The dictionary defines Paramount as "more important than anything else; supreme;" appropriately enough it gives a sentence as an example that says "the interests of the child are of paramount importance." So it felt incredibly appropriate that the first time Kiana and I ever did a race together was the Paramount Theater's 5k... Kiana asked why I was calling it our first race ever since I had ran beside her on track meets and behind her in a stroller; I stumbled as I tried explain to her that it wasn't just me joining her or just her joining me for a race but that this time, this time it was us joining together and sharing the road.
It was the first time since I started running marathons that I wasn't going to get the privilege of participating in the Austin Marathon course since I started running marathons in 2010. It was incredibly tough mentally to watch people taper and talk about their goals and diets since my training group usually has almost everyone doing either the full or the half but I knew I had something more important that I'd get to share, not Kiana's first race but her first 5k, nor my first race but my first one actually with her.
The Ship of Fools has called shots of what time they will get the race in, with the person closest winning the privilege of a picture with Coach Al and free breakfast from him. I called our race at 53:08 based on well... pretty much nothing other than a 5k is 3 miles and them added together equals 8 and that other people had talked about their kid's first 5k being 45 minutes or an hour and so that seemed reasonable. And I want running to be fun and something Kiana sticks (or at least some form of exercise) so I wanted this race to be just a joy for her. With school, she has to do extra homework and extra reading. With chores, she has to do plenty but those are responsibilities you have to learn to be moderately capable to get through a career or managing a house, the responsibilities of life. But the joys and meanings of life like exercise and music and art, the things which make life better, are so much more simple and complex than that. So I stole the mental attitude of how to approach this from a conversation from a group of musician friends I was hanging out with. They were all people who had been introduced early onto music, playing the piano for most of them. There were some who had been "sternly" directed to play the piano regularly, others who it was just a fun activity with their parent. Now, there are people who make a career out of that but in that conversation of friends, no one had. Their level of gratefulness and skill varied, some had kept up with it into adulthood and some had not. The ones whose musical experience had been fun discipline seemed to love their parents, if not life itself more.
So that was the attitude I tried to approach Kiana's first 5k with... I'd never even run a mile till I was in junior high nor done a race event of any sort till I was 8. And because the course has the exact same beginning and the end of the marathon of Austin, the live musical capital of the world, I knew there'd be music along the course and didn't know if she'd be trying to take it in more slowly or quickly. (Anyone who thinks that I was completely relaxed about her approach doesn't know me that well because she was promised ice cream if she did the whole thing without walking). But that was the mind frame I went in with... odds are unlikely for any of us to become professional athletes or musicians because well there just aren't very many of those but I don't know that there's any of us who aren't happier if we take exercise and music in so I just wanted her memories with that to be ones of happiness.
But we got there and watched the marathon start and cheered everyone we could recognize as loudly as we could. Some would hear us, some were tuned in to their ipods or the road on their way to start. Some of them looked nervous, others happy. I'd actually never watched a marathon start so I was amazed at how long it took for thousands of people to get from beginning to end.
Then we took a picture together where Kiana was pointing at the capital and I just though I'm glad to see her smiling at the start... here's hoping that's true at the finish. And then we were off... I was nervous that she would make the mistake of starting too fast but I had no idea what speed she was supposed to do. We'd never run on the road since all of our workouts had been at her track where there's no "real" turns and no elevation change. After 1 mile, she clocked it in at almost exactly 13 minutes and I wondered if she was going too fast or too slow but with no real way to know how to decide that. Shortly after that, her mom and boyfriend on the side of the course cheering her on, taking pictures, and holding up a sign cheering her on. She gave them a quick high five and kept going, beaming all of a sudden. At that point, she asked how many "laps" we had to go, her acknowledgement of distance. After the turn around point, she looks up at me and says "my heart is beating fast" and I just simply said, it's supposed to do that and added that we're at 7 laps.
On the way back in she gave her mom a hug and that helped her keep going as she started picking up the speed. Shortly after I had to stop and tie my shoes and she kept going, letting me know to catch up. With a half mile to go, she saw that it ended going up hill and we reached out and held hands. We'd been passing people for the last half mile or so and an older lady who we were next to at the bottom of the hill said, I was going to walk up the hill till I saw you guys so I'm going to run it next to you. And we did; and she did. The finish line is visible for only about a block but when we saw it Kiana kicked it in and sprinted but we held hands the entire way in. One of the first questions she was asked was who came in first and she said we came in together, (at 36:02 with her last mile being her fastest, with plenty of people both in front and behind us). She received a medal for finishing it. More importantly, she finished the race the same way she had started it, smiling.