I ran my first 5K of the year on Saturday. It was a good day, cool and overcast. The run was a fundraiser for the International School of Louisiana and the course was around Zephyr Field and through LaSalle Park. Since it was a school-sponsored race, the runners included many children, teens, parents with and without strollers, and grandparents. Random runners like me, just happy to have a start and a finish line, filled out the crowd.
We took off in a bunch, but soon the real runners left us joggers and walkers way behind. My “run” pace is little more than a jog. Many people really actually walk faster than I run. I am OK with this. In my view, just making it through 5 kilometers and finishing with all joints still working and a smile on my face is victory.
So I set off on my usual pace alone. I do pass a few people in the early part of these races, but they usually end up ahead of me. About a half mile in, I found myself blocked by three teen girls walking. Had to “beep beep” them out of the way. They eventually sped up and passed me, never to be seen again.
After about another half mile a young girl pulled up next to me. I said “Hi,” and remarked that she had some really cool shoes – turquoise and lime green Nikes. “I bet they are really good for running,” I said. She kept on right beside me.
After a while I told her she could go on ahead if she wanted. She said, “No, my feet hurt.” I thanked her for staying with me. I said I didn’t know if I would make it without her.
I expected that this young girl would either drop back, to be with her mom, or sprint ahead. But she didn’t. Her name is Mikyelah, and she is in second grade. Her legs are much shorter than mine. She could walk a few steps, then shuffle into a jog, and keep up perfectly with my plodding.
We approached the finish line and a glance at my watch told me this was either a really short 5K or I was missing a loop. Turns out we had to go through the finish gate, and continue FOR ANOTHER MILE!!!
Believe it or not, Mikylah continued with me. She could have dropped out easily at that point.
We talked about our favorite playground activities and how thirsty we were, and how I never ran that far when I was her age. And before too long, we were back at the finish line for good. She finished just in front of me.
I was truly thankful for her 40 minutes of companionship. At the end, we got water to celebrate and she waited a long time before her mom came in.
What made her do that for me? I was just a random stranger with a neon orange shirt and a thankful spirit. Can I be that encouraging for someone else this week simply by running alongside faithfully?