Today is my birthday. We won’t say just how many I’ve celebrated, but I’ve had a few. This year, I decided to have a goal for my birthday. I’ve done this before on “milestone” birthdays -those numbers that scare us. This year wasn’t any special number, but I wanted to have something to work toward. As the school year wrapped up, I decided I would run in a 5K for my birthday. I hadn’t run in years, so for me, this was “starting from scratch,” and honestly, I really needed the exercise.
My husband joined in and said he would run too. Now this was getting fun. Since his training started well after mine, I determined that my added goal would be to beat him in the 5K. My household can get a little competitive…what can I say? My 11-year-old daughter and I bet one week’s allowance that I would beat her very athletic(and super tall) Dad. This was getting good. Until my travel and work schedule interrupted my husband’s training. He wasn’t going to be ready in time. Now what? I decided if I couldn’t try to beat him, I would try to place in my age group. I looked up the winning times from the previous year – wow these chicks were serious. Even to come in 3rd place, I was going to have to finish in 30 minutes. So I kept at it. I really wanted to place – and now my daughter was pulling for me. She was watching.
The day of the 5K came. My training had been interrupted by a nagging sore ankle ( I had twisted it running in the early morning darkness) and 2 weeks of travel right before the race. I was as ready as I could be. It was just me and the course. And the course was tough. I had never run on these trails and there were so many hills. Of course I didn’t mind the down hill, but the up hill was kicking my “up hill.” The course by my house that I had run so faithfully for weeks was completely flat. I wasn’t quite prepared for a hilly run on a cold, breezy day. My final time was 31 minutes 10 seconds.
My family was all there to cheer me on and watch me cross the finish line. They had taken pictures and captured my start and finish on video. They were awesome. But I had fallen short of my 30 minute goal. Although I was pleased to finish and put in a decent time, I was disappointed. I really wanted to place.
As the course started to clear off, we made our way to the water, snacks and coffee that awaited the runners and their families. My girls enjoyed every snack available, and as the crowd grew larger they got ready to hand out the awards: 1st, 2nd and 3rd place for each age group. We had been there quite a while and my toddler was getting restless, so I turned to my husband and asked if we should go. Immediately my daughter interrupted, “We can’t leave mom, they are going to hand out the medals now.” I explained to her that my time wasn’t going to be good enough to place, so it was okay to leave. She looked me right in the eye and said, “You can’t give up hope mom.” It was so profound the way she said it. Very mature and sincere words for a girl her age. Her words affected me…and I decided to stay.
As they began calling up winners from other age groups, I realized that many of the groups had put in slower times. The course had been tough on everyone. My daughter was looking smarter by the minute. Finally, they came to my age group, and I was feeling a little anxious. When they announced the 3rd place winner…the time was 4 minutes slower than mine…and I suddenly realized I was going to place. My time, although slower than my goal, was good enough to win 1st place in my age group. I was ecstatic (as you can see in the picture of my big grin above). The best moment was when my daughter hugged me and said she was proud of me – not an easy thing to accomplish with a head strong “tween.”
When I thought back over the day, my daughter’s words really struck me. Her committed plea to keep hoping until the end was my lesson. I realized that no matter what your circumstances are, you have to keep on hoping. So today, as I reflect and celebrate my birthday, I want to pass on to you the same earnest message. Whatever you are going through…don’t lose hope.