I haven't set foot on a track with the intent to run around it since sometime in college. Soccer fields? That's a different story. I've run around, through, across, up, and down hundreds of those gopher rut-infested grassy havens. But @ wants to run. Suddenly the track is no longer that overly prescriptive circle of monotony it once was.
Despite coming off the heels of a cold that kept me in bed all day Thursday, x and I took @ to the track on Friday after school. He wanted to race on Saturday, so I wanted to introduce him to the bounce of the all-weather surface, the concept of lanes, and the basic idea of running in circles.
Teach a four-year-old to stretch before running. It's a blast. You don't just touch your toes, you make your fingers into spiders and crawl from your knees to your toes. Deet deet deet deet. (The sound of spider toes reaching little boy toes...) We went twice around the track. He wanted to go more. I woke up at 2a with a 102 degree fever...
Saturday came. He opted out of the first race he could have run. There were more people there this week. It was overwhelming. And that was fine. But then he saw another kid run. "Hey, I'm bigger than him. I can run faster than him." So when it came time to decide whether he wanted to run the 60m, he was in. No, not just "in." IN!
We went to the infield to stretch and practice starting. I had thought they'd use a whistle instead of the starter pistol, so we practiced "Ready, set, TWEET." This was great fun. He wanted to modify it every time. "Ready, set, QUACK!" And when he counted down for x, for some reason it became "Ready, set, CHICKEN BUTT!!!" x nearly tripped over his own feet laughing out of his practice start.
I was pretty sure we couldn't get the actual meet officials to change their routine from a whistle or bang to "CHICKEN BUTT!"
He decided he wanted x at the start and me at the finish. They lined up the heats -- open and masters, high school boys, high school girls, school age. When his turn came, he put his hands on the line and got into a starting crouch in lane 1. They used the starter pistol and off he went, sharing his lane with the same little guy he watched run the 100. The two battled it out, both watching sideways as their daddies ran alongside on the infield. When he finally looked forward he saw me waiting at the finish line and completed the race actually looking forward and grinning like a Chesire Cat.
The other little guy edged him out, but it didn't matter. (Except to the other little guy who had never finished in front of another kid and was so excited to be able to say, "I beated him!!! Hey, I beated him!" Who I am I to correct the grammar of some other kid? Let alone a three year old?)
@, did you have fun? "Yeah! I ran a race!"
Damn right he did.