The day I’ve been waiting for all year has arrived: it’s the Kindergarten Fun Run. The school didn’t measure the course, but I did. It’s 0.84 miles. I also checked the course for glass, because in our family, we run barefoot, like the Tarahumara. I also made sure the post-race snacks were gluten-free, dairy-free, and GMO-free. Our bodies are temples to the sport of running, and we do not want to defile them by ingesting those toxins. I began reaching out to the school board the year my daughter was born, because I figured it would take a few years to get anything more than peanuts banned from the cafeteria.
I’ve been practicing my pre-race pep talk for months. Before the race, I pull my kid aside, get my knife hand ready, and psych her up:
“Remember: it’s a Fun RUN, not a Fun WALK. It is not a Fun JOG, either. Or a fun skip. None of that nonsense. The main word here is “run.” It will be fun when you win, but keep in mind, if you’re having too much fun during the race, you probably aren’t running fast enough, and you probably aren’t winning. I told you about the best race of my life, back in 1992. Yeah, nothing fun about it, until I won. My legs gave out, and I was vomiting. It was a terrible crawl to the finish line, blood all over my knees, but it was all worth it in the end. I’ll never forget earning that Most Valuable Player award at our fall banquet. And, see this pin here on my letter jacket? Yeah, that pin means I was a winner.
I’m a winner. I’m a winner. I’m a winner. Yes! Yes I am! Just keep telling yourself that.
Uh…. huh? Where was I? Oh, yeah. At the end, if they give you a medal or a ribbon, only keep it if you actually won. There’s one winner. Everyone is NOT a winner. That is a lie. If you don’t cross the finish line first, you’re one of the many losers. If 40 people interview for a job, there is only one winner. Everyone else is still unemployed. So, when Ms. Murphy says, “Congratulations, you’re a winner,” you can say “thank you” if you finished first, and “enough with the lies, lady!” if someone finished ahead of you. You can either give your ribbon back or throw it in that trash can over there. Actually, it is recyclable, so put it in the blue bin. Are we clear?
Also, I’ve been watching that kid over there. Is that Olivia S., or Olivia R.? She’s Olivia J.? Okay, thanks. I know she likes to talk. If she starts talking to you during the race, what should you do? Right, don’t talk to her. Ignore her. Stay focused. Also, run faster, because if she’s anywhere near you, you’re running too slow. Now, pacing. Is it a good idea to sprint at the beginning? No! When you see people sprinting ahead at the beginning, what should you do? Yes. Keep your pace. Right. What do we call kids who sprint at the beginning? Right, idiots. And tired. And poor runners. Don’t be that kid.
Remember: today is the day you will live up to your name, little Kip-Ariche’. Though you are neither Kenyan nor Tarahumaran, they are your spirit people. “Kip” honors your Kenyan essence, and as you know, “Ariche’” means dusk. In other words, lights out! Channel the legacies of your spirit people as you run.
That kid over there is fast. I saw him running to the bus stop the other day. He almost missed it, but, well, let’s just say he has a very efficient stride and an awesome kick. Don’t underestimate him. He is running today without his backpack, so he should be even faster. It looks like his mom dressed him in a button-down and chinos? What? Do these people just not care? By the way, how are your shoes feeling? Well, let me know after the race. I’d like to give Nike some feedback on our custom order, and they’ll want to know if it is worth rolling out a beta version for the hoi polloi.
Do you remember the trash talk we practiced? And the mean mugging? Don’t say “hello” to Madison. She’s your enemy today, even if she’s your finger-painting buddy tomorrow. Probably not a big threat, since her parents are vegetarian pacifists. She’ll probably walk the whole time and congratulate people as they pass her. But still, no talking to the competitors. Grit your teeth and do that squinty thing with your eyes. Yes. That’s right. Just like we practiced.
Jog in place. It’s getting close. Swing your arms around like this. It will loosen you up and make you look fierce. What’s up with those pigtails? Let’s… wait, I have scissors in the car. You need a haircut that makes you look more intimidating. I’ll be right back.
There, that’s better. Your hair now says, ’I’m so fast, I can rock this hairstyle and still feel badass.’ Get over it; it’s just a word. Fine, badbutt. Are you happy? That’s what I told myself in high school. I didn’t need friends. I had running. So what if my modified mullet was out of style? I could beat those bullies any time.
I’m a winner. I’m a winner. Just keep saying that. Yes. I really am.
Huh? Oh. Yeah. I’m paying attention. Listen. Now, the school didn’t invest in an official timing system, but I rented one just for you. That chip I put on your shoe will tell us your time and splits. Please don’t fiddle with it. We’ll analyze your race when we get home.
Go get ‘em!”