It was out of the blue. And it came with no trophy or medal. But it was more meaningful than most any prize I can imagine at the end of a race. The girls were gathered in their circle at the end of their Girls on the Run group. Two of my daughters are in the group, and I was filling in as a volunteer assistant coach for the afternoon.
At the end of the practice, they offer what they call 'energy' awards to members of the group to recognize their efforts during the day. The recipient gets to stand in the middle of the circle while the other girls basically salute her with a fun chant. It's perfect, and in keeping with their mission of building self-esteem and self-confidence in the girls. That's really what the group is all about. Running just happens to be the vehicle they chose to help the girls establish, and accomplish a goal. At the end of the program, the girls run a 5k with an adult partner.
I mostly watched the practice, doing what the girls were doing, as the regular coach led the workout. They did fun, 'grade school girl' type activities which they seem to enjoy as they build teamwork and trust. Eventually, they started to run laps.
But after each lap they get a little plastic bracelet to help keep track of their distance. Each lap is about a quarter mile. They also stop after every other lap to write an idea on the board for a service project they could do as a group. The idea is that they can brainstorm ideas with the other girls while they are running.
I'm pretty sure I was the only guy in the vicinity during this practice. It was all about 'girl power'. But, to their credit, they seemed to accept my filling in. So I figured the best thing I could do to help out during this time was to run with the girls. My younger daughter really wanted to part of that. I ran up to the group of girls she was running with, and Tessa politely encouraged me to run with someone else. I got the hint. This was her time with her friends.
So I ran up to my older daughter, who is 10 and a little more competitive. She was running with one of the faster girls and trying to get as many laps as possible. I half expected her to push me off as well. But, when I asked if I could run with her, she shrugged her shoulders and said, "sure, why not". Now that's affirmation.
I ran a couple laps with her and her friend. I didn't want to push my luck, or overstay my welcome, so I let them go after that. I didn't say much. This was about the girls. Their time. I don't think they were terribly interested in hearing my stories and advice about running.
Even though my kids have grown up watching me leave the house most days to go for a run, I have never pushed it on them. I would be pleased if they discover they enjoy running also, but I believe they need to discover it on their own, not because I push them into it.
And they seem to be enjoying it. I have no real idea whether they have any talent for running. It's probably in their genes. But, I believe, if they are going to pick up running or any other activity, they have to enjoy it, or it probably won't last very long.
What will last long is the feeling I got when my oldest daughter raised her hand at the end to suggest 'my dad' for an energy award for coming to the practice and running with her. I got to stand in the middle whele the girls did their chant. It was silly. But it meant the world to me. Not because I believe I earned any recognition, but because I've helped raise a kid so sensitive and thoughtful.
Running is the vehicle, but it's about so much more.
See you on the roads....................