Saturday, November 01, 2014

When faced with a challenge, just take the next step

From today's Briefing:

I stand just inside a temporary fence. My head turns constantly, gaze moving between the time clock on the right and the runners on the left.
At last I see him, my 6-foot son, sprinting around the corner.
I holler, “Go, Cooper,” unsure if he’ll hear me above the din of other fans and the amplified announcer. I aim my camera in his direction, unsure if I can capture him as he speeds by.
His lanky legs lead him past the finish line, and I hustle to catch up, to find him in the crowd of runners and supporters.
He’s too winded to talk much. “I need to sit down,” he says between gulps of water.
So we rest, and I wait for Cooper’s breathing to regulate before I ask about details from the 5K course.
He ran faster than he’s ever run a race before. He doesn’t yet know his time, but he’s guessing it’s less than 22 minutes.
A few minutes later, we return to the fences, this time to search for Katie. This is her second 5K, and she’s set a goal to finish in less than 40 minutes.
Now there are two of us anxiously oscillating between the clock and the corner. Mom and brother in search of sister.
At last we spy her, flapping ponytail, red cheeks, determined stare.
Before I can shout, “Go, Katie,” she shouts at us. “I lost a shoe!”
She zooms past, one shoe on and one shoe off. The finish line beckons. She is seconds from 40. Seconds from her goal.
We are reunited — even trickier now than when Cooper crossed — and begin to search for the lost shoe. She thought it flew off somewhere around the corner, but there are no orphaned shoes on the course.
We walk again toward the finish line. A teenager approaches, running, shoe in hand.
“I think this is yours.” Foot and shoe are reunited.
Katie traditionally allows little to get in the way of talking. Running three miles certainly won’t stop her from spilling details.
“How did you lose your shoe?” I ask.
She explains that when she turned the corner and saw the finish line, she started running faster and ran right out of her shoe.
We find water for Katie. We all sample some free mini muffins.
Cooper walks to a tent to check his official time. He comes back with the news: 21:20. Weeks of practice have paid off. He shaved three minutes off his previous best. His time was low enough to earn him a medal in his age group.
We wait for the awards ceremony, take lots of photos, then walk to the minivan — one child with a medal around his neck, the other with a giant smile on her face.
“Do you know how I reached my goal?” Katie asks. “I set little goals for myself. I’d tell myself to run to the next sign or run to the next lamppost. Then I would do it, and then I’d make a new little goal.”
Wise words that I stored away. Just in time.
The days following the race were tough. My little world was thrown slightly akimbo by a few extra helpings of stress. There were moments when I felt a little lost.
And then my daughter’s words found me.
Set small goals. Focus less on the big picture and more on what’s right in front of you. Don’t worry about how you’re going to get from today to tomorrow.
Instead, place your energy on getting through the next 10 minutes. And then another 10.
Keep moving forward, even if you lose a little something on the way. Chances are, you’ll recover at the end, and that end represents a new beginning.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at
Cooper and Katie at the 2014 Gary Burns Fun Run

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