Gavin Sellers has never done anything in his life according to plan. One of the things I love about running is that it is such a metaphor for life in general. There are so many lessons to be found in between the lines of the track, or out in an open field running all alone, or pushing up what seems to be an insurmountable hill.
As anyone that reads this blog knows, Gavin was born three months early, only to beat all the odds initially. Vent tube out after 6 hours. Contracting a scary staph infection at 10 days old, but that was the "only" major setback of his NICU time, which was pretty amazing. Getting to the end of our odds-beating NICU stay to discover his stomach and intestines were malrotated (1 in 5,000 odds), requiring invasive surgery to correct. Being the first baby at our children's hospital to have said surgery performed laparoscopically, reducing the risk, pain, and recovery time.
He came home and we knew the rules of "What To Expect the First Year" did not apply. We expected delays, and regressions, and really had no idea what his full potential was. Would his lungs ever catch up, or would they always put him at risk for illness, would they be a limiting factor in playing sports? Would his motor skills ever truly catch up? Had his brain bleeds affected his development, physically, intellectually, socially?
When you are staring at this sweet child, all you want as a parent is for them to reach their fullest potential. While I have spent most of his life cautiously optimistic that he would be "the same" as any full term kid, I was never really sure when those preemie scars would raise their heads and show me what they had done to him.
I believe there are some character traits that all preemies have. It's either a Darwinian trait that allowed their survival or one they develop from everything they've gone through. One thing I know from all my preemie blog mom friends is that they all have it. A fighting spirit. A determination and focus like no other.
While Gavin has brought that to school, there is one place where this has come to life, and it's on the cross country course.
We started taking Gavin to the track when he was 4 or 5. It certainly wasn't my intention to make a runner out of him - it was just something to do to get out of the house and burn off some steam. Then he participated in some field days at school and a week long track camp in Kindergarten. We started entering him in some kids fun runs. He enjoyed it so we kept doing it.
Spring 2011, he went out for the track club. He was really young, and stuck to shorter distances, and we didn't expect much other than for him to have fun. He did, and he made it to the regional meet at Hamline University - his dad's college. At 6 years old, he competed on his Dad's college track.
Over the fall and winter he would run here and there, but never too much, too often. Spring 2012 came and we were coaching. We encouraged him to try the 1500m. He was terrified, but he did it - and he did it really well. He competed all the way to nationals.
But where we saw the biggest change was the cross country course. After the Iowa Games 4k, he proclaimed he loved the hilly xc course and "I want to run a 5k every weekend!".
Cross country started and he came to life. He connected with the team, he enjoyed (for the most part) the workouts, his confidence built as he ran more and more miles.
The thing I've always noticed, and admired, about Gavin when he runs - is that he has this innate sense of pacing. Most adults are not this astute and yet he knows just how hard he can push. He doesn't let other kids push him out too fast, and he knows which ones he can catch before the end of the race.
Last night the kids competed at the Westside Track Club Invitational. This was an important one because the state meet will be held at the same course. Gavin finally had a chance to compete in a 2k, the race distance for state and nationals. As he had been running 3k's, I didn't know if he would go out fast enough, too fast, or what would happen.
Off the start line, he stumbled, and a girl took off in a dead sprint. He was a couple seconds behind her for a good quarter mile, and I was a little worried! But he slowly overtook her and stretched out a good lead. He ran 2/3 of the race with a strong lead, chasing the gator.
He crossed the finish line in 8:08 minutes, running a 6:06 per min mile pace, and taking the course best down by 32 seconds.
I'm a worrier. I worry I'm pushing too much, or not enough. Am I giving too much instruction, do I need to step back and let him figure it out on his own? I don't want to see people fail, so I turn into this person that needs to control everything.
One of the hardest parts of parenting is having the faith to let go a little. To trust. To know that wherever he goes in life, he is leaving it all out on life's course. Finding his proper place in the pack. Setting his own pace.