Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Finish Line

Insightful readers might notice a recurring theme on the blog these days.  (Or maybe it's hard to sense a theme since the posts are more infrequent!)  Increasingly it has become apparent to me that I'm in it up to my eyeballs.  "It" meaning life.  I'm in it.  It's good.  It's fun.  And it's crazy busy.  I won't bore you with the details...you can read through the archives for that.  Suffice it to say that the time has come to prioritize, shift gears and, as our favorite movie theme song reminds us, "Let it Go." 

Last week I announced my resignation from the Board of Directors for our local chapter of Girls on the Run.  It wasn't something I let go lightly because I feel like GOTR is a part of me.  I actually decided almost a year ago that it was time to let something go.  But since I'm a planner and I like to make sure I think everything through, I gave myself a year to actually follow through on that.  And have I mentioned that I really love GOTR? 

My first season coaching was Fall, 2009 when my daughter (now a kindergartner) was about a year old.  I had been laid off from my job which serendipitously gave me the free afternoon time necessary to volunteer as a coach.  Idealistically I imagined myself carrying out my coaching duties while my daughter napped in the stroller.  In reality, she was always hungry as soon as our lesson started and we had to allow for 10 minutes of "padding" in our schedule for the girls to coo at the baby.  After a few weeks, I recruited the grandmas to provide childcare so I could spend more time coaching and less time worrying about the girls sneaking lollipops to my daughter. 

I enjoyed that first season, but as with any long-term commitment, the excitement began to fade as we approached the end of our 10 weeks together.  The happy, enthusiastic crowd of girls that started the season often became a mob of whiney walkers toward the end. The bright smiles good manners were occasionally replaced with eye rolling or heavy sighs when it was time to clean up.  You know how it goes.  The spark was still there, but the shiny, new-car magic had faded just a bit. 

And then came the 5k.

Each season ends with all the girls in the county coming together on a Saturday morning to run a 5k.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  We had some speedy girls on our team and we also had some lethargic ones that would run at a slow shuffle pace.  On a good day.  "It's Girls on the RUN!  Run!" we would remind them as they strolled around the track during practice.  But really it was more about building character than developing elite athletes.  So we praised the victories for all of the girls, no matter how that win was defined.  For some, victory meant running 10 laps in 15 minutes.  For others it meant getting in 5 laps but doing it without whining. 

Anyway, back to the 5k.

When the 5k day came around I was honestly a little tired and ready to take a break from this whole coaching gig. I was designated as the course runner while the other coach waited at the finish to give the girls their medals.  Our team started as a group, but the serious runners quickly broke away and left us in the dust.  As I ran and walked and talked with my girls, I was slowly re-awakened to the power of GOTR.  I watched my mediocre runners push their limits and perform as serious contenders.  I listened to them cheer on other girls, even complete strangers from other schools.  Amazingly, the lessons that we taught for the past ten weeks CAME TO LIFE on that running path.  Even the stuff we thought they slept through.

As any runner will tell you, the best part of a run is coming across the finish line.  At my first GOTR 5k, I got to do that over and over again.  After I cheered one girl on to the finish, I would turn around, run back along the course until I found another one of our teammates, and then run with her to the finish.  I did it probably six times that morning and every time I got choked up as I ran up the final hill with our girls toward a wild, cheering crowd of parents and coaches.  The first girl and the last girl across the finish line that day were both from the team that I coached.  And I was equally proud of the victory for each of them.

I went on to coach two more seasons after that.  When my son was born, it became more difficult to fit coaching into my schedule so I took a seat on the Board of Directors. Working behind the scenes was almost as fun as coaching the girls because I got to hang out with a bunch of women that get it. They get that GOTR is empowering and life changing.  They get that everybody has to roll up their sleeves and help out.  They get that hard choices and growing pains and sweat equity are all part of the process.  They get it all. 

So my farewell to GOTR is bittersweet.  More bitter than sweet, honestly.  But I know this is not the end of me.  Or my love for Girls on the Run.  I feel like I'm taking away just about as many lessons as I taught during my many years of volunteering.  Most importantly.....

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