Those who have been following my column for a while know that after 15 years of being the mother of three daughters, I welcomed a son into the family this summer. Or, rather, I welcomed a Spanish exchange student into our home this summer and, a month later, after a heart-wrenching, tearful goodbye, he left not as a student, but as a son and brother.
Fast forward to December, and our family of five was on a plane to Madrid to spend two weeks with our Spanish son and his family who, during the preceding five months of texting and sharing photos, had also come to feel like family.
Among the many surprises and great adventures the family had planned for us was two registrations to the San Silvestre Vallecana 10K. This run, held in Madrid every year on New Year's Eve since 1964, is known as "the most multitudinous athletic event in Spain" in which "sport and celebration come together in a 10-kilometer race in which fancy dress and artificial snow play a part."
In other words, beginning at 5:30 p.m. in downtown Madrid, nearly 50,000 runners of all ages and abilities, decked out in every manner of costume, crossed the starting line of a fun, mostly downhill race through the magically illuminated city streets, with live music at nearly every mile and throngs enthusiastic spectators lining the course. A celebration that kicks off an evening of celebrating.
Originally, our Spanish family had intended for my husband or oldest daughter to run with me, my Spanish son's mom, and her brother-in-law. However, as both my husband and daughter are currently sidelined with injuries, it was my youngest daughter who stepped up to claim the available bib.
At eleven years old, my youngest is feisty, strong, determined and athletic. She is a gymnast, a soccer player, a triathlete, and a track and cross-country runner who trains with kids up to three years her senior. She has run several 5Ks and this year, for the first time, she ran faster than me. But she had never run a 10K; her endurance over 6.2-miles untested. She hadn't brought the shoes she usually wears for running, and we were scheduled to leave the next day for four days of skiing in the Pyrenees.
I worried that she might injure herself, hurt her knees, or otherwise compromise herself on the eve of our ski trip.
But I needn't have worried.
The determined athlete that she is, she set off with three other seasoned adult runners, engulfed by a crowd of tens of thousands, and never missed a beat, never needed a break, never walked a single step.
Together we soaked up the festive atmosphere and the beauty of a city aglow with holiday cheer: the illuminated fountains and Christmas trees, the arcs of light spanning the width of the streets, the dazzling snowflakes that dangled overhead. It was breathtaking and magical. And for my daughter?
Not many people can say they ran their first 10K through the streets of Madrid on New Year's Eve. It is sure to be an experience she will never forget.