When we crawled in to bed Friday night, I told Sam the forecast said there might be rain and thunder at start time. "Awwwwww," he said "I want to run the 5K. Will they still have the race if there is rain?" I told him rain, yes, but thunderstorms no.
And when I got up early to eat some breakfast and drink a little coffee before waking Sam, the rain was coming down pretty hard. The radar showed rain continuing to move in for several hours, but the race website said the race was still on and volunteers were waiting for runners to pick up their race packets. TT and her sisters started milling around drinking coffee and laughing about what body parts hurt, and as Sam got his shoes on I explained to Grandma where the race was and how to get there. The rain was coming down in sheets as Sam and I pulled out of the garage and headed north in to town and I really didn't expect the race would go as scheduled.
Within a few miles of our drive the rain stopped, and as we maneuvered through the roundabout near the cemetery, Sam spotted a patch of blue sky to the west. I texted Mom that the skies in town were clear and we parked within walking distance of the finish line before heading over to the start. We stepped around large deep puddles everywhere and Sam was excited and nervous as the Star Spangled Banner broadcast near Lake Lodge. But as soon as he saw Scott and fistbumped him at the starting line, Sam calmed a little and told me he wanted to run by himself, told me he didn't need me to stay by him. They announced that only the fastest runners should be up near the start so we meandered back a ways and lined up near some old neighbors from Trempealeau before the starting gun exploded and Sam was off in to the crowd and running on his own. I had intentionally dressed him in a bright unique color so I could find him in the crowd, and I watched him fighting to pace himself (as we had practiced) rather than sprinting, and by about mile 2 I was sure I'd never catch him. When he turned to look around behind him just before the route crossed Huff again, I waved and he was already starting to walk. From Huff we ran/walked together, me giving him short goals... just thirty steps then you can walk again, just to that big tree, just to that sign... We had passed Lake Lodge and were circling around near the finish when we saw TT and Aunt Nancy and Aunt Judy (and Eva, who jumped in and started running with me) standing in the grass alongside the race path, and Sam kicked it in to high gear and finished strong. His first full 5K. Followed by much celebration and fistbumping and highfiving with Scott and TT and the aunts.
45 minutes later he lined up to do the kids race while I stood with Eva in the 4-year-old staging area. Sam had asked me if he could walk the whole thing and still get a medal, and I told him yes. So I shouldn't have been surprised when I was standing there after all the other 7-year-olds had finished the kids race watching for Sam to stumble across the finish for his medal.
Eva and I lined up and she insisted she wanted me to run with her right up until the Ready-Set-Go. And she was off in a flash and didn't look back. She was confident and proud and determined to win, and I cut across the grass to see her come in at the finish, her smile big and proud as TT and the aunts high-fived her and cheered her on.
What a beautiful morning filled with sunshine and laughter and family and friends. Sam didn't understand why he didn't get a medal for being the 2nd 7-year-old to finish the full 5K but he got a medal for finishing the kids race last. I told him that races don't always make sense and it's not about the medals and the place you finish anyway. It's about getting out there doing it, setting a goal and finishing. I told him I was very proud of him.
"When can we do it again?!" he smiled.