her to focus I said, “Do you see that boy up there, don’t let that boy beat you.” I said it just loud enough so that the boys heard me and they started picking up their pace. Ah, male pride and ego even at the age of 8.
“No way Aunt B. Girls rule and boys drool! Let’s get them!” she said picking up her feet and her pace. I chuckled to myself and mentally sent out a plea to the universe that she would hold onto that thought until she was at least 18 or so. We proceeded to play leap frog with the boys for the next half mile or so. They would slow down, we would pass them, then they would speed up and sprint passed us again not wanting a yucky girl to beat them, until they slowed way down again. Until ultimately we passed them around the two mile mark. She burst out into a big grin as we blew passed them for what was the final time.
I looked at her and told her, “See, consistency pays off. Well, that and the rocket boosters you have under your tutu.” She giggled.
As we made our way down the course she kept trying to turn around to see where they were. “Stop turning around to see where they are Bella. Run forward. If you turn around you could fall down. If you are afraid that they are going to catch you, run faster.” I wish I could tell her that was advice for life too. Instead, I had her focus in on the next sign, the next tree, until finally we saw the finish sign.
When she saw the finish sign she started to sprint. “I’m going to beat you,” she gleefully sang. I sped up. She sped up. I sped up a little more. She kept pace with me. THAT’S the girl I know. Competitive, strong, determined. She crossed the finish with a grin on her face, gas in her tank, and having passed three of the older boys and a couple of the older girls in her run club. Her final time was just over 41 minutes.
“HEY, you beat me.” she said looking at me as she found where she placed on the print out.
“I guess that means you’ll have to run faster next time.”