Tomorrow might be the last time I lace up my running shoes for a high school cross country race.
My daughter is the competitor; I’m just the crazy spectator who runs around to different parts of the course to see the runners as many times as I can.
Tomorrow is the regional finals, and it’s her senior year. If the team finishes in the top 4, or if she’s in the top 16 individually, then I’ll be driving to Columbus next weekend for the state championship meet. Otherwise, this will be her last high school meet.
It’s been a whole season of lasts.
Last time at the Berkshire Early Bird, and every other meet. Just when I learned all the best places to watch on all the courses.
Last time hearing the hopes and expectations that start the season, then watching her and the other girls fight off illness, injury, discouragement, and doubt.
Last time taking snacks and drinks to a meet. Yeah, even in high school they still want snacks and drinks.
And if tomorrow ends up being THE last race …
There will be no more do-NOT-take-my-picture dirty looks during a race.
I will have stuffed my last newspaper into wet, smelly training shoes so she will have dry shoes for the next day.
We will have had our last week of talking about last week’s race and anticipating the upcoming race.
It will be my last time telling her to believe in herself, and that when she finds herself running with the fast girls, to know that she belongs there.
It will be the the last time I see her cry at the end of the race. Over the years there have been tears of exhaustion, tears of disappointment, and tears of happiness. Tomorrow, the tears will fall into at least one of those categories.
Like every other parent, I’ve experienced the teenager’s tendency to think that parents don’t know anything. Athletics is one of those things that we still share, and maybe the only thing where I still have some credibility. I wouldn’t give up having been involved in her athletics for anything.
Whether or not tomorrow is the last race, it will be a first for me: waiting for the starter’s gun, I’m pretty sure I’ll have tears in my eyes.