Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Kids and Competition at the Nordic Marathon

Kids and racing... do they mix?  In a household where bike racing is part of our lifestyle it's hard for me to imagine not participating in some kind of competitive sport.  Outdoor Dad and I often look forward to the challenge of a good competition to spur us on.  Having a goal, like competing in a race, helps me focus on training and technique.  We've made a lot of friends in our bike racing community.  But for kids, I'm learning, it can be hard to see the fun in just participating.  I'm working on helping them understand that there's intrinsic joy in being part of something, whether you reach the finish line first or not.

Bridget and Timmy raced in Bretton Woods' Bill Koch League race of the Nordic Marathon last weekend.  They were excited to get racing bibs like the grownups and Bridget wore hers around the house all morning before the race.  While Dad was out on the 42 kilometer course, Bridget and Timmy were going to do the "Lollipop Race," a special .5 kilometer race for 5-7 year-olds.  Older kids could participate in the BKL races that were 1.5 or 3 kilometers in length.  

After what seemed like weeks of dreary weather, the bluebird skies and warm temperatures would have drawn anyone outdoors.  

As we watched the skiers from the 21k race cross the finish line near the Swix waxing tent, I was inspired to see the great range of athletes that had come to participate in this event that raised funds for The New England Ski Museum- from pros barreling through the 42 kilometers to avid skiers who were taking part in the untimed race.

In the spirit of camaraderie and fun competition, our Bretton Woods Bill Koch League directors had arranged for some of the older kids to help lead the younger racers along the course, to cheer them on and keep them headed toward the finish line.  

I had really tried to emphasize to my kids that the race was for fun - they got to wear colorful beads they recieved in the race goody bags and there would be prizes for everyone at the finish.  I explained (in kid terms) that like when Mom and Dad race, there are age and gender categories, so you don't feel like you have to compete against someone who might be older than you.  Bridget was excited to race alongside the big kids and lined right up in the track and took off with a smile on her face when they said, "go!"

Unfortunately, I think I may have asked too much of my three-year old when I put him in the race.  Although I had thought he'd have felt left out if he didn't race, I'm questioning that decision now.   From the moment the kids lined up until a good 45 minutes after the race (that took all of about three minutes), Timmy cried inconsolably because he didn't want his sister to beat him.

I tried telling him that he was the first three-year old boy.  The race organizers offer him a medal and a lollipop prize.  Passers-by offered him cookies and other treats.  Nothing would stop the crying.  

Luckily, Bridget remained confident and pleased with her race, and was overjoyed to see the supersize lollipop she earned.

Timmy's tears finally abated when we made our way to The Omni Mount Washington Hotel for the awards banquet.  There, the Bill Koch League kids all sat together and celebrated their accomplishments after a great ski season together.  There were even MORE ribbons and prizes from the tireless BKL organizers.

Many thanks to Rose Ellms and Audrey Crowe, who led our kids this year with so much enthusiasm and joy.  And to our friend Peter Smith, Nordic Center Director, who gave invaluable support to the club.

After a break from Nordic racing, I believe we'll continue to teach our kids about what it means to compete.  Timmy might be still to young to understand, but we'll keep working on showing him how teamwork and fun go hand in hand, and how great it feels just to be part of the event.  And in the meantime, if he just wants to ski on his own for fun, then that's just fine, too.

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