I can’t remember the exact date, but I know I had to be somewhere around the age of 11 or 12 the first time I ran a race.
Not a 100-yard dash, a race with a classmate or something like that, but an actual sanctioned road race. It was the Tab Freedom Run in Lenexa. The race is still around, but it goes by the name Lenexa Freedom Run now. Tab bowed a couple of decades ago, right about the time the last person actually bought a can of Tab, I think. Yeah, it was a diet soda. Could still be a diet soda for all I know.
But I digress.
It was a 10K race. We had always gone to the Lenexa Days parade on the Fourth of July and once we got old enough, my older sister and I decided to start running in the race that morning. And I have only missed a couple since.
So that was it, the first road trace that I can remember. I’ve done countless since. I’ve even done a handful of half marathons and a full marathon three years ago. Running is a big part of my life. Always has been — from running track as a kid, in high school and at college to the road races I continue doing today.
So, a couple of weeks ago when I decided — at the last minute — to do the Jared Coones Memorial Pumpkin Run, it was no big deal. It makes sense to do this particular race for several reasons. It’s a fun, family event for a great cause that just so happens to pass right in front of my house along the final mile of the course.
This year, it was just me. Aisha stayed home with the kiddos and was planning on waiting for me at the end of the driveway with all three to cheer Daddy on to the finish line. Just before I left the house, I thought I’d see if Gunner (my 3-year-old) would like join me for the final three-tenths of a mile. He couldn’t wait.
The plan was set. I’d make my way around the course and he’d wait for me at the end of the driveway with his sisters and mom. It was a bit brisk that morning, so he had a heavy sweatshirt on along with gloves and a hat, but he was ready for me.
And he didn’t waste any time joining me, that’s for sure, picking up the pace right as I got near the house.
We made our way down the street past our neighbors, only stopping for a second when one of his gloves came off. About a tenth of a mile into our joint run, he slowed to a walk.
“Daddy, you can carry me now. Is that a good idea?”
Well, of course it was. Forget that I had just run close to three miles. Up into my arms he went. He needed the break.
We rounded the corner and were set for the final stretch — about 400 yards or so.
Upon seeing the sea of people in front of him, he decided that it was time to run again, so down he went and there we were, in the home stretch.
I tried to stay over to one side to make sure he didn’t get in anyone’s way. After all, there were still plenty of other people making their push to the finish line, too. We weren’t exactly near the back with the walkers, so the push to the finish was a bit tense.
He was eating it up. So was I. About 40 yards from the finish line, he made his way to the far right to high-five the Chick-fil-A cow (or chicken or whatever it is). Then it was back to the race. The end was in his sights.
The cheers got louder as he approached the finish line and you couldn’t have wiped the grin off his face if you tried. Mine either.
Of course he beat me, edged me by a step as we both crossed the finish line with our arms in the air.
It may be another eight or nine years before he runs his first full 5K, and who knows if he will ever remember this race.
But I sure will. It was the first time that my son and I crossed the finish line together.