Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Fourteen Minute Mile

Benny loves to run. You might say it's his natural state: running. When he was four, he won the "Tot Trot" at the YMCA. I cried all through it because there was just something so earnest and sweet about all the little runners pounding away, 1/4 mile.

Warming Up for the Mile Run

Lately he's been running in the house, which I cannot bear. The crashing, the banging, the thumping, the breathless hecticness drives me into a frenzy. I heard from another karate mom about a running race for kids, put on by one of the local elementary schools. I told Benny if he could stop running in the house a little bit, I would put him in this race. He was so excited.

We discussed with him about how to pace himself in the race, to run a whole mile. We also talked a lot about not pushing, not getting upset with the other kids, not being sad no matter what place he got, etc. He nodded and mm-hmmed through all that instruction, and we thought, what can we do? He'll just have to learn by doing.

Getting Pre-Race Advice from Ahno and Sadie.

On race day, he put on his favorite outfit (which he calls his uniform) and had his number pinned on about 3 hours before the race. He got to the event, which is like a big party with pizza, a sound system, a whole lot of kids running around. Almost every single one of the other children had the official race t-shirt on, but Benny preferred to wear his orange suit -- fine, I thought. The better to locate him from a distance.

Ready to run.

The race lined up -- there were 104 children ready to run the boys mile -- ages from kindergarten on up into the teens. They took off strong and ran around the first corner and off into the neighborhood. Benny was running as fast as he could, looking a little panicked and squashed in the midst of all those kids, and of course I started weeping.

All of us nervous parents bustled over to the finish line, where we waited for the kids to start coming in. I stood there, next to Dan, kneading his arm, twisting his shirt, in general ready to vomit with nerves. The first kids came through to great applause, the next kids, and more kids, and more kids. WHERE WAS BENNY? We did not see him. More children came through. Ten minutes went by. Still no Benny, we couldn't even see him around the corner. I cannot communicate to you the level of my freak-out at this time. I was sure he had fallen over, was sitting on a street corner somewhere in Larchmont, crying, bleeding, or maybe kidnapped, eaten by wolves, fallen into a sudden chasm (you know how those open up in the middle of quiet neighborhoods).

Finally I said to Dan, "I AM GOING TO FIND HIM." And Dan (wisely) said that he would go instead, so he went. And I continued to stand there and dance around in a hot panic. Finally, there he was, cantering along easily, right in front of the police escort and the ambulance, who were bringing up the rear. He was last. Dead last. And completely unconcerned. As he came loping over the finish line and down the chute, he waved cheerily at me.

Benny and the Police Escort

"Mom! I didn't win!" he reported.

I stood there, agape. I mean, he had not fallen into a chasm, right? So, in all, good day.

Later he said, "Now that was some real racing! I decided that since I couldn't win, I'd let everyone else win. You know, I learned this from that movie, "Cars," you know when Lightning McQueen lets The King finish the Piston Cup?"

Thanks, Disney. And thanks to me, for all the times over the last seven years of his life that I've pounded it into his head -- it's not about winning, it's about having fun! It doesn't matter who comes in first! You can have more fun if everyone is having a good time! Etc. This was all meant to cope with the child who pitched an epic fit because he couldn't be the first wiseman in the procession, at age 3. It was not meant to scrub all competitive spirit from the young lad.

Dan said that when he found Benny, he was standing in someone's driveway, kind of dancing around and waving. I always say that Benny marches to he beat of his own drummer -- but really, sometimes it is illustrated for me in such a graphic way that this is true. He saw that he could not beat the older kids, so he just did something else, he changed the plan. He deviated.

We knew lots of people at the race -- through violin, church, and karate, we knew about half the kids and parents there. When Benny finally came over the line, there were lots of moms and dads and kids cheering for him by name. And no one thought it was strange for him to bring up the rear. They know, and we know, that for Benny nothing is strange. He is his own child, unpredictable, earnest, and never never dull.

Cheering for the girls' race.


  1. Anonymous5:37 PM

    Benny is an absolutely beautiful, adorable, one-of-a-kind child.

  2. What a wonderful made me cry...and appreciate my own 7 year old who is also one of a kind!

  3. You and your chasm concern made me laugh out loud. You and your tender observation about just how wonderful that little boy is made me cry. All in the course of about 40 seconds. Whew.

  4. and of course i finished reading this and was in tears myself. and the chasm - i KNOW the chasm. i've been dead sure that mine have fallen into it more times than i can say. you know the love i have for your beautiful children - this just adds to it.