So, if you follow this blog, you know our entire family took part in the Bull City Race Fest this weekend.

My wife and daughter did the 1 mile fun run and had a blast! As Erin tells the story they trotted hand in hand for about 1200 M in the thick of the crowd. Then they made the final turn.

When Lil Bit spotted the finish line she looked at Erin, smiled, dropped Erin’s hand and took of sprinting! It sounds to me like they raced all out in a mad dash for the Finish line. I’m guessing Lil Bit got caught up in the crowd of fans and volunteers cheering her on to the line! Kinda wish I’d been there to see it.

However, Whirwlind and I did the 5-mile run which began 15 or minutes prior to the 1 miler. You know what? The boy beat me! He smoked me by about 40 seconds. If I hadn’t required him to run at my pace over most of the course, he would have thumped me by a much wider margin.

It was a very interesting parenting experience. The whole time we were running I was wrestling with wanting to cut him loose and wanting to keep him close. It was the classic internal parent battle. At what point do you trust that what you’ve taught them will serve them well and let them explore and discover on their own?

It was obvious from the start that Whirlwind wanted to run harder and faster than I was prepared to do. At first, I didn’t think much of it. I was certain that after a mile or two he’d gas out and settle into my pace. He never did.

For four plus miles, Whirlwind kept surging ahead again and again. He’d find a lane in the foot traffic, dash into it and take every inch of open space that he could. He was trying to pull me along at his pace. I’d let him go awhile, but then it would get tough to keep sight of him in the sea of people.

Each time, I called him back to me telling him, “there are way too many people out here, Bud. You’ve got to stay where I can see you. Just so I know you’re safe. You don’t know the route and I don’t want us to get separated.” That was true and somewhat valid, but it wasn’t the whole truth. Part of my reason for keeping him close was more selfish.

For weeks leading up to the run, I had this dream, this vision of crossing the finish line side by side with my boy. I had replayed it over and over in my head. We’d cross the line, I’d scoop him up in a hug and I’d carry him off the course and we would go celebrate our accomplishment together. If I set him loose, then that dream was shot. There wouldn’t be any shared Finish Line celebration.  I struggled with that for quite a while. Finally I realized there was a more important dream at stake.

For weeks, Whirlwind has been training after school with his PE teacher and schoolmates preparing for this run at running club. He had his own dream and expectations about how this day was going to go. He was convinced that we could maintain eight minute miles for the entire 5 mile course. His goal on the day was to complete the race in 40 minutes or less. Running with his dad, there was no way that would happen. But during the last mile, I realized that he really had so much more to give to that race and he deserved the chance to really test himself and see what he could do.

Ultimately, I cut him loose with about 1000-1200M left to go on the course. I didn’t feel right holding him in check any longer. It would have been selfish to continue to do so. So I reeled him back into me one more time and I told him, “Just go Whirlwind. Run as hard as you want to the Finish Line!”

He gave me this incredulous smile that asked me without speaking, “you’re serious?” I gave him a wink and a nod and told him, “go. See ya at the Finish Line.” He never looked back. Seeing my son have the confidence and energy at the age of ten to dash off and give the race his maximum effort was just awesome.  It’s a good thing I was dripping sweat from every pore. No one could tell I was wiping away tears.

After I crossed the finish line, I was grabbing a bottle of water and a banana before trying to find Whirlwind in the crowd. A woman tapped me on the shoulder, “I was running near you two the whole race, Dad. That was really awesome the way you let him go at the end. Great job.” I just smiled and thanked her.

I’d love to tell you that Whirlwind was standing there looking for me at the finish line. That he jumped into my arms and shared that hug I was dreaming of, but I already told you what happened at the finish line, so you know.  The reality of trying to find a 10 year old among a crowd of 3,000 people set in. We never intended to get separated, so we never made a concrete plan to reconnect (Daddy oversight). There was no need to worry. I found him in a matter of moments. Whirlwind used his common sense.

He was sitting alongside the ID Check table where adults go to get their wrist bands for their complimentary beer. (He knows his father well.) After that we had to find his mother and sister and there were other logistics that required attention.

Later in the day, after things had quieted down I got a few moments to sit with Whirlwind and talk about our race. We both agree that it was something pretty special and he gave me one of the best hugs I can remember in a long long time.