I woke up two Saturdays ago to a 4:30 alarm. Chandler had to be on the bus at 5AM for a cross country meet and asked the night before if I’d make him breakfast-to-go so he could sleep until 4:45. I made him a fried egg sandwich (making sure to poke the yolk and fry it hard so it wouldn’t make a mess) and a protein shake and drove him to the bus. I made some much-needed coffee, putzed around a bit, walked the dog, ate breakfast and Dave and I were out the door by 6:30 (okay, we always run late – 6:45). We drove through downtown Los Angeles just as the sun was rising. Watching the sun peek over the mountains and reflect on the high rises was breathtaking. I would have taken a picture, but I was driving. Plus my windows were filthy. It probably wouldn’t have turned out anyway.
We got to the meet, found our team in the maze of pop-ups, and wished Chandler luck just before he was called to line up for his race. He was running the JV National race with 16 schools and 111 runners competing. This was JV so I was hoping for a strong finish from Chandler, but it was an elite race, so I wasn’t sure how he’d do.Dave and I and my friend Debby (a mother of one of the other runners) found what we hoped was a good vantage point to watch the beginning of the race.
If you’ve never seen a cross country race they are both fun and difficult to watch. It’s a three mile course so you can never really see all -or sometimes even much- of the race and have to criss-cross and run ahead of the runners to different parts of the course. How much of the race you see depends on the sight lines of the course and how much you’re willing to run around. We saw the race start and then headed over to the one-mile mark. When the runners passed us they were still all close together and Chandler was in the middle of the pack.
This is one of the more difficult courses to see a lot of the race, especially if you want to see the finish because it’s such a large event and it’s difficult to navigate all the people. Debby and I decided to head right to the finish line so we wouldn’t miss the boys crossing. Dave decided to head down a little before the finish because they come out of a narrow chute and when you stand at the finish line that is literally all you can see.
As we were nearing the 15 minute mark we knew the boys would start crossing in the next minute or so and heard an announcement.
“Did he just say a runner from Agoura is in front?” Debby asked me.
It did sound like he said that, but it couldn’t be. Our school is a Division III school and we were running in a Division I & II race against bigger and better schools. The odds of one of our boys winning was slim.
“It sounded like it, but he must have said Great Oak,” I said. They’re the school that’s ranked #1 in California.
And then I heard my friend Marisa, who was standing across from us at the other side of the finish line yell, “Chandler, Chandler!”
And I screamed, “Whooooooooooo!” as I saw my son come up the chute and cross the finish line first.
I was in shock. These are schools we never run against, so I really didn’t know how Chandler would finish. Plus, he started off the season injured and this was his first race where he was back to feeling 100%. I know that he’s been disappointed this season not being able to run varsity, but there was no room for disappointment when he crossed that finish line with one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen. As proud as I was of him (and trust me I was), I was even happier for him.
I always love to see Chandler race, but I’m especially trying to hold onto these proud moments this year. If I could, I’d squeeze them tightly in my hands and never let go. He is so anxious for college, it seems he already has one foot out the door. A year from now Chandler will be far away, running in college at races that I won’t be able to watch.
I knew this time would come faster than I wanted it to, but not nearly as fast as it has.
Even faster, than my fast, fast son.