Choose To Run The Race Anyway

This past weekend, our oldest daughter, Emily, had signed up to run her first 5k with her younger sister who ended up unable to run it with her.
When I drove Emily to the race downtown, I could tell she was a little overwhelmed with the crowds, the music, and the loudspeakers. She looked at me at nervously.

“How about I run it with you?” I asked.

“Can you do that? You’re not registered.”

“We paid for your sister’s registration,” I explained. “And I have her race number. I’ll use it.”

I was already in my running shoes, so I locked all our stuff in the car trunk. I kept my phone in one hand, and held the car key in the other for safekeeping. Soon we were lined up with hundreds, the gun sounded, and we were jostling along city streets, keeping pace with one another.

I’m pretty sure she kept a slower pace for me, but the fun part was being together, enjoying the thrill of doing something challenging, running with crowds, and celebrating when we finally crossed the finish line.

After picking up our medals, drinking some bottles of water, and cooling down, I suddenly realized that I didn’t have my key in my hand! I must have put it in my pocket.

I checked but couldn’t find it. Instead, I felt a small hole where it must have slipped through. Either that or I had dropped it. We began retracing our routes through the crowds and stopped at the lost-and-found counter. No luck.

No problem, I thought. I’ll text my ever-enduring wife to drive down in the family van with a spare key.

After I sent her a message, she replied that she’d head our way soon. Then she texted again: “My keys are locked in van. Seriously.” To make matters worse, she said it would take at least an hour for road-side-assistance to show up to help her unlock her car doors.

Like the morning coolness that was evaporating in the warming sun, the buzz and excitement of our morning had quickly faded. We found a shady curb by a downtown storefront, leaned against a fence railing and waited.

I’m usually a talkative person even in bad moments, but this was one of those times where we ran out of things to talk about. I just sat in awkward silence wondering why I had ever volunteered to run this race, dreaming of air-conditioning, and aching for my morning cup of coffee.

The gloom was complete two hours later; we were finally reunited with a spare key. Neither my wife nor my daughter even teased me. I think we had resigned ourselves to reality that this was a time we’d someday laugh about, but it wasn’t happening for a while.

I suggested Starbucks, but my wife was ready for home, so Emily and I drove to the nearest location in my car. As we made our way into the store, she jokingly said, “It would be really funny if you find that key in the hem of your shorts or somewhere.”

“Yeah, right,” I said, reaching down to feel the hem just for fun. And guess what? The hole in my shorts fed into the hem, and the key had worked its way all the way to back of my leg. It had been there the whole time! I pulled it out, and we stared at each other in disbelief, and then we laughed and laughed. “No, way!” she screamed and grabbed her phone to tell her mom all about it.

Before long, we were enjoying our favorite drinks in a shady place outside the shop, watching a small flock of finches darting near a fountain. We looked at our silly medals again and chitchatted about the morning. The flock of finches began jostling and flitting our direction, slowly landing in a semi-circle around Emily’s chair. I think they expected her to share her drink. She sighed and took her phone out for photos of them.

“Like you’re a little princess, and they’re gathering around you,” I reflected.

“Yeah,” she laughed.

She took a few more photos. “You know what?” she said, looking up. “That race was so fun, I think I’m addicted. When can we do it again?”

Maybe it was the coffee kicking in. But right then, I knew that even with all the mishaps, it had been worth it. Even the awkward or more painful moments can be endured when the company along the way are people you treasure.

Such are the rhythms of life. Whether it’s at work, school, or in life–whatever journeys you are enduring or enjoying–choose to run the race anyway. It’s the ones who travel along with you that make it worth running.

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker