Before this blog goes much further, I guess I’d better remember my manners and give a little explanation of myself. Let me retrace my steps.
As you may have already gleaned, my name is Shannon. I’m 29 years old and live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I spent my formative years in northern Virginia, the Yankee part of the state, although if I’m feeling snarky I’ll remind people that Robert E. Lee commanded NoVa troops once upon a time. But I digress.
My formal running began in high school when I showed up for cross-country practice the summer before freshman year, and then proceeded to throw up. A lot. Well, not at that first practice, but it took my stomach a few months to get over its pre-race nerves.
Did I ever imagine trying another activity? Nope.
To say that the running gene is dominant in my family is like saying Albert Pujols is an adequate baseball player. To my parents’ credit, they never pressured any of us kids into running, but the genes took care of it: now at holiday gatherings when all of us are present, the pile of running shoes by the front door is almost laughable.
I was 12 or 13 when I ran my first race. Shamefully, I can’t remember the name of it, or even where it was, although I’m pretty sure it was in a town west of ours, a remote area since dubbed the “Tech Corridor” and now much more hip. The race was a 5k and included a portion on a wooded trail that climbed up a – to my ‘tween eyes – ridiculously long, steep hill. Run up that thing? Uh-uh.
Ok, so my run/walk wasn’t a glorious debut [I came in 2nd in my age group! That the age group had two competitors is a very, very minor detail!]. But I do still have the long-sleeved cotton T-shirt I got at the race. The details of the event may be fuzzy in my mind, but I value that now-ragged shirt more than some of the shinier awards I’ve snagged at races since then.
Do many other runners do this? Keep memorabilia from their first races, or their kids’ first races? Sometimes, standing on the starting line at a local race, I’ll look around at the young ones in the crowd and wonder if it’s their first race. I know runners can have their first race at any age – heck, adults are probably better at relishing their first race—but I think it’s really cool to see a parent out there with their kid(s). Nothing stressful, just kind of “See? Here’s what I do for fun and fitness, you can see what it’s like and maybe, if you don’t hate me when we finish, you’ll learn to love it too.”
It’s even more fun seeing the really little ones who parents bring out for the kiddie races after a 5k or 10k. I suspect whoever invented these races was actually a brilliant parent who wanted a constructive way to burn off their kids’ energy and spare the cost of a sitter on a weekend morning. And is it so wrong to occasionally place casual bets with your friends on tiny competitors?
Seriously, though, I really do think the kiddie races are fabulous, and that more race directors should include them in their scheduled events. Maybe those kids won’t want to follow in Mom or Dad’s footsteps. Maybe they’ll just learn that, hey, running around outside and getting treats at the end is pretty awesome!
And maybe they’ll keep their T-shirts forever.