I joke that Jenn Shelton is my Spirit Animal. I’ve read Krissy Moehl’s book and watch her TedXTalk on repeat. I follow Anna Frost on Twitter. I read Julie Koepke’s blog, and have gotten to write for Gina Lucrezi. I absolutely love the women of this sport. However, my ultimate running hero is a dude.
He has locks more glorious than Jurek and a smile to rival Walmsley. At only 17, he has won trail 10ks, placed in half-marathons, both on and off the road, and finished the brutal Bandera 25K. He placed 3rd overall in a 3 hour event. I’ve been blessed to follow almost his entire career, and I’m even more blessed, because he calls me mom.
My son is my running hero. He runs with that perfect combination of cheetah-on-the-hunt and puppy-at-the-park. His eyes are fierce, but his laugh is infectious. Last night, he got a PR at his track meet, and I have never seen dimples so deep. What I love most about watching him run, though, is his passion for supporting others. In his laughing eyes, I see the fire that Chris McDougall spoke of when describing Arnulfo and Jurek. At 17, he has already realized that running unites people, that is saves people emotionally, and that his own running has a greater purpose than left foot, right foot, repeat.
We run with a mentoring group for youth, and while my son is technically a youth, he is one of our best “mentors”. Even though he could be running faster times, at the front of the pack, he chooses to stay back and run with others. He helps other kids see their potential, not only in running, but in life. He has gotten other kids to open up about their problems, and has even saved an 8 year old from bonking at a 25K. It took a few 30 minute miles, but he got that 8 year old moving enough to finish Bandera. (Also, can we acknowledge the epic badassery of an 8 year old finishing Bandera? Is it ok to call an 8 year old a badass? I’m going to say yes.)
He’s also acted as inspiration and savior to two of my races. At the BCS Marathon this past December, after he finished his own half-marathon, he met me at mile 23 to run me in. He joked the entire time to keep me distracter, and even posted pics of us to his Facebook page, saying he was proud of me. If you’re a parent, you can imagine what that felt like. Then, a month later, at Bandera, after finishing his own 25K, and saving the kid from a bonk, he met me at mile 26, and finished the last 5+ miles with me. Bandera ends with a hellacious hill. Not only did he keep me and my random running friend laughing, he proceeded to use the terrain for impromptu box jumps. He should have been exhausted, basking in the glow of his own finish, but he was once again out with his Mama, making sure I was safe, and that I would finish.
I’m honored to be this kid’s mom. I used to see people with cheesy t-shirts boasting that they raised their favorite athlete, but I get it now. My son is my favorite athlete. More importantly, he is an athlete of character. While we are still working on the whole “losing gracefully” thing, I am so impressed by his concept of teamwork and brotherhood among his fellow runners. He is a natural servant leader, and genuinely kind human. And he is mine.