This story was sent to me by a great mom and friend. She gave me permission to share it.
This is the story of Athlete #643.
He was looking forward to the Have Fun? You Won! Kid’s Triathlon since last year. He was determined to do his best, finish all the legs, not give up.
The first leg of the race: swimming. He started strong, did his best freestyle stroke. He stayed with the heads of the group. He made the turn on the second lap, was coming down to start his third lap when he stopped. Leaky goggles were the culprit. He was also tired. He chatted with the teacher volunteer who would time him, received encouragement, debated if he could really do it.
The park district staff swim buddy, Carly Murray swam up, told him she’d swim with him. He nodded, did his favorite stroke: the breast stroke. His fluidity was amazing, despite the leaky goggles. Carly saw him through to the wall, turned with him, could see that he could do it and moved on to help another struggling swimmer. He finished, third from last. His mom could not be prouder. He came out of the water, dried off, held back the tears until he saw his mom and let the tears fall. She reassured him, hugged him and told her that even if he came in last, she’d still think he was the most amazing swimmer in the water.
The second leg: biking. He knew going into this leg he was not going to finish in the top three. Or the top five. But nonetheless, he was going to finish. The race began. His family cheered him on, he was already falling behind. His family walked over towards the track to watch him finish his first lap. The other bikers in his heat came and went. Finally, he made the first turn. His family cheered. A few minutes passed. The other bikers in his heat made the second lap and turned towards the finish line. His family waited for him to turn the corner, to head towards the finish line. He never came. They waited. And they waited. And they waited. Finally his mom, starting to panic asked one of the volunteers if they knew where he was. They got on the radios to determine his position, sending out the follow up car to locate him. His younger brother was starting to cry, worried that something terrible happened to his big brother. His dad went to look for him too. Finally, he rounded the corner, his dad carrying his bike with one flat tire. He knew he was still being timed, so he began to run. He heard others in the crowd cheering him on, people who didn’t even know him. His mom and little brother ran with him towards the finish line. He bent over at the waist, tired, catching his breath, knowing he had to save his energy for the last leg, the run.
The third leg: running. He was not a strong runner. His dad was standing at the start line, telling him to run the straight parts and jog the curves. Conserve energy. Do his best. He started at a slow pace, the leaders running far out ahead of him. He talked to a friend around the first curve. He decided he could run a bit faster. He remembered last year how he walked most of the run. He was determined to get a better time this year. He rounded the first lap, his family cheering him on, fully expecting him to walk the second lap. He didn’t. He kept running, picking up speed. While most runners slowed during the second lap, he picked up speed. He passed one runner, then another. His family screamed. His mom could feel the tears prick in her eyes. He rounded the last curve, really picked it up, and ran his hardest as they crossed the finish line. He came in 9th out of 14th on the run. He couldn’t have been more proud of his personal best.
Walking back to the car, his mom gave him a hug. She told him how sorry she was for all of the mechanical issues he had that day. He told her it didn’t matter.
It didn’t matter that he didn’t place in the top three. Or the top five.
He had fun.