Buddy has a lot of energy, but is not athletic. I knew he needed the discipline and confidence boost of being part of a team this spring, but playing on a team stresses him out and makes me want to pull my hair out. So after a lot of thought, we decided he would benefit from running with the track club in town. It's low key, he doesn't have to be aggressive or compete against anybody else, per se. This has turned out to be a great decision.
The track meets are brutally long, so he's only participated in the home meets this season, but the first one went pretty well. He did the long jump, plus the 1500 and the 100. He is definitely not a sprinter, and we knew he would do best at the longer run, although he was really nervous. Although there were lots of kids in his age group at the track meet, only two kids participated in the 1500. He ended up getting the 2nd place ribbon. Although he's no dummy (and knew he came in last), he was still proud of his performance. And we were so proud of him too!
Last weekend he had his second track meet. This time he was a super nervous, knowing what to expect. He competed in the long jump, mini javelin, plus did the 1500 again and the 400. Once again he was most nervous about the 1500 and kept saying he didn't want to do it. The day before he had spent the afternoon laying on the couch with a really bad headache and a little bit of a tummy ache. He woke up fine, but as the race got closer he was almost doubled over in pain. I assumed it was nerves, so we encouraged him and gave him a big pep talk. I reminded him of the talk we had been having all week about setting goals, finishing what we start, beating his time, having fun, and being a good sport.
You can tell he's extremely nervous here. And to put into perspective how much younger/smaller he was... the boy on the left is the other kid in his age group. Yes, you are seeing that right. That 8 (?) year old is a foot taller.
Once again, only two boys ages 7-8 were competing in the race, so they put them in a heat with much older kids. As Buddy sized up his competition he said he wouldn't and couldn't do it. He said there was no way he could keep up with the bigger boys. We forced him to stand at the starting line to get ready. The gun fired and off he went. Quickly the older boys were far in the lead. As Buddy finished his 3rd lap (holding his tummy in pain), the older boys were finishing the race. He assumed that since they all were done, he was too, so he stopped. When all the finish-line officials yelled at him to keep going, he did. As he rounded the last corner into the straightaway to the finish, he was the only boy left on the track. Everyone standing along the track started cheering for him. All the people in the stands started cheering for him. And he finished.
All 15 of the boys at the starting line. Buddy is second from the end.
He got his 2nd place ribbon and as we hugged him and told him how proud we were, he said, "My tummy hurt so bad, but I remembered what you said about not quitting during races. So I didn't stop. And I did it!" I was teary telling him, "All those people were cheering for YOU!" I know this is sounding so dramatic, but it really was an incredible moment.
His time was 8:06. Last time he was 7:47, so he was a bit slower this time. But considering the nerves, the tummy ache, and the snafu after the third lap, nobody is complaining.
Everyone cheered because who doesn't love an underdog?! Who doesn't love to watch the smallest kid finish the race? Who doesn't love to watch a little person kick fear to the curb? The remarkable thing about this story, though, is how much fear and anxiety he did manage to kick to the curb. He had a rough week leading up to the race. And actually had a much worse week after. But now we have this small victory to fall back on. Buddy, do you remember that time you didn't give up? Do you remember that time you were scared but did it anyway? Do you remember that time hundreds of people cheered just for you?
P.S. A few minutes after finishing that race, he did the 400. He came in 7th out of 8 kids -- all his age. The kid who came in last was in tears, so Buddy tried to comfort him. And later that night he prayed for the boy that he would realize it's most important just to finish and try to beat your time. His tummy ache was excruciating that night, making me feel so bad I made him race -- but extra proud of his effort.