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It was the best race of the season. The race of champions. Everything was riding on this race. The coach told all the gym teachers that the cross country team members were not allowed to do anything in class. Gavin said his class was supposed to run the track for 24 minutes. They got a mark on their arm for every lap they did. Gavin ran one lap and then was told to sit out the rest of the class period. A friend went crazy on his arm with a Sharpie. He looked like a cheetah! When he got to the racing venue the other kids saw his arm.

“You really ran that many laps today?”

Good job on psyching out the competition! Or at least giving your teammates something to think about. This was the big day. No guts no glory.

Mason was not bothered by nerves. He saw Heath taking pictures of the race start and gave him the biggest cheesiest smile. Heath had to show everybody. The coach laughed. Another mom thought it was great but was disappointed that he never smiles for her. Mason is the fastest boy in Gavin’s school. The silly smile didn’t slow him down.

We were at the same place as the Seattle-esque race a couple weeks ago. It was dusty and hot this time. Gwen still found herself a stick and played in the dirt. She tossed it once and it landed in a hole. The hill we were sitting on was full of little holes. Heath told her to watch out for the snake as she retrieved her stick. She was not amused. I was impressed that she still grabbed the stick out of the hole. Very quickly. That’s when we told her there weren’t any snakes. The holes were probably made by gophers.

I loved sitting next to the final stretch of the race the last time we were there. So we sat in the same place. I love watching the runners come around the corner and race toward the finish line. Sometimes there is a fight for position. Some kids will walk around the corner and the crowd will encourage them to keep running. “Finish strong!” Guts on the track they go for it.

There were a lot of stragglers at the end of the 6th grade boys race. One of the event officials walked onto the grass in the middle of the track. In her bull horn she yelled that it was a no walking zone.

“Get off the track! This is a no walking zone!”

A lot of us parents were looking from her to the two boys on the other side of the track and back to her again. No walking zone? I was so confused. She said it like spectators were just taking an afternoon stroll across the course. I kept looking at the boys. They were in uniforms but it was hard to tell how old they were. I finally turned to Gwen and said, “How does she know those aren’t just kids dying on the track?” Sure enough the boys walked to the final curve. Other kids had run over to them at that point and were encouraging the boys to run. Digging deep the boys found the energy to run the rest of the race. I still don’t know what that woman was trying to do. Maybe she didn’t realize the boys were part of the race. Runners are on the brink of disaster with every step. They could trip, pitch forward, or have their lungs explode at any given moment. They don’t need to be yelled at about it!

I saw a boy from Gavin’s school who ran with an inhaler in his hand. His arm was poised high ready for him to puff lung opening steroids. At that point in the race he looked like he was at a crossroads in his mind. Should he quit or dig deep? Indecision didn’t last long before his arm lowered ever so slightly and he sprinted toward the yellow caution tape. Earlier a 6th grade girl was slowing down and losing the mental battle in her own head. A teammate kept yelling for her to keep going.

“You can do it! Keep running! You’re almost there! When you finish you can get lots of good food! That’s always my motivator! I run for the food! Come on, let’s run for the food!”

The two of them ran together toward the promise of good food. The boy with the inhaler was different. He was alone in his mind. Something inside of him lit on fire. Maybe it was his lungs. Maybe it was a never say die attitude. But that boy ran. His feet found the energy to not only keep moving, but to sprint. His motivation was knowing he could breathe when he was finished.

I was impressed with the increased number of kids standing on the inside curb of the track cheering on their teammates. They ran with teammates who needed extra motivation. They encouraged every runner, regardless of school. Heath called it the Miles Effect. He believes Gavin’s team was an inspiration with the way they encourage Miles every week. Heath said in the first race Gavin’s team encouraged everyone while other teams kept to themselves. Now everyone is out there cheering on any kid willing to run the course.

Gavin’s race was my favorite though. Every meet ends with his race. This time there was an electricity in the air. A silent hum of anticipation. I heard the roar of the race beginning and strained to find Gavin among the crowd of boys. I saw Mason right up front where he always is. Gavin was not too far behind him. Already I was freaking out!

Me: He is so close to the front!
Parker: Good! I hope he keeps it up!

The first few boys started flying in. I looked across the grass and saw Gavin on the far side of the track. No way! Was that really him? He was so much closer to the front of the pack than usual. I had it all planned out in my mind what I would yell as he ran past. He came around the corner and I was clapping and yelling like crazy.

“Come on Gavin!”

That was it. In the half second it took to scream his name he was gone. I screamed from my toes. No running guts on the track for me. I can’t run but I screamed my guts out at his back.

“RUN LIKE YOU STOLE IT!!!”

All I could do was watch him get lost in the crowd. How did my baby do? I didn’t know yet but I had tears in my eyes from the primal scream cheer. Last weekend we were watching the BYU football game. Gavin is really starting to get into football. He’s fun to watch with. Usually he is not very encouraging. He’s kind of a sore winner actually. He says things like, “Welcome to the ground! You just got sacked!” It’s pretty funny. During the last game there was an awesome run play and Gavin was yelling, “Run like you stole it!” And he told me that’s a common encouragement from his coach. I told him I would say it at his next meet.

He told me he heard me.

For the last race Heath stood at the finish line next to the clock to take pictures. He said Gavin never looks at the clock to see his time. So we have to wait for his coach to get everyone’s results and send the email. Sometimes this takes a long time because there are errors and she has to sort through a huge mess of numbers. One girl was listed as a member of another team altogether in the first race. Gavin stepped across the finish line. Heath saw the clock and sent Parker running back to me with the message. The clock said 11:32! My baby just ran a 1.8 mile race in 11:32! I was freaking out! He had just PR’d like crazy. (PR=personal record) He knocked off almost two minutes from his last race that was also 1.8 miles.

At the end of the last race I saw this. The Miles Effect. As you can see, those aren’t just blue uniforms surrounding him. Kids from all sorts of schools joined the swarm that always brings Miles home. They were chanting his name around the corner. It was beautiful.

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