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Dear High School Cross Country Runner #9

Dear high school cross country runner #9 in the red uniform,

Mateo - cross country You don’t know my name, and I don’t know yours. I don’t even know what high school you represent because I didn’t recognize your uniform. But I will never forget your unexpected act of compassion at that cross country meet in October when you competed against my son.

I’d positioned myself in an isolated spot on the course. You see, my son, Mateo, always runs a lot faster when he can hear someone cheering. Isn’t that true of all of us? Our family spreads out as widely as possible so we can cheer for him throughout the race. I waited for him on a long, quiet stretch of the course in the woods about 400 yards from the finish line. The fastest runners had already finished, and the remaining competitors were pretty spread out.

As soon as I saw Mateo turn the corner, I started cheering for him. It’s pretty easy to recognize his unusual running form even at a distance. I rang my cowbell like the crazy mom that I am – as loudly and wildly as possible. My encouragement had the same effect as always – he ran a little faster and pushed himself a little harder, all with a broad grin on his face. He was having a great race.

Mateo was still at a distance, but you were approaching me. As you neared, in full stride, you yelled to me, “Tell Mateo to catch up with me!” Just as you ran by me, you added, “No, tell him to pass me. I’m #9!” You kept going and left me completely stunned.

Well, I did as you suggested. I shouted for Mateo to catch you. He put it in high gear because he had a target – your red #9 jersey – in his line of vision. I watched as he passed at least a dozen other runners on that long stretch to catch up with you. When you and Mateo took that last corner before the finish line, he was on your heels. I don’t know if he ever passed you. I didn’t see him finish that day, but he his dad, sister and grandmother met him at the finish line. I was so overwhelmed by your act of kindness and encouragement that I sat down in the grass beside the course and cried for several minutes before congratulating Mateo for an awesome race.

You are an amazing young man to encourage another runner in the way you did. I will never forget you.  Thank you.

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