We had to wake up at 5AM to be at the 5K in Akron by 7:00. Riley was too nervous to eat the snack/breakfast we brought in the car. She calmed down a bit when we found the other girls from our team, and took part in the warm ups. There was a bit of a buzz among the girls, "We should all stick together!" I knew it wasn't likely, since they have consistently run at different paces throughout practices this season, but I didn't have time to talk it through with Riley.
As the runners took their marks, it was crowded and loud. The race started on a gravel stretch, so the footing wasn't good. Squished in the middle of the crowd, Riley nervously covered her ears waiting for the horn to sound the start of the race.
When it began, many of the girls from her team sprinted forward with lots of energy, and Riley quickly got behind, what with covering her ears and the not so easy gravel to navigate.
"WAIT! WAIT! WAIT!" she yelled to her team members, who were far enough ahead not to hear her.
She began crying, and screaming.
Talking her through I said, "Riley, c'mon. You'll catch up. They started fast, they'll likely slow down. We can still get them."
"I THOUGHT WE WERE STICKING TOGETHER!" she sobbed.
"Riley, everyone goes at their own pace."
Why didn't I think of preparing her with a social story before the race?
"They hate me. They aren't my friends."
We chugged along, her losing all her energy to fretting, feeling left out and defeated.
This went on for a good 1/2 mile, Riley screaming, and crying but somehow plugging along. She just could not seem to get it together. When all my rational pep talk attempts failed, I lost it on her,
"RILEY. YOU COULD HAVE CAUGHT UP TO THEM BY NOW BUT YOU ARE WEARING YOURSELF OUT BY FREAKING OUT. YOU NEED TO KNOCK IT OFF RIGHT NOW. WE HAVE WORKED SO HARD TO BE HERE TODAY AND YOU ARE GOING TO RUIN IT! I'M NOT GOING TO LET YOU RUIN THIS!"
She could not hear me. She continued to jog along, sobbing.
Just when I was losing all hope, we caught up to one of her team mates (a Circle of Friends girl) who was walking by now. Riley was still crying.
"Riley, look. They didn't wait for B either. She is walking. It is okay to walk. Everyone goes at the pace that is right for them."
B started to run with us for a bit, then she needed to walk again.
"Riley," I said. "You have a choice. You can continue to walk with B, or you can run at a pace that feels comfortable to you."
Riley was torn. She wanted to run but didn't want to hurt B's feelings.
B said, "Riley, it's okay if you want to run."
Suddenly Riley "got it."
She decided to run, leaving B behind. Knowing it was okay. She didn't hate B. Maybe the other girls didn't hate her? Maybe they weren't trying to be mean and leave her out? Maybe it was all okay?
Riley finished the race. She ran almost all of it, stopping to walk just a few times and not for very long.
She did it. She'd been sick and hadn't run in a week and still, she finished in the middle of the pack of roughly 90 girls. HT and Seth cheered us on through the finish line. Then, Riley cheered like nobodies business for the girls on her team who finished after her, and there were several. It hadn't occurred to her (or me) we had left some team members behind at the start as well.
Girls on the Run is a great organization. Every girl gets the same # 1 on their shirt and every girl gets a medal when they go through the finish line. Every girl is encouraged and celebrated throughout the season, and especially at the race. It was a wonderful experience.
I am so proud of my girl.
We both learned a lot today. Riley learned she can complete a 5K! She also learned new social concepts.
I learned peers are amazing teachers.
This afternoon was my chorus concert. It went well and was so much fun. It was held in a big church and tall people kept sitting in front of Seth and he couldn't see. Therefore Todd let him stand in the aisle, and he couldn't help himself,he had to dance. He got a lot of compliments after the show.
It was a beautiful day in a very full life.
I'm going to bed early.