This past weekend, the kids and I participated in the Dirty Dash 3K in Waterloo, Ont. This was our first mud race. After just coming home from a week-long camping trip with a weekend full of doing laundry ahead of me, I thought, “What’s a couple more muddy loads?”

After running some difficult summer races in scorching-hot heat last year, I decided that this year, the only summer races we’d sign up for would either involve water or they’d be held during a cooler time of day. This race was perfect as the course stayed under the forest canopy, it included a trek through two cold, trickling streams, and runners had to wade through a huge stretch of mud as they approached the finish line.

I was excited about this race since it had some obstacle components– a big draw for my 14-year old son. It’s otherwise difficult to get him to agree to join us, unlike my 12-year old daughter who is a willing participant for all races now.

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As we set out from the start line, my kids quickly disappeared into the distance. I noticed that there was a younger girl ahead of me who seemed to be pacing with me. She would run, and when I caught up to her with my slow and consistent running pace, she would bolt ahead. We carried on like this for the duration of the race.

This young girl just happened to be the spitting image of my daughter from about three or four years ago. I felt like I had stepped back in time, following her as she ran off into the distance. As I ran, I became immersed in remembering that stage of our lives when my teenage boy passed me on the forest loop with a high five and an update on his standing in the race. Amazingly, he was ahead of my daughter. That was a first. Less than a minute later, my long-legged pre-teen daughter passed me with another high five. It reminded me of how much I enjoy it when there’s a loop in a race, so I can actually see my kids run. It also reminded me of how quickly times flies.

Shortly afterwards, the track took us by a cemetery and I couldn’t help but admire the most stunning headstone with a full-sized angel. It was so close I could almost touch it. It was all I could do to just hold my emotions together. I just kept thinking about just how precious time is.

Both of my kids ended up placing and winning medals. My son ran his best race to date. I was thinking that it could have been his newfound confidence, fresh off of winning the male athlete of the year award from school. But when I asked him what changed, he said, “I kept thinking about what Dad said to me. He said that I have it inside of me and that I’m the only one holding myself back.” I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

On the way home, my daughter made me promise that even if I don’t write about each race, we would still continue to enter. I assured her that we would. I then asked, “By the way, did you see the beautiful angel headstone at the cemetery beside the trail?” They both shook their heads. Neither one noticed or even saw it. I’m sure they were just going so fast that they didn’t even see it. Now, a small part of me wonders if it was actually there.

Some race experiences can evoke an ethereal or spiritual experience. Surprisingly, for me, the Dirty Dash was one of them.


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