Now even though we love the outdoors, and are highly competitive, and have lots of energy, we are not an athletic family. Daniel and I don't follow sports, and our kids have few opportunities to compete in athletics. Which is exactly why when a cross country race presents itself, we grab onto it! Daniel having played football in Arkansas, and I having been a long-time soccer left fullback, we see the value of sports.
After several weeks of training, race day was finally here! We told our boys we were proud of them no matter how they placed, but we wanted them to finish. They said, "Yes, ma'am," and "Yes, sir," and then we hugged them and kissed them and sent them off with the rest of their school's team:)
Daniel Rupp, if we lived in the States, would be one focused sports dad. I snapped this pic while the coach was explaining the racecourse to the team. Look at the concentration on that stubbled face.
Zion, being in the younger age group, was the first to race. In an attempt to ease Zion's nerves, Daniel promised to be there at certain points along the course. Zion seemed to relax hearing this, and so our little six year old lined up bravely at the starting line. Go number 53!
Unfortunately, right after the race began, the officials informed the parents that we must wait at the track for the kids to come back out of the course.
Zion was not going to see Daniel along the way, after all, and there was no way now to tell him.
After a while, the runners started coming back into view, their little arms pumping, their cheeks flush, their numbers bopping up and down on their chests. One by one we saw them - redheads, blond pony tails, black curls - but we didn't see a pair of glasses and plaid shorts.
Then, at the very middle of the pack came Zion, running strong and smiling when he saw me. We cheered him to the finish, and it wasn't until I held him in my arms that I noticed his red-rimmed eyes and chapped cheeks.
"Daddy said he'd be there," Zion sniffed. "I kept looking for him, but I never saw him."
"I know, Sweetheart," I said. "The officials wouldn't let him onto the course. We're so sorry."
"I cried almost the whole time," Zion said.
"But you finished!" I exclaimed.
"I didn't want to stop," he said. "Because if I stopped running, I wouldn't get to the end of the race."
"Oh, Honey," I said, pulling him closer.
Then he added, "I prayed to God while I was out there. I asked him please don't leave me. And you know what, Mommy? He didn't."
No, he didn't. And he never will, son. He never will.