My mom has been a GOTR coach for the past year at her school. When she offered up the opportunity to “buddy run” with one of her girls, I jumped at the idea. I think the GOTR program is great for instilling confidence, self esteem, resilience, and coping strategies in young girls. And what better way to teach life lessons than through running? The program culminates each Spring with a 5K in which all the participating programs in the area race their 5k.
I was paired up with a girl that we’ll call “C” that is a 5th grader. My mom paired us together because as she so eloquently put it, “It will be like two big trees running together!” What she meant: we’re both twin towers of power. As a buddy runner, it was our job to be a coach and cheerleader for the girls in order to help them through what may be their 1st ever 5K.
“C” told me she had 2 goals for the race: 1) She didn’t want to walk since she had never completed a race without doing so and 2) She wanted to run a 25 minute race. Knowing that her previous best was a 28:00 5K, I knew better than to try and pace her to that. Instead, I told her our main objective would be to 1) Have lots of fun and 2) No walking.
The gun went off for the race to begin and a slow procession of runners left the Walsh Track. The start was SO congested. Walkers were all over the place. “C” said to me at this point: “I don’t want to go this slow!” I encouraged her to just go with the traffic jam and get around what people we could, assuring her that once we were onto the main road we could pick up steam. We probably lost about 1:30-2:00 during this time of her usual pacing. Once out onto the main road, we were able to pick up speed and start weaving our way up.
“C” felt good. She said, “I really like this pace we are doing!” She told me of her practices for GOTR, the lessons learned, and her practice 5K which was done on an 85 degree day. I said to her, “Think of how much better this weather is today!” She agreed. “C” started to get tired around 1.5 miles. She requested to slow down multiple times, which I gladly obliged. We would slow down for about 20-30 seconds and then resume our pace. We hit the water stop and after watching “C” almost choke on her water, I taught her a very important racing lesson: how to pinch a water cup. She thought it was awesome.
“C” really started to struggle. She was tired and her breathing was becoming a little heavier. I kept telling her she was doing awesome and that she and her other classmates were an inspiration. We were so close to being done. I kept telling her that we needed to use our “long leg power” to “power up the hills”.
We were so close to being finished. “C” hadn’t walked once. She was doing amazing. The finish line of the track was within site. I told her that once we hit the light pole at the edge of the track curve, we were going to run as hard as our long legs could go. She said she had been saving energy so she could sprint across the finish line. This was her final goal. We hit the light pole and “C” took off before I was even ready. She was absolutely flying. I tried to keep up with her so that we could finish together. That didn’t happen. Neither did the Rock Star Hands we had planned on doing across the finish line.
I should note that my Garmin splits may seem off from our final time. I started my watch not at the gun, but from the point that we actually started to move forward a little. That start was just so congested, I didn’t want “C” to get frustrated with her splits.
“C”: 29:13 (9:25/mile 23/381 in age group)
“Eli”: 29:14 (9:25/mile 10/79 in age group)
If you look behind the girl in the bright yellow, the girl in the blue shirt is “C” coming to finish
Would I do this race again? Totally. In a heartbeat. There is something so touching about being there for someone to accomplish their goals. “C” finished her 5k. She didn’t walk. And she finished with a smile on her face. She immediately ran off to tell her family that she didn’t walk at all. I hope that next year I can help be there for another young runner to reach her goals.