Yesterday The Monkey (age 4.5) and The Bear (age 7.5) toed the line in a quarter-mile race for the “Future Milers of America.” The kids race was part of the Manzano Mile track meet, where adults of all ages and abilities had the chance to race in one of running’s great events: the mile. The whole event was a class act, and it brought me back to my childhood, when going to races and meets with my family to watch my dad run was a weekly event.
The first great element of this event is that it was free. That’s right. Free! Not only was there no registration fee for the kids’ run, but each participant received a bright red technical fabric running shirt as well. Running is one of the few really accessible sports– no fancy footwear, equipment, or court/field is truly necessary to participate. But competing in races can be expensive. Kudos to 1379 Family Sports Shop for sponsoring the kids’ run so everyone could participate.
Packet pick-up, which can be a logistical headache, was handled really well. Not only was everything in order and ready to go, but I was helped by Leo Manzano himself. It’s not too often I get the experience of chatting with an Olympian, and Leo could not have been any nicer. He inquired about my kids’ ages and running experience. He asked if I was racing as well. When I said, “no”, he politely encouraged me to give it a try and started to effuse all of the wonderful benefits running can bring into one’s life. I stopped him to say that he was preaching to the choir, and that I wasn’t running because I have an eight-week old baby. He then gave me a pass and told me he’d be looking for me next year.
The track meet itself was so well organized that it ran perfectly on time while still having that fabulously chaotic vibe a track meet should. There were people milling about the infield, adult runners stretching, and lots of kids ready for their lap around the track. The kids were separated into heats by two-year age groups. The Monkey’s group (4-5 year olds) went first. Although he was in the back of the 40-kid pack at the first turn, he took his dad’s advice on the final straightaway to “turn his speeders on”, and he finished in the top five. The Bear’s heat (6-7 year olds) was next. This heat had about 30 kids, and the first three finishers were girls. The Bear ran a respectable, well-paced race and had fun counting his heart rate at the end.
There was such joy on the kids’ faces as they crossed the finish line. Manzano was there, giving out high fives. It was hard to tell who was having more fun.
My best wishes (and a decent donation) go to the Manzano Foundation, beneficiary of the event, which provides running shoes to disadvantaged kids in Texas. I know there are going to be a lot of happy kids around the Lone Star State….and who knows….maybe there’s another Olympian out there wanting to run.