Tomorrow is the Viking Voyage, an annual fun run for students at the kids' elementary school. Throughout the year, members of the running club meet after school twice a week. Those who attend a minimum number of practices get to participate in the race.
Last year Archer ran the one mile option, and I ran with him. I was so new to running at the time that I remember being quite anxious about my ability to go the distance. One mile may not seem like much, but for someone like me that could make it at most a couple of laps around the track before stopping to walk, it counted as an extended outing.
This year Archer decided from the outset that he wanted to try for the 5K. I knew I would have to step up my training to be able to do it with him. And even though I've managed the 5K distance only once in my workouts over the past several months, I know that the 3 mile range is well within my capacities and feel confident that the extra distance can be covered on race day.
Having been through it once last year, I now know what to expect. The whole school lines the start/finish chute to cheer on the runners. While they're out on the course, the various grades do various dances like the Macarena and (new this year!) the Thriller. The teachers all get together to do the Electric Slide. Each grade makes signs encouraging specific runners. When the competitors approach the finish line, they get a huge welcome.
Archer and I will be going all the way to the end of the course and back. It's likely to take us 40 minutes, which is a long time for the other kids to stand around doing the Chicken Dance. I imagine we'll stop for a water break halfway through, but I'm hoping that will be our only walking interval. Nevertheless, I'm confident that we'll find our way to the finish line before the crowd dissipates. We may be exhausted -- it's forecast to be the warmest day of the young spring, with temperatures in the lower eighties -- and we may be slow, but we'll meet our goals and Archer will get his well-earned reward.
What I like about the Viking Voyage is that everyone is treated as a winner. It's not one of those "everybody gets a trophy day" deals where just existing is treated as a reason for praise. No, the runners had to show dedication throughout the year to be eligible for the race, and they had to show their ability to go the distance to get approval to run the 5K. Then they have to go out and perform -- not to beat their opponents, but to challenge themselves. I think that's a great reason to celebrate every single one of them. Having the whole school screaming their names as they cross the finish line is a tremendous high.
By making the race into a schoolwide event even though only a small subset of the students are running, the administration holds the runners up as examples for their classmates -- not for innate talent, but for committing themselves and following through. It's a celebration of merit without pitting kids against each other competitively. I love that Archer is a part of it, and I hope Cady Gray joins in her turn when she's old enough for running club. The fact that it provides me with motivation to stay fit and keep my endurance up is a nice bonus, too.