The Best Effort

Posted on December 21, 2012. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


Last Saturday, Girls on the Run of Bexar County held our end-of-the-season 5K.  104 girls, their running buddies, and friends and families showed up to complete this event, the goal the girls had been working toward for 10 weeks.

Even though we’re called Girls on the Run, we’re not exactly a running program.  That is, our goal is not to teach girls how to run, although that certainly is part of what we do.  Rather, our goal is to teach girls how to make healthy life choices, to set and reach goals, to respect themselves and others, to be confident.  Running is the tool we use to do this, an incredible tool that yields incredible results.

For this race, rather than handing out 72 or so medals to the top three places, male and female, all age groups, we decided to give out only 6:  Top 3 male and top 3 female.  We weren’t concerned about how the girls placed.  We’ve impressed upon them throughout the season that the point of the 5K was finishing, not winning.  The fact that they showed up to the 5K meant that for 10 weeks they’d been giving it their all and were already winners.  All that was left for them to do on race day was to cross the finish line.  Time didn’t matter.  Their best effort did.

The crowd gathered at the finish line to cheer the girls on as they approached, faces glistening, smiles wide.   The first several finshers were men, the overall winner a retired colonel and cancer survivor. The next two were first-time 5K runners who looked just as overjoyed as the girls did when they crossed the line.

After a few minutes, we saw the first group of girls coming up over the final hill.

What we saw from our vantage point was this.  Four girls ran hard, while their running buddies hung back, encouraging them to run.  The four girls sprinted through the line, first and second place nose to nose, third and fourth a few steps behind, also nose to nose.  First and second place were winded and flushed and smiling hard.  Later, they beamed when I placed the medals around their necks.

What I discovered later, from a different vantage point, was this.  The first two girls were in the program, completing the fall season.  The third was an alumnus, who’d been in the program twice and was running with a friend.  They all ran hard throughout the race, giving it their best, but as they neared the end, the alumnus and her friend found themselves gaining on the top two runners.

They could have passed them.  Part of them really wanted to.  But as they came up that final hill, they realized how important it might be to the two girls in front of them to cross the line first.  They looked at each other, nodded, and slowed down their pace, just a hair.

They crossed third and fourth, winded and flushed and smiling hard.  Time didn’t matter.  Their best effort did.  We couldn’t be more proud.

Or so we thought, until we saw the face of the 104th girl, who danced across the finish line, smiling all the way.

Confidence.  Joy.  The most beautiful medals to own.  104 of them last week.  How can you beat that?


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