Maggie trained all fall for a cross country meet. For one meet and one meet only. We received no details about what was happening, just a date. We had no idea how long the race was, what age group she was running against, what terrain she would be running on…just when. As the date finally approached, I called the school. I wanted to watch the meet. I had run cross country as a kid and I was thrilled to see Maggie doing the same thing.
I called the school the day before the meet in December and I was told that the race was cancelled because it was supposed to rain. They were going to postpone it. They would let us know until when. Maggie came home and told us the meet is now in January. She knows nothing else. She tells me to chill out. Apparently, she hasn’t met me. Hello, I am your mother, I do not chill out. I need details.
Eventually, we are told the meet is on January 11th. I decide to get my priest to call the school. He seems to get somewhere. They tell him where we need to be to see the race. They tell him the time. All good progress. He asks how the kids are getting to the meet and he is told on the school bus. In the USA, when my kids went away from school property, I signed and returned a permission slip with details. It outlined everything I needed to know. Here in Portugal, it is a crazy guessing game. My priest got just enough information. We at least could go watch her.
We arrived at the meet with Pippa and my parents in tow. The place was huge with thousands of kids roaming about. There was a clear finish line with a blow-up arch way. We headed in that direction and tried to find Maggie in a sea of kids in various private school uniforms. She spotted us. I went over to talk with her. She was anxious. She finally knew that the race was 1.5 kilometers long. Not the best distance for her, she has stamina, not quick speed. It was also on a mix of dirt and sand. I told her if she won I would give her €10. Greatest mother ever. My mother was horrified. She berated me for putting too much pressure on Maggie. Whatever. I call it incentive. Maggie is very motivated by money and loves when I challenge her with cash.
While she was hanging with her classmates, I watched the other races. Maggie was screwed. They didn’t line the kids up in any order. It was a mosh pit. Kids fighting to get near the front. Pushing. Shoving. Scary. We stood by and watched the girls ages 9 and under race. As they approached the finish line, two girls were neck in neck for second and third place. We watched them elbow and then shove each other to beat each other out. I was stunned. I have never witnessed children attacking each other in cross country. It is usually a solitary sport. I knew Maggie was even more screwed. She is not aggressive and would never shove someone in a race.
In the distance, we see hundreds of girls (no exaggeration) assemble for Maggie’s race start. It looks like chaos. We hear the gun go off and we wait near the finishing line. We can see nothing. After a few minutes, we see a girl clearly in a commanding lead. It is not Maggie, don’t get excited. We watch the top finishers run in. We wait. We see Maggie solidly in the middle of the group. She is running hard, but looks disappointed. As the girls finish, they walk in a single file line in order to rank them. They are given a bottle of water and a cereal bar as they cross the line.
I greet my baby and ask her if she tried her best; the only thing I ever really care about. She says no, she didn’t. When the race started, kids began to push and shove each other. She was pushed into the sand. She never really recovered her stride. Her coach joined us at the finish line and said he was proud of her. I told him she was a little disappointed in herself. He then asked her if she used her elbows. Elbows? She said no. The coach had told her to be aggressive, but she doesn’t have it in her. I could say she will be ready next time, but the truth is, she won’t be ready. I either need to toughen her up for Portugal, or sign her up for sports that come with intense protective gear.
My parents navigating a sea of crazy and my runner.