The Olympian and the Eight Year Old

I’ve been tearful and upset since the bombings in Boston, but I haven’t really known how to express myself. My son is 8, just like the little boy who died…the agony of loss for his family must be suffocating…

There are so many folks out there that have said wonderful things, inspirational, uplifting things. Yesterday while at the track, my son provided some much-needed inspiration.

We attended a Remembrance Run hosted by the local Team Red White and Blue. There were probably a hundred folks or so, lots of flags, news crews, and one guy wearing a BAA jacket. He got lots of attention, though he didn’t run this year. We all walked and ran for 26.2 minutes around the track.

After we were done, a tall young man started running the track. Then he lengthened his stride and sprouted wings on his heels and he flew around the track. He was wearing a USA singlet; he looked like a super hero, all limbs and muscles and height.

My son said, “I think I saw that guy on TV. He’s so fast!

While my husband herded the kids and gathered our stuff, I happened to be at the scuttlebutt at the same time as that young man. I told him that my son thinks he was on TV.

“I was, ma’am. I was in the junior Olympics. They showed our races right after the London games.”

So, my son had spotted an Olympian named Marcus.

I told Marcus about how my son had run track right after his cast was removed (broken leg…very nasty.) I told him how my son’s leg had atrophied and he limped; how he’d get to about the 200m mark and the start to cry from the pain of running. How he’d finish the last 200m with tears streaming down his face, his hair matted with sweat. I was his coach and I encouraged him to stop and rest. He’d say, “No. I can’t quit. The workouts aren’t done and I’m on a team.” …and my son would start another lap and finish it in tears. He never ever quit. At the end of track season his teammates voted him MVP because he didn’t complain, and though he came in last for everything, he always cheered for his team the loudest.

Marcus said, “That’s amazing. That’s determination right there. Your boy’s got heart. You give him my baton and tell him I said he’s awesome. You tell him he’s my boy.” and he handed me the baton he was practicing with.

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I thanked him and he loped off, graceful as a gazelle.

And I stood there and I cried. Here was a world class athlete taking the time to talk with me about my 2nd grader…thoughtful enough to give him a gift of the only thing he had in his hands.

He passed the baton.

That’s what runners do, isn’t it? We encourage others, no matter their skill level. We high-five successes and give struggles a pat on the back. We help each other along, sharing sweat and smiles and porta jons. And no matter the struggles, we are all the same breed on the same team.

And we cheer for the other guy. Always.

And I am still cheering for the folks Boston. And those folks in Boston are on my team. I’ve never met them, but I know them and I love them and my heart soars and aches for them. And they are determined and they are awesome and they are my boys.

And Marcus doesn’t know my kid, but he’s on my kid’s team. He passed him the baton. And the baton will be carried forward and it will be run with the indomitable heart of an 8 year old, his head thrown back, his hair blowing up from his sweaty forehead, feet a blur.

And the bastards who tried to destroy our spirit on Monday cannot ever take that from us.

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