This fall, I have two main things on my to-do list every weekend: Do whatever the Dunbar Marching Band is doing, and do whatever the Dunbar Cross Country Team is doing. (Number One Son doesn’t want us doing whatever he’s doing on weekends and I’m sure I’d be out of my league anyway.)
Last weekend was no exception. On Saturday morning I went to Richmond, Kentucky, for a cross country invitational, held at a Civil War battlefield (not to be confused with the Civil War battlefield in Richmond, Virginia . . . the Internet can be so misleading . . . ). My son Jack ran his first varsity race since joining the cross country team this year. He did awesomely - 18:50 for a 5K. Not too shabby for a 400 runner.
As a parent-spectator-picture taker-coffee drinker at these meets, I have a pretty easy job. My biggest challenge is trying to find something meaningful to say as the runners run by. Since we’re new to the team, I don’t know all the kids names yet, so I try to stand next to another parent and when she yells, “Go, Dan!” I yell, “Go, Dan!” If I’m standing alone or among the enemy parents, I find myself yelling, “Go - - Nicole, I mean - Ashley, uh, I mean Go Samantha - ack - Go, you Dunbar girl!”
In an attempt to sound like I know what I’m doing and the type of parent who truly does care about the place in which my kid crosses the finish line, I try to add a little tough edge to my voice, but I don’t carry it off very well. I sound like I’m going to soon cry, my voice cracks and the words are all wrong.
“Just pass that one kid, at least!” I yelled once. The other parents looked at me with disdain. “I didn’t mean it in a bad way,” I tried to explain. “I meant, just try to pass one kid at a time, you know . . .”
One time I yelled, “Good job! You’re almost there!” not realizing that there was another mile-long loop before they headed to the finish line. “Oops! Never mind!” I shouted weakly. Good thing they don’t listen to a word I say anyway. I could be reading the Gettysburg Address for all they care.
Really, I think it’s amazing that anyone genetically linked to me could run so fast for so long. Both of my sons are running machines. They start running and they just don’t stop. Not if they’re tired, not if it’s getting dark, not if it’s pouring down rain.
They have the whole runner thing down. They look good in the shortest shorts since the 1970 NBA, they can spit a 10-foot arc while running around a curve without hitting themselves in the face, and they hardly ever throw up after a race.
Those’re my boys!