Life lessons on the running track

Life lessons on the running track

The pity clap was something to be avoided.

But that was not her nightmare. Her nightmare was a hurdle that was set too high by mistake, or her tripping and falling over one.

The sound of sympathetic applause should those things come to pass - the pity clap, as she dubbed it? That would mean she was last in her race.

As fate would have it, that nightmare of my daughter's came true at her last track meet some weeks ago.

This was her third year running track, and the hardest, now that she has moved up from middle to high school. In middle school, she could hold her own. But as a freshman in high school, she was up against upperclassmen who were faster, stronger, and better athletes.

She found herself at the bottom, struggling to shine. I felt stressed for her but also proud when she would not give up, even though the coach persisted in putting her in events she disliked, like the 300m hurdle race.

"He figures you can do it," I ventured.

She was under no such illusion.

"Mum, he's saving the fast kids for the 100 and 200 and putting me in races he doesn't care about," she scoffed.

I could only think that if I were her, I would have quit by now.

I had no words of experience to share. I was not sporty at school, and it wouldn't have mattered if I had been.

My parents would have said no to any sports. Nothing was as important as studies, and having a sport meant less time for studying.

But I always regretted not being athletic, or even getting the encouragement to try.

When my daughters got to seventh grade, however, they did like most of their friends and signed up for sports, namely cross country for one and track for both.

I was thrilled that if nothing else, they were getting exercise two hours a day, five days a week.

But, of course, there was much more. I would see the life lessons at work sometimes, when small 12-year-old girls would be crying as they were running our hilly cross country home course and yet did not stop.

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