|Megan being Beautiful|
Her grandparents, Tony and Joy, have become my adopted grandparents. We met over a desperate stray cat named Leo (now living with the Sawyers... no longer desperate and quite a self-satisfied fatty). Last night I got an email from Tony asking me about Megan's Middle School District Track meet, which I was at on behalf of Route 16 and also because I knew there was going to be some major running drama and being a writer and a girl I love drama. Yup.
Last week, Megan and her mama Vanessa stopped by Route 16 to see if Boss Miguel had any running tips for Megan for the District Meet. Megan is a sprinter, and it turns out, a damn good one. But she'd never been able to beat a schoolmate of hers named Troye. Both of these two girls were poised to win the 100 meter sprint. Win, lose, or draw, it was going to be a close race. From behind the counter I watched Megan listening to Miguel. He talked to her about race-day preparation. Warming up. Nutrition. Adjusting the starting block. Power. Megan didn't say much. But you could tell she was taking in every word that he said. You could see the hunger in her eyes. The fire. In a lot of ways Miguel and Megan are kindred spirits. They both endured childhood hardships, Megan with her diabetes, and Miguel... well, we'll get to him in a later post but let me assure you right now his story is a great one with lots of agony, suffering, and hardship.
Race day arrived, cold and wet. There was nearly an hour delay before the first event. The kids shivered in their shorts and singlets, their muscles visibly tight and cold.
I saw Megan a couple of times before her race. I asked her to point out Troye. Now I'm sure Troye is a lovely girl (and I believe that she and Megan are good friends), but I couldn't help it, when no one was looking I narrowed my eyes at her, even though I am supposed to be a grown up who sets a good example for teens.
"Don't worry about winning," I told Megan. "You just worry about running your own best race. It's okay to feel nervous. You WANT to feel nervous. The adrenaline will help you run faster."
Megan nodded and smiled. Her face was pure excitement.
I was the nervous one.
I took my place at the sidelines to watch. Megan was practically bouncing up and down, so eager was she to be running. The starter fired his gun. The sprinters exploded off the blocks. I screamed as hard as I could, fully believing that my voice possessed a magical power that would somehow help Megan to run even faster.
|And they're off!|
It was a close race, with some serious see-sawing, and from where I was standing I couldn't see which girl actually crossed the finish line first. Then Megan turned towards the crowd and I caught her eye. I shrugged my shoulders in a question, and raised first two fingers, then one. Tentative. Hopeful.
She raised one finger. You could tell she was trying not to grin. Now it was my turn to jump up and down. She'd done it. She'd won the race. She'd won first place at Districts. She'd outrun a very worthy competitor. Most importantly, she'd beaten her expectations of herself.
I saw her mama afterwards and we debriefed the race, both of us stupid proud. Vanessa told me that Troye's time was a little slower than usual. Was this why Megan had won? she wondered. And was Troye okay? (being the kindhearted person that she is, Vanessa was worried about Megan's friend).
Here's what I think happened. It is my belief that when it comes to running, early suffering gives you a competitive advantage. You know how to endure. You already have experience with beating the odds. I know what I saw before the race even started. Megan listened to every word Miguel said. She prepared. Even before she took her place on the starting block, Megan was acting like she'd already won the race. The actual running of it was merely a detail. I think it was her confidence and excitement that psyched Troye out. Never doubt for a second that running is a mental game.
|Proud Mama and Papa (talking to Tony and Joy after the finish)|
Here's what Tony wrote in his letter to me:
"Maybe you can tell me something. Megan was obviously running at a higher level that day. Do you think that this was because she decided to open the throttle wider or was it in response to some coaching detail from Miguel or you? I think it's interesting with people of this age to know 1. Did they listen? 2. Did they listen and understand and 3. Did they listen and apply?"
Hope this answers your questions, Tony!
Here's one other thing I'd like to add. Obviously, winning is exciting (and not something I know a whole lot about). But the great thing about running is that even if you finish dead last in a race (which I have) you're way ahead of the game. You win by stepping over the starting line. The rest is gravy.