I woke up on Saturday morning hoping for a warm day.  Back in August when cold weather seemed like a distant memory I signed up for a November 5K on a whim.  Now it’s here and though we have been fortunate to have a mild month, I was prepared to bundle up.  My girls came barging in while I dressed for my run.  After Leila brought up her Kindergarten teacher’s pregnancy with twins Thea says, “Mommy, are you growing two babies!?! HaHaHa!” Before I could feign offense for Thea, Leila jumped in with, “No Thea! She just looks that way because she has such a chubby tummy!”  

I no longer had to worry about pretending to be offended.

I finished getting dressed in my running layers and headed downstairs to get the girls their breakfast. Yes, I still fed them after they trampled on my ego.  I know, mother of the year over here!  As I  walked through the messy kitchen I noticed a stench of rotten veggies from last night’s dinner that was left out on the counter.  I sighed and turned to open the fridge, out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of Zoey out the deck door.  She was standing over the biggest dead bunny I have ever seen with guts in her mouth and a detached, very unlucky rabbits foot discarded next to her.  I choked back a gag and opened the door to shoe Zoey away from her kill.  What a great start to the day.

As I laced up my running shoes and headed out the front door I noticed our caved in, rotten jack o lanterns oozing on the front steps.  Ugh.

I pulled away from the house overcome with the rotten attitude that I had developed over the course of the morning.  I was happy to escape my house and the dead bunny, dirty kitchen, oozy pumpkins and though unintentional–hurtful little girls.

I pulled in to the lot at the UI tennis courts and headed in to find the sign for the Hills Elementary School team.  This was my first experience with the Girls on the Run program, and I can’t think of a better way to turn around my rotten mood. Girls on the Run is a program that lasts for 10 weeks and is open to 3rd through 6th grade girls.  The girls have practice twice a week while they prepare themselves for a final celebration 5K  The event started with a speech from a former University of Iowa and 2012 Olympic Marathon runner.  She did a great job of encouraging all of the girls to do their best and have fun at it!

 I had run a practice 5K back in October with a couple of the girls from Hills. It was a fun experience, but it also kind of reminded me of running with my dog.  The girls wanted to stop and check everything out.  Keeping them moving proved to be a challenge and I quickly realized that this wasn’t going to be a true test of my stamina…I could hang with these girls without a problem.

On the morning of the race there was some shuffling around of running buddies and I ended up being placed with the sweetest little 3rd grader who I did not remember from the practice 5k.  Inikka is probably about the same height as Leila, so she is petite little thing.  When I introduced myself to her grandmother at the starting line I said, “She looks pretty fast, I hope I can keep up with her!” 🙂  I was kidding.  I mean, sure, she might be fast, but she is 9, how hard could it be to keep up with a 9 year old.  The Grandma responded, “Yeah, my husband likes to run and went out to the track to run with her and he couldn’t keep up!”  Ut oh. He may be a grandpa, but that was enough to make me nervous, after all I run like a grandma.  

The whistle blew and we were off!  Inikka told me that her coach says that she has a really big stride.  Her coach was right.  About a mile in I started to get nervous. Finally she slowed to a walking pace.  I sent up a silent prayer of thankfulness.  Too soon and she was ready to run again.  As we approached a big hill I asked her if we were going to run, walk or jog up that hill…”walk” she says. Praise Jesus.  about halfway up the hill is a race volunteer who gives us a cheer and that was all it took to get my little buddy fired up as she sprinted up the rest of the hill.  On the sidewalk the volunteers had written encouraging words to all of the different girls, calling them out by name over the course of the concrete trail.  Inikka stopped on a dime when she saw her name written in bright chalk.  We had to admire how cool that was, and I was thankful for another rest! 😉 We approached the last turn in the course…less than half a mile left and my buddy started to lose steam.  I finally got to feel like I was fulfilling my duties as a running buddy as I reminded her of all of her family members waiting at the finish line.  I told her that its ok to walk when we get tired, but whenever I run a race, I always try my hardest to be running when I see my family.  She told me about her siblings, and her Mom, Dad and Grandparents who were all waiting to see her come through that finish line. She hoped that her Dad would carry her to the car when she was done running…I told her that I couldn’t believe he would deny her that reward.  I could see it now, the finish line was at the bottom of a big hill.  Perfect…this girl loves to take advantage of the downhills!  I pointed it out to her and she caught her second wind and sprinted in the last quarter mile.  I ended up finishing a few seconds behind her.  I literally could not keep up!  We cross the line and a volunteer was standing by to award my buddy with her medal.  After I fetched her some cider and a post race bagel we found her proud family.  Her Dad showed her the sign that he had held up for her and she gave him the sweetest smile. I gushed to them about what an awesome job she had done.  How determined she was to keep moving.  Her competitive spirit shined through when she asked me if I had seen anyone else from her school.  When I said that I had not, her grin told me that she was basking in the glory of beating her teammates.  That’s my kind of kid.  She was an awesome running buddy and together we came in after a tough course in 35 minutes.  It wasn’t a great time for me as far as 5Ks go, but I don’t know that I could have done better on that course without her.  She was a great buddy and I left the course feeling on top of the world, for both of us.  I can’t say enough about the program, the girls or the race.  It was awesome.  I am hoping I can get Leila to run it with me next year, though the random running buddy experience was pretty special as well.  Is it weird if I drive to Hills to run with my buddy every week?

I came home to no more bunny on the deck, my sweet husband cleaning in the kitchen and hugs and congrats from my baby girls.  After chucking some rotten pumpkins into the empty lot next door my morning was deemed a total success.  Now if only I were growing two babies right now. 

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