Winners Come Last

On Wednesday Llewellyn came last in the 1200 m race at school. Dead last. Ok, 2nd last if you also count the girls. He calls it his “Amazing Athletic Achievement”. It was the greatest sporting moment of his 11-year-old life.

Until Tuesday Llewellyn had only barely ever made it around the field twice. So my advice as the day of the big race dawned with pleas to turn my writing talents to sick notes with exotic sounding diseases hinting at quarantine was this: just walk it. I did when I was in school and any mental scars I have, have nothing to do with strolling along at a leisurely pace chatting to Cheryl as we were lapped by the runners in the next race. And the one after that.

Drawing the blank stare that I’ve come to understand is the  body-language equivalent for “I hear you but I’m ignoring you” or maybe even “Dear lord please don’t let me have inherited her genes”; I delivered the advice repeatedly in the car. At an escalating volume. Llew responded by gleaning wisdom from Eminem. Also at escalating volume.

And so it was that when he finally took to the field, hopped on the truck load of sugar I only ever supply when he’s in someone else’s care for the day, he did so without a thought to anything I’d said. As he explained afterwards; “I went in with a strategy.” The first part of the strategy was this: “I decided I wouldn’t run fast.” Sure, not common racing practice, but Llewellyn knew he wouldn’t come first; so he set his sights on finishing. It’s that decision that inspired the second part of his strategy: “I just found a pace and I stuck to it till the very end.”

And that is Llewellyn’s “Amazing Athletic Achievement”; he persevered until he reached his goal; one that for him seemed out of reach until the moment he crossed the finish line.

As I listened to him recounting his victory again last night I thought of a shirt my CrossFit coach Imtiaz wears, on the back it says “ME VS ME”. I needed a shirt to tell me something Llew knows instinctively; that it’s never about how far ahead of the pack I am. It’s not about where my career is compared to everyone else, how much higher my child’s marks are at school; how good my bank account looks relative to my friends’. It’s about whether or not I’m moving towards the finish line, one step at a time, at my own pace, celebrating my Amazing Achievements every step of the way.

I doubt Llewellyn even knows who came first in the race. But he knows how it feels to win it. In fact he even has it as his BBM status: “I finished my 1200m race yesterday.” Which is why, for the past 2 nights, when I’ve tucked him into bed, I havent heard the quiet ramblings of a Zombie Killer, but the whispered musings of a champion.

That’s my little boy; he’s my hero.

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