Athletes milled about, jogging, jumping, stretching. The smell of the rubbery track and grassy field blended in the fresh air with the spicy scent of icy hot.
“She looks like she’s fast. I wonder which event she’s running,” I thought to myself, immediately beginning to assess the competition. My stomach felt light and nervous.
Then I remembered; I wasn’t here to compete, which was strange.
Last week Mae and I attended a track meet in Oxford to watch Leah, Sam, and the rest of the Spartans compete in a track meet. It was my first meet to ever attend without running myself. It felt strange at first, but it was also enjoyable.
As a runner, I was always so aware of my time and careful about what I did and what I ate the day of a race. I needed just the right amount of time to warm up, and I would be anxious until I found a space where I could warm up adequately. Then there were always issues with getting signed into the race, knowing what time I was to start, and where I would start.
Friday I was nervous for the runners, but I just got to enjoy watching everything and not worrying about what time it was or what event was next.
It was the first time I ever got to see Leah or Sam compete. I loved seeing them warm up, talk about their goals, and interact with their teammates as they got ready for their respective events. I loved hearing them tell me they appreciated us coming to watch them, and tell me their goals for their races. I loved seeing Leah’s excitement as she was seeded first for her heat (this means she submitted the fastest time for her heat and got to start in the first lane of the track). I loved seeing the satisfaction in Sam’s face as I congratulated him on his performance in the 400, a race I cannot even imagine running.
Mae loved it too. All the Spartans loved her and she just basked in all the attention from what we called her “fan club”. She smiled and laughed as all the runners passed her around, and she fell asleep in her friend Carson’s lap. She smiled as we went down and watched the runners go by, though she did get scared when her Mama yelled too loud.
Instead of warming up and figuring out the timing of my races, I was bouncing a baby and figuring out when she needed a diaper change or a feeding. Instead of stretching or rolling my muscles and making sure my socks were right, I was putting sunscreen on Mae and making sure she wasn’t too hot or too cold in her clothes. Instead of finding ways to deal with my nerves by playing cards or talking to friends I was looking for a place to lay a blanket so Mae could get down and play.
Everything was different and it was strange, but I loved it. I loved running track, and I love being a Mama. Now I love being a Mama who can watch my siblings and former team do what I loved.
Maybe someday I will watch Mae do the same.