Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lion Walk 2011

apprehensive Paige
Three weeks ago my kids participated in the Lion Walk at their school.  Of course I intended to blog about the fun event hours after it happened, but the blog in my head kept morphing from “today” to “yesterday” to “a few days ago,” and then off my radar screen completely.  I had given up on writing about it, but then the kids came home from school yesterday with Part Two and I knew I needed to write this story.

The Lion Walk is a fundraiser hosted by the parent group at our school.  The kids raise money by asking for a dollar pledge per lap that they run/walk around the high school track in a specified amount of time on the day of the event.  I love this event because it forces all the kids, even the non-athletic ones, to get out on the track and get moving.  It whets their appetite for racing because they get to run on a real track in front of cheering fans.  They compete against each other but also against themselves to see just how far they can run in the allotted time.  What’s not to love?

Paigey and I running together
My kids ran back to back to back to back.  Paige and Alli’s classes ran for twenty minutes.  Grant and Katie’s classes ran for twenty-five minutes.  I ran along with each of them, slowly accumulating mileage and ended up logging just over 8 miles by the time all was said and done.

Paige was the first to run.  She and I have stood on the sidelines for the last two years watching her older sibling run in this event.  Neither one of us could believe she was actually old enough to be participating on her own!  When her teacher marched her adorable class of 5-year-old kindergartners out onto the track, Paige was visibly nervous.  She warmed up when she saw me though and happily posed for pictures.  Paigey might look angelic and fragile, but she is a quiet warrior. 

Paigey after she finished running
She ran and ran and ran.  Her little cheeks turned bright red like they always do when she gets hot.  At each checkpoint she stopped and stood proudly while the parent volunteer marked off another lap.  When she got tired, she walked but she always started running again quickly.  We counted backward to the finish – 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-0 and then high-fived each other and counted up her laps.  Sweet Paigey ran six laps around the high school track (1.5 miles) in 20 minutes and she did it all with a HUGE smile on her face.  I don’t know who was more proud – me or her – but she sure looked irresistible heading back to her classroom with her flushed face and huge smile.

Running with Alli
Next came Alli’s 2nd grade class.  I think Alli’s main goal was to do the opposite of what I wanted.  The more I encouraged her to run, the slower she ran and the more she walked.  I realized pushing her would be an exercise in frustration so we both adjusted our attitudes.  I let her set a very lazy pace and we lollygagged around the track – 7 times in 20 minutes.  It was hard to know what to say to her at the finish.  “Good job” and “great effort” weren’t true.  “That was fun” was a stretch in honesty.  I settled on, “I love you Schnookie.  It was great to see you,” and sent her off with a hug.

Love you Schnookie!
What Alli lacked in motivation, Katie more than made up for.  Her 4th grade class came next and it was obvious, even from a distance, that Katie was pumped for the Lion Walk.  Fully animated and excited, she lit up when she saw me.  Last year Katie ran ten laps in twenty-five minutes.  She really wanted to beat that this year and set a goal for herself of 11 laps.   To accomplish this goal, she needed to maintain close to a 9:30 minute per mile pace.  It seemed improbable with zero training, but Katie is one tough cookie mentally.  I had my Garmin on and we set out at an aggressive pace.  While we ran she talked through her strategy, and I made it my goal to help her achieve hers.  She kept up a 9:00 minute mile for the first few laps and then started to get tired.  Her pace began to slow.  She was hot.  Her feet hurt.  Her legs were tired.  She was thirsty.  She acted like she wanted to stop running and walk, but her heart told her to keep going.  I talked her through the physical pain into the place of mental clarity you get when you run for distance.

run Katie run!
We set small goals and threw little parties when we reached them.  I showed her how to change her mental thinking from, “I can’t run anymore,” to “I can do anything for one minute.”  Then say it again.  We quoted Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” and then repeated it over and over.  We took short walking breaks when she really didn’t want to run another step.  We prayed for strength and stamina.  She ran.  I encouraged.  When the horn buzzed, sweet Katie had run her way to 11 laps (2.75 miles)!  We hooped and hollered and took pictures.  I tried not to be the Mom Who Cries Over Everything Amazing Her Child Does, but I couldn’t help how proud I was of my girl.  She set a goal, gave it her all, and achieved it.  I couldn’t stop smiling. 
So proud of you Kaitlin!

Grant’s 5th grade class came on the heels of Katie’s class. Last year Grant and Katie tied on the distance run and Grant wasn’t happy about it.  His three goals for this year’s Lion Walk were:  beat Katie, run more than ten laps, and run the whole time without walking.  Grant, like Katie, had not trained at all for this event, but he has been playing football for two months and the conditioning showed.  He started out at an aggressive pace but realized his mistake and quickly slowed to a realistic pace. Little by little, he chipped away at those laps.  We circled and circled the track, getting sweatier and more tired with every lap. 

Running with Grant
He hit the wall around lap 9 and started complaining.  His feet hurt.  His legs were tired.  He was hot and thirsty.  It was déjà vu.  My Sweet Boy and I went through the same exercise that Katie and I went through.  I talked him through the pain and into that sweet mental spot where you think you can do anything you set your mind to.  He whined a lot, but he never stopped running.  When the horn buzzed to end the event, Grant had run TWELVE laps (3 miles), beat Katie and managed to run the entire time.  We high-fived, hooped, hollered, took pictures and I tried not to cry.  It was an epic day.

When the kids got off the bus that afternoon they were talking over each other at me, re-living the excitement of the day.  Alli stood back listening and watching and I didn’t even have to say, “Don’t you wish you would have tried?”  Grant and Katie’s pride in what they had accomplished spoke for itself.

What a great job Sweet Boy!
Fast forward to yesterday.  All three of the big kids came piling off the bus yelling excitedly and running for home.  It was hard to make out what they were saying but I finally deciphered Alli over the others.  She was yelling, “Katie won the Lion Walk!  Katie won the Lion Walk!”  Apparently there are prizes given to the kids in each grade who run the farthest distance and Katie’s eleven-lap performance tied her for first place with a few other 4th graders.  At the assembly her name was called and she got to walk in front of the entire school to claim her certificate making her PE Teacher for two hours.  She was beaming with pride! 

Even better, Alli was too.  I was so touched by how thrilled Alli was at Katie’s success.  Alli told me all about the assembly and how exciting it was to hear her sister’s name get called.  Alli concluded the story by saying, “If I would have known there was prizes and stuff, I totally would have tried hard instead of walked slow just to bug you.  Next year I’m going to run really hard and fast.”  If Alli says it, she’ll do it.  Be forewarned Mable Rush students and staff.  Alli is out to win next year. 

Grant’s reaction was opposite of Alli’s.  Two other boys in his grade edged him out for 1st place by one measly lap.  He had given it his all and it wasn’t enough for the prize. We hugged and wiped away tears and then I pointed out how outstanding his performance was.  Winning isn’t what matters most, although it sure is fun.  What matters most is giving everything you do 100%.  Grant had done that and I reminded him how proud I was of his effort.  His face brightened, we fist bumped his second place victory, and headed inside for a snack.

I am so grateful for the lessons my kids learned by participating in the Lion Walk.  I can hardly wait for next year.  Thanks Mabel Rush for a banner day and thanks Summer Neiss for the awesome pictures of me running with the kids.  That was a real treat!

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