This morning I ran a 5K with my husband and my 13yo. My husband doesn't run at all, ever, so I was surprised and pleased when he suggested it. Joe was planning to run it faster than we were, hoping to finish in <30 minutes. I let him wear my Garmin so he could pace himself appropriately.
I was surprised to come upon him walking a little past the halfway point, looking discouraged and uncomfortable. I stopped to walk with him for a minute, and then encouraged him to get moving again. He was hanging in there until we hit a little hill, on shadeless blacktop, in scorching heat. I tried to pep-talk him up the hill, but he was sounding pretty wheezy. We took another walk break together. I said, "Let's try this. I always pray the rosary when I'm running, so how about if we say a decade together? I'll say the beginning of each prayer aloud, and you can say the rest in your head if you want to. At the end of the decade, we'll be at the water stop. We'll walk through the water stop, and then it's just another half-mile."
He was game. At the end of the decade we could see the water stop; just after that we could see the finish line. Elwood was ahead of us, but not by a ton. When I looked back at the Garmin record later, I saw Joe's final acceleration clearly-- he was zooming to catch his dad. Right at the end he was running a sub-8:00 pace. I was hanging with him for the first part of the last leg, but as we crossed into 8:xx territory my stomach lurched unhappily. (Stella was throwing up this morning, and my stomach had been rumbling threateningly as well.) While it might be a marker of hardcore-ness to throw up on the far side of the finish line, you don't get any brownie points for spewing up your breakfast on the course. I pulled back a little. Joe crossed the line two or three seconds ahead of Elwood; I was a second behind.
I really really really wanted Joe to feel pleased about finishing, about pulling it together when his Plan A didn't work out. I was focused on him, until Elwood said, "Hey! Now I can tell everyone I beat you in a 5K!"
Which, I suppose, is true.