Monday, November 3, 2014

Winning and Losing

  Running has been a monumental part of our children's growing up years.  With the exception of Grant, who chose to pour his energy into wrestling, they've all been running competitively since they entered middle school. My heart swelled Saturday morning as I watched Brock prepare for his sectional race, which marks the eleventh consecutive sectional that our children have competed in.

Both running and wrestling have blessed our lives immeasurably, teaching our children self discipline, mental toughness and the value of hard work and dedication. We have watched our children run through extreme heat and humidity, rain, sleet, snow and gusting winds. Our children have ran more miles than I can begin to tally.  They have known great triumphs and great disappointments.

 While running is, as a whole, an individual sport.  There is also a team aspect to it that most are unaware of.  This year we saw the importance of pulling together as a team as never before. Cross country is the only sport that I know of where teams compete for the lowest score.  It's simple really.  Hundreds of kids line up at the starting line and points are scored by whatever place you finish.  The first place finisher scores 1 point for his team, the 150th finisher scores 150 points.  The team score is the sum of the team's top five finishers.  Each of those top five runners is critical to the team.  The top five teams with the lowest scores advance to the state meet that will be held next week. The state meet is the climax of every cross country season, where all of the best runners in the state come together in one huge race.  It's a culmination of months of hard work.

This year our team endured a devastating blow when our number two runner suffered a broken bone in his foot last week. So it is that, as the team prepared for Saturday's meet, tensions were high.  Each runner bearing the burden of the rest of the team.  Each runner knowing that they had to step it up to make up for the points lost without our number two runner. Each runner knowing they had to run the fastest race of their life to pull their team to the state meet.

The tension was nearly palpable as our team prepared for the start of the race on a cold but beautiful Novemeber morning.  Tears formed in my eyes, knowing that my days as a cross country parent our quickly drawing to an end. Jim and I have watched and cheered and loved this sport as middle school, high school and college level parents.  

Our kids ran hard but they missed the mark, finishing with a team standing of sixth place by a mere five points.  For the first time in many years, Jim and I will not stand along the sidelines as parents of one of the state runners.  Still, I can't think of a time when I have ever been more proud of one of my kids.  Brock closed out this season by taking nearly 20 seconds off of his previous best time.  It was a cold day, which often causes stiff muscles and slower times.  Additionally, the course is known for slower times because of many hills.  But Brock fought hard.  The whole team fought hard.  The disappointment over not advancing to state was great but I am so proud of these young men.

And Brock?  There is nothing to not be proud of when one gives their all.  We couldn't ask anything more of him.  He dug down deep inside of himself and found that he there was room for improvement.  He found that he had a little more to give for his team and a coach who has helped to mold and shape him. A coach who loves his runners, who mentors them, not just to be better runners but to be better human beings.

His smile at race's end was one of great dignity.  It was a smile that said, "I didn't win and that's okay.  I gave my best." Sometimes I think there is more to be learned from not winning than from winning.

Running is so much like life.  We're all in  a race.  Sometimes we win.  Sometimes we don't.... and that's okay.  Sometimes it hurts so bad but the pain makes us better.  We keep fighting, even when we have nothing left to give.  We dig down deep inside of ourselves to find there's still more. It's about finishing the course with dignity. And winning or losing, God give us grace for it all.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. Do your best to come to me soon.
II Timothy 4:7-9

God is good, all the time

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