Last

I watched the Grade 3’s to 6’s run cross-country today at Fanshawe Conservation Area. We were one of maybe twenty schools churning their guts out over hill and dale. Every race had at least one kid from home and I applauded lustily.

The surge of children flying over the first few hundred metres was spectacular … an absolute flood of power roared by me. After they’d disappeared past a grove of trees, I sauntered over to another viewing spot about halfway along the race. When the boys or girls reached this stretch, they were strung out and breathing hard.

I know me, and I know what I love to do – cheer on every kid, no matter what school they represented. So each race I clapped and exhorted from the first athlete to the last.

And there at the end were the true lessons of the day. Sure, the leaders were marvelous athletes worthy of all the praise raining down, but the true heroes trailed the pack. Exhaustion danced with embarrassment and a determination to finish. No shining medals for these folks. Usually it was just me and the high school volunteer marshals who remained on the course to cheer on the stragglers. It’s lonely being last.

I remember.

Way back in Grade 8, I was a nerdy kid who had never ventured onto a team. At Field Day in June, the principal had lined up all the Grade 7 and Grade 8 girls and boys across the wide expanse of our schoolyard for a 100 yard dash. I’d guess that there were three classes in each grade, with maybe 30 students in each. So … about 180 of us were off with the gun.

You know how this story ends. For awhile, I thought my physical weakmess and flaring acne would be the end of me. But they weren’t. I turned out just fine.

I’m with you, dear last place finishers in today’s meet. There’s a bond between us, and the path ahead is very much alive. On we go.

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