It's a little before seven in the morning, and I have this notion of running eight laps, or 3200 meters, on the local Grantsville High School track. Out of curiosity, you could say.
Just last week at a track meet, I cheered my 16 year old sophomore daughter on that blacktop, including the 3200 meter event. She’s trying to figure out how to beat her 12-minute time, and I suggested she improve her finish kick. “Mom,” she said, “you have no idea what it’s like.” She's right, of course. I only took up running as an adult. So today I am running the track to approximate her experience.
At lap two of eight, I’m thinking how hard it is to run this elliptical course, over and over, without relief from monotony. But the track is smooth, no pebbles to roll my ankles on, no vehicles to watch for. With my cell phone, I take a picture of the bleachers against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains.
At the sight of the bleachers, steeped with memories, my run becomes less of a race for time as it feels like a futile exercise – of trying to run back the clock on my kids growing up, graduating from high school, and moving on.
My 18 year old son will graduate from GHS in a few weeks. His main sports are soccer and cross country but he ran track, too, one season. He and his younger sister will have their own memories of this track. I have mine.
From these bleachers, I watched him run the 800 meter, straight from soccer practice like he had an endless supply of legs. I sat through rain and frigid wind, cheering on my children till I was hoarse. My husband held me back once to keep me from rushing the track when someone deliberately elbowed my daughter mid-race. I watched her fight back tears from taking second and, another time, beam from taking first.
Someday, my children will move on from high school, and I will only have those and other memories to hold on to.
I look up from the track. The parking lot is filling up fast. In a few minutes, school will be in full swing and I will feel even more of an interloper. I speed up to the final stretch of my eight laps, pretending like I have a killer finish kick. As I cross the line, it hurts and feels exhilarating all at the same time. Not just my legs, but in my heart.
My kids will continue to run laps around me – through graduation, missions, college, marriage. I can about stop them as one can avoid that visceral reaction to the gunshot at race start. As much as I say I want to stop time, I don’t really want to. They will have other races to run, with more to look forward to. And I will continue to watch them with hopeful heart and fierce pride, cheering them on until they cross the next finish line.