We had an amazing Thanksgiving with friends and family. Naturally, we ate too much food and laughed a lot. The kids put on an impromptu singing show. The dog cleaned up the spilled turkey grease fiasco. We played a little charades. Wild turkeys visited the front yard. You know, the typical Oregon Thanksgiving. All in all, it was a great day. Still, the highlight of the day for me was not the delicious food and the warm company, as warm and delicious as they were. No, for me the best part of the whole day was running in the Turkey Trot with 9 year old Seamus McKinney. To be able to do something like this with a young person so willing and enthusiastic was truly gratifying. What made the event even more amazing was that my husband, David Vazquez, who has never ran anything longer than a mile, also took to the 4 mile challenge that morning with us. Here's how it all came to be and ended up:
A few months back, Seamus had expressed to his folks an interest in distance running and they mentioned it to me. They thought I might be able to shadow him on a run along the river, or something light and casual. So, over the next few months whenever I had the chance to bring up running with Seamus, I tried to keep any talk very casual as well. From the experience of introducing running to my own kids I didn't to steer him away or freak him out. Granted my kids are years younger than Seamus, still, it can be a delicate subject. Besides, kids these days seem more interested in video games and loud music than in spending time getting fit and running, especially with their parents' friend. I can't blame them either, with all of the flashy new games out and all of the rich music in its many-transportable forms, it’s hard to focus. Even I have videos on my teeny-tiny iPod Shuffle. But I digress...
Seamus was a trooper on his first run. It was a super cold morning! He was wearing his skateboarding shoes (which, by the way, he moves in like champ), and he was pacing pretty well. We even sprinted at one point around mile 2, just to see who could reach the turn-around post first (I think he beat me). Seamus kept passing this other older kid during the first few miles and he was determined that the kid would not beat him. After something like a leap frog act went on for awhile, the other kid was finally left completely in the dust, and Seamus was glowing, he was so proud. It was cool. I mean, he didn't rub the other guy's face in it or gloat or anything, you could just see that he had this look about him like he had done something he didn't think he could. Sometimes the best way to get a little confidence is to go out and do something tough. Seamus did that on Thanksgiving morning.
By then, we were pacing with Dave. This is when I think it got really good for Seamus. I know this is when it got really good for me. Dave--bless his heart and his first distance run--let us shift the focus now to him. Because we had planned to have a shared family dinner with the McKinneys later that day, I was telling Seamus that if Dave beat him, he would not hear the end of it and that dinner would be filled with ridicule and scorn. Seamus assured me that Dave would not beat him. Dave even got in on the encouragement by agreeing that dinner would not be the last place he would hear about it. Dave even said that he would brag that he beat a 9 year old. This was so funny to me that I had to keep myself from chuckling...but then I wasn't sure if Dave was kidding or not. I had images of my husband with his fishing friends all telling tall tales about the one that got away when suddenly Dave pipes up with "I beat a 9 year old running the Turkey Trot."
See, it's a funny image.
Anyway, we finally found ourselves back in Alton Baker Park and in view of the Defazzio Footbridge that would take us back across the river and to the finish line. At this point, I called Seamus's dad to tell him that we were in the final stretch (this is my first run carrying a cell phone...and a camera). We wanted a full-scale cheering squad once we got in view of the finish. This is when the run started to get tough for Seamus, and rightfully so. I mean, 4 miles is quite a trek when you are 9 and haven't really trained and are running in your boarding shoes (still very cool and apt, as I mentioned). Seamus had spirit though, and also, the drive to keep Dave from bragging about beating a 9 year old.
Along the final leg I kept telling him I could see the finish. I couldn't, but I knew it would keep his feet moving, and maybe also offer a little distraction to his being tired. Then, finally, there it was. There stood the gateway to completing his first distance run. At this, Seamus picked up his pace all on his own, his feet moving faster than at any other point during the run. I started cheering and telling him to put up his hands when he crossed the finish. And then, he finished. The next time I saw his face, he was beaming beyond the look I had seen earlier in the run. It was a look I thought I recognized, like he had found something that made him feel complete. Maybe I project too much of my own experience onto others, but it was definately an amazing expression, likewise an amazing experience.
If you ever have the opportunity to run with a kid, do it! How gratifying and grounding, all at the same time! I will always be grateful to Seamus for sharing that with me...oh, with us!
Yes, Dave! Wonderful, miraculous, persistent ...and finishing not too far behind the 9 year old.
Seamus McKenny, congratulations on your first 4 miles! I know there will be many, many more. And David Vazquez, congratulations on your first real distance. Thanks for sharing it with us in such a selfless and fun way. I'm proud of you...both : )
Dave, Seamus and Rhonda, just before the Turkey Trot 2011