Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Feelings From the Back of the Pack

My boy Jackson is working on his cycling merit badge. After work on a warm May evening I joined Jackson and his crew of scouts on their 15 mile ride (they work up to a 50 miler!).

I talked with the merit badge counselor before the ride and offered to bring up the rear so that he could lead the group. A crisp line of bikes strung ahead of you is a beautiful thing. And even as the ride began, I could see one boy struggling to keep up.

Terrence was on a little single gear BMX bike. He pedaled and pedaled to the point of exhaustion before slowing to a crawl to catch his breath. Repeated over and over. All while the the rest of the group sailed effortlessly far ahead.

When we reached the big hills, Terrance’s legs were fried. His slow pedaling soon became slow walking. I rode next to him as he walked. We had lots of time to talk together. The rest of the group was so far ahead that we couldn’t see them.

Terrence was so far behind. But you know what? It wasn’t because he wasn’t trying. He was working hard. Actually harder than the rest of us, who had the luxury of things like….gears.

I felt a bond with Terrence as we lingered at the back of the pack. Because really, we are kindred souls. I know the back of the pack well. In nearly every race I run, I am well acquainted with the back of the pack. I know that little sting of frustration when I am working hard but I am so far back. I know that little taste of discouragement when, despite your best efforts, everyone is cruising up ahead like they are riding ten speed bikes.

I contend that those of us in the back of the pack really are working as hard as the people in the front. Who knows, maybe harder. Maybe we just have really crappy BMX bikes. Maybe we’re the brave ones, those of us who take the risk to register for a race we’re not sure we can finish. Maybe we have more fun back there. (I bet we do.) Take that fast people with your fancy ten speeds!

When we finished the ride, Terrance said “That was fun. Thanks for staying with me.” He didn’t know how familiar I am with the back of the pack. I actually don’t know how to be anywhere else.

15 comments:

  1. Ahhh...this is so sweet! What a cute little guy that Terrence is. And how kind of you to hang with him. I can totally relate in all aspects of this post. I'm a total single gear BMX bike. And you shared the back of the pack with me as well in one of my races. You have a heart as big as gold Cory Reese. That biking merit badge is hard to get. Those boys really have a lot of pedaling to do to get it. I went on a 30 miler once with our scouts and it was tough. I couldn't imagine doing the 50 miler.

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  2. Wow, that brought tears to my eyes! I can't imagine riding a BMX bike 15 miles. That kid is a trooper and you are awesome for sticking with the little feller!

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  3. I agree, I think we have more fun in the back of the pack! It really does mean a lot to know you are not alone back there. So nice of you to stay with him!

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  4. This is SO me. Definitely my experience at this weekend's race...only I *had* gears! I'm sure you made a HUGE difference for that boy. I know it makes my day much nicer when people who pass me are encouraging as they go by.

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  5. I love this. It's true. I wake up feeling like I can run 7 minute miles and then feel confused when I check my pace to see I'm running all out at a 10 minute mile. Where is my ten speed?? ;)

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  6. Wow Cory...you nailed it. It can certainly be disheartening to be running your heart out only to be passed by people that look like they're out for a jog, holding conversations. I know it well. :-)

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  7. Great post!! He will probably remember that forever!

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  8. I have been DFL at least once and pretty much always at the back. My heart broke for the boy working so hard and not able to keep up. God bless you for sticking with him and allowing him to still have a great day out in the sunshine.

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  9. This is the best blog post that I have read anywhere in a long time. Thank you for continuing to inspire me--- and for inspiring Terrence. You deserve a cookie.

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  10. This is exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you!

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  11. It is remarkable blog. I wanted to learn such type of the things that I have got from here at one platform. Thanks.

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  12. A fresh line of bicycles hung in front of you is an excellent thing. Furthermore, even as the ride started, I could see one kid attempting to keep up.

    Thomas T

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  14. Wow, that brought tears to my eyes! I can't imagine riding a BMX bike 15 miles. That kid is a trooper and you are awesome for sticking with the little feller!

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