A season of lasts

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.



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6 responses to “A season of lasts

  1. Jim

    I was with my son through his entire wrestling career and I know what you are feeling.
    Looking back, it took no time for him to go through youth and junior high and arrive in high school. I remember watching him the first time he walked on varsity mat as a frosh. I remember the first time he got to Columbus also as freshman. I always felt he would get there, I just didn’t know it would happen so early.
    I got to watch him win his first (of four) sectional title. On winning the fourth, he looked for me in the stands and held up four fingers. Only he and I knew the meaning but I still get misty thinking about it now.
    I got to watch him win his district titles. I got to see him wrestle the state tournament four times and it seemed like the four years went by too fast. It seems like yesterday but it will be 20 years this spring.
    You did a good thing by being with her at all the meets, Dad. You can never replace those moments and I can assure you that, in 20 years time, you will have memories that both of you will rehash. I know we do.
    Best of luck to your daughter. Enjoy every bit of it!

    • Brian

      As I mentioned in email, in 4 years and 40+ races, I’ve missed only a few. And of those I went to, I can pretty much remember what happened at each one.

  2. Anonymous

    I’ve got a long way to go, but I understand already.

  3. Anonymous

    Great post Brian and reply Jim. Both my son’s and I are close in the activities that we share and have always been, you can only hope that you can still enjoy them with your kids even after they are out of school. Going for runs and bike rides with them etc.
    After High School comes college and you won’t be seeing them as much as you did before so make each time you get to enjoy your activity together count.
    Life sure does go by fast!

  4. My daughter’s only 2 years old. I expect her to be crying after I make her run a 5k tomorrow.

    (Seriously though: Inspiring post Brian.)

  5. Pingback: Revisiting the last race | Über die Brücke

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