My father would enter running races every summer and encouraged us to as well.
I hated the idea of running it seemed like a pointless activity. But for some reason Missy wanted to do it.
So I told him to sign us up. Already my stomach churned. I knew we would have to run in front of a
crowd and they would watch us sizing up who we were.
The day of the race we woke up early. I started to feel a little excited at the prospect of winning a trophy.
I had never won anything my older sister would win every coloring contest or raffle we entered. On the ride
over my father tried to explain the theory of how to win a race and used the metaphor of the tortoise and the hare.
“Now girls when you start pace yourself and right when the others think they’ve got it in the bag
thats when you give it everything you have.” Missy listened intently as I rolled my eyes at the use of a
very tired old metaphor.
My father left us at the road where we would race. They had flavored drinks and pretzels for us to eat
while we waited. First up was the kindergarten through 4th grade, there were only five kids in the bunch
and of course the eldest boy won.
The smallest kid kept stopping and looking back at his parents who yelled “Run, run forward Fenster”
He finally gave up and sat on the concrete picking at a scab on his knee.
Then it was our turn the 5th - 8th graders were up. I looked at the other runners and thought
I had no chance. Missy and I were goners.
She smiled as usual and kept jabbering on and on about how she was going to win this race. Her clear dirty glasses
were way too large for her face and even today after she had taken a long bubble bath at our house she smelled.
“Yeah, Missy you have just a good as chance as any of these kids.” I said
We all lined up at the chalk line and the ref screamed
“On your Mark get set ....GO!”
We were off. I felt my legs pushing, hitting the concrete and it felt great.
I started to imagine myself standing on the wooden crates they set up for the awards
ceremony smiling my father all proud.
Somehow Missy was right beside me panting "I can't do this."
I softly said ” Keep your pace.” and she did. Then as we rounded the corner it was me and her the
rest were far behind.
Soon we heard people shouting with excitement and saw them at the finish line.
I kept my pace and pulled back a bit, she hit the red line and jumped up awkwardly not knowing what to do.
Then everyone started congratulating her and a swirl of people started patting her on the back. Her large glasses
disappeared in the mass of people. I looked around and moved off to the side without even realizing it but I felt great.
At the ceremony my father stood next to Missy, he was geniunely proud of her.
On the drive home Missy gloated worse than anyone I had ever seen.
She was now talking about training for the Olympics.
“Thats a thought” I said sort of annoyed.
She went on “I think next year I’m going to enter the 5k with the adults. I know I can beat them all!”
“Sure, sure you can” said my father.
Then I saw it there in that car with Missy and my father. She smiled and laughed even though her father was
an emotionally distant drunk, and her mother had left them for a different life.
I saw it and I was glad to know at such a young age...no matter what you did this was going to be hard.
This, the simple little things like a stupid kid race or a car ride home.
There was some sort of peace in that simple awareness.