Ray’s signed up for Girls on the Run, a 5K race on May 21.  She ran a mock 5K yesterday.

I went inside the school to find everyone; they were all bunched up around Ray’s classroom.  Her teacher is one of the leaders of the two groups of girls, 39 total (there were supposed to be 40, but one missed).  The teacher shoved a stack of neon pink, bepinned race numbers in excessively curly script into my hand.  “If you see one of the girls without a number, give them one.  But only if they have tennis shoes on.”

I shoved papers at kids.  They looked at me as though I were an attacker.  “Take this.”  Then the attention would be all on the paper, turning it back and forth. “What am I supposed to do with this?”  But I’d already moved on.

Behind me, I heard people saying, “That’s Rachael’s mom.”

One girl said, “She’s pretty.”

I passed out numbers.  It was chaos, new girls coming in from all over, everyone eating snacks.  When it was time to go, there was even more chaos as girls realized that they’d left things inside the locked classrooms.  I made Ray go back and get a jacket.  It was 55 degrees out; I’m a mother.

Down the stairs.

And then all the girls went the wrong way, had to be chased outside.

Finally, fifteen minutes late, they were outside.  A few parents.  Almost more teachers than parents.  They wanted to know if I wanted to run.  Noooo.  I’m sure Ray would have been happy to have me there, but I didn’t want to slow her down, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself.  Of all the stupid things to worry about.  But I didn’t want to run…they just wanted me to pass out cups of water, so stop with the internal monologue.

Cups, jugs of water–no illusions about recycling, here.  I should have taken them home with me, but I didn’t think about it until this morning.  The sudden ideas that hit you in the morning:  I should have recycled those damned cups.

They formed a circle and did some warmups.  The teacher didn’t see the girl who was jumping up and down to volunteer to lead the exercises.  She called on some girls twice, didn’t see this girl.  Who, if I remember correctly, was one of the last girls to come in at the end of the race.  Some girls get weeded out for some reason.

Then they did cheers:  I forget what they were, but they were silly.  About how good girls are.  It scares me.  This attitude that the only way to fight being crushed is to insist that you’re better.  I mean, I remember that brown eye-blue eye experiment.  We had a sociology teacher in high school who pulled it on us.  I got into it.  Brown eyes!  Brown eyes!

Look, this is the same trick the Nazis used.  This is the same trick all politicians use.  “I’m not saying that you are inferior, I’m just saying that I’m superior.” But this isn’t a day to be overly creeped out by cheers, I guess.  Except I am.  It’s fluffy and cute and wrong.  I guess I’ll just have to take it out on Ray later, the minute she says some asshole thing about boys.  She’s done it before.

Then they yelled about the route.  Follow the chalk.  If there’s no arrow showing that you should turn, don’t turn.  Coach at the beginning, teachers along the route, coach at the end.  Two laps, starting with a circuit all the way around the field.

I got a noisemaker, three jugs of water, cups, and a bag for trash.

They ran.

Some of them didn’t run; they started out walking, didn’t even try.  Run, run, the teachers were yelling.  They tried, went back to walking.  There was chalk; some of them colored on the sidewalk and wrote pump it up messages as they left the field and headed into the parking lot.

It seemed like it was all too soon, and they were gone.  Completely out of sight.  Time passed.  I got bored.  I walked around the school, I stood at the edge of the parking lot with my hand shading my eyes.  I stuck the noisemaker inside my shirt so I’d have my hands free to pour water (yes, I think about these things) and talked to the teacher and other mom who were left behind.

Then, I wanted to run.  I wanted to be away from the waiting and standing around and momming.  But it was too late; I had to wait and stand around and mom and be ready to pour water and blow my noisemaker.

Thrillsville.  Why do I get myself into these things?  Because I love Ray, and she wants me to be there for her.  But I hate standing around.  I should have run.

It took too long.

Finally they started to come back.  At first I didn’t think it was them; there was a boy in front, still in his school uniform.  It was the kid who was at the carnival, running the whack-a-frog game.  Fifth grade, maybe?  The one who, after every time someone would hit the see saw with the stuffed frog on the end, would duck and cover, then calibrate the wooden box the frog was supposed to land in, so the next person would have a better chance of winning extra tickets.

I hadn’t seen him before with the girls; he must have joined them in the parking lot.

I passed out water, not minding that I had to pass out water anymore.  Their faces were red.  They straggled in in ones and twos, to the sound of really loud, annoying noisemakers trumpeting at them.  One of the first girls in looked like she was going to die.  She had an ear infection, and her mom made her sit out the next lap.

At first I couldn’t believe they had another lap to run.  They looked so exhausted, and it had taken sooo long, like twenty minutes, for the first girls to come back around again.  I felt awful for them.  But they kept going.  Six ounces of water, 12 ounces, and they were off again.

The last group came in walking, with the coach and the teachers telling them to Run, Run!  They ran past the finish line, drank some water, drank some more water, and had to get chased off again.

Ah, I’ll never understand these things.  There was a waiting list for spots in these two groups.  They’ll get kicked out of the program if they miss more than twice.  The stated goal was to run 5K.

It’s probably the parents.  “You must gooooo.”

Ray wanted to go.  “You don’t get to slack off on karate, and that means you’ll be in an extra class after school four days every week.”  “Okay!!!”  You could hear the multiple exclamation points in her voice.  And she’s doing great at it.  Looking forward to it being over, but just doing great.

There wasn’t much of a break after the last girls finished the first lap, and the first girls came back through on the second.  The boy was in the lead.  I blew my noisemaker and cheered for him.  We all did.  Gave him some water.

The first girl came through.  She got a goodie bag and a lei and a green t-shirt.

If you wanted to get your race-day shirt, you had to finish the race.

The girl looked less tired than she had after the first lap.  That seemed to be the case for all of them.  They seemed stunned.

Ray came in eighth or ninth, I forget which.  I ran over to her and hugged her.  She’d been running with a student teacher the whole way.  I asked her if she ran the whole thing, and she said they’d done some walking, too.  But mostly running.

It took another twenty minutes for the rest of the girls to come in, but nobody had to be picked up in a car or anything.  They call came back in.  The last girls from the first lap walked back in, ran across the line, picked up their bags and their leis and their t-shirts and their water.

I watched the girls run over to the playground and play.  After a 5K.  Running back and forth.  They didn’t have the endurance, but they bounced back so quickly.

Finally they were all back, and it was time for pictures.  I have a set of crappy cellphone pictures in which Ray is rarely paying attention.  In one, she hides behind the student teacher.  But they’re all like that, all doing things, not paying attention.  Except a few that are mugging for the camera, including the last girl to come in.  Maybe they tune her out because she wants the attention but doesn’t want to do the work.  I don’t know.

Green shirts.  A lot of girls in green shirts.

Then it was time to go; they scattered.  I picked up some trash, momming it again, shoving the bag in a trash barrel.  Upstairs, stuff, wait for the teacher to get ready to go, downstairs, out to the car, home.