She slunk into my classroom with a forlorn glance. Head bowed down. Walking tentatively. But she needed to interrupt the class; this was important.
“I can’t run with our run club today, Mr. A. I broke my arm. The doctor wants me to keep it stable. But may I come anyway? I can still help.”
Her timidity dissipated as I welcomed her assistance. With the cold winds blowing outside, we were already short on volunteers, and we could always use that “I can help” attitude.
When the meeting began, diminutive little Avya came back to me, asking “Where do you want me, Mr. A.? How can I help?” We were doing fartlek runs today, alternating between jogs, sprint, walks, and skips. After our stretches and warmups, I gave Avya a “jog” sign, and we headed out to the other side of the small lake.
My mind was swirling with the details of keeping roughly 100 kids engaged and supervised while we traversed the 1.6 mile course.
“So tell me your name again?”
“So How did you break your arm?”
“I fell off a scooter this weekend.”
“Well thank you for wanting to help out today.”
“Oh Mr. A, you just don’t know. You have no idea how much this run club has changed me. I never thought of myself as much of a runner. I was mostly a walker. But this club changed me.”
I was floored by her intensity. Though she be little, she is fierce.
“Avya, why do you enjoy the running?”
“I get to be outside, and push myself. I’m amazed at how much I’ve grown! I just love the feeling of running.”
We continued walking together to her post. She pointed to her house across the water, and I asked her if she had participated in the race last year, which follows our seven weeks in the club.
“The 5K was the most lovely experience for me!”
I chuckled at the use of the term ‘lovely’ coupled with running. Imagining the heat. All the sweat. Hordes of stinky adults in drenched shirts running nearby her on the street.
“Why was it lovely?”
“Because I was able to run!”
There you have it. The wisdom of the ages. I’m happy, because I am. I run, because I can. With just a few short words, and a gigantic smile, Avya reminded me just why we began the run club at our school a few years ago.
To show kids who don’t identify as athletes, that they can find their own groove.
To point out some healthy habits with food and fitness.
To celebrate our abilities, and our gifts.
To run, because we can.