The power of discovering one's potential

Within a family, everyone has roles to play, expectations to fill. Early on, my three daughters, by self-decree, had deemed themselves "the musician," "the runner girl," and "they gymnast."

My husband I were "the Ironman triathletes."


Not long ago I overheard my eldest daughter claim that she was "not the athlete of the family." This was not said with longing or resignation but as a simple statement of fact. Though she had dabbled in a variety of sports, music and theater was her passion. While others were racking up multi-hued karate belts and points on the scoreboard, she was participating in piano competitions and performing the lead role in a play.

But in the middle of eighth grade, a gradual shift began to take place. Though we had always supported and encouraged our daughter's artistic pursuits, we maintained that a certain level of physical fitness was required for healthful living. Our expectation was nothing unreasonable, simply 30 minutes of exercise at least three times a week. But in the cold heart of winter, my daughter found the call of the couch much greater than her will to exercise.

She remedied this by signing up for the Arrows Youth Track and Field team. This, she reasoned, would guarantee she'd be up and moving on a regular basis. What she hadn't counted on was enjoying it. Or discovering that she could physically push herself harder and faster than she thought possible.

It was around the same time that she began clamoring for an iPhone. In our house, however, non-essentials are not simply given; they are earned. As such, my husband made her a deal — one that she couldn't refuse and one he didn't think he could lose.

"If you run a 5-minute mile, we will get you an iPhone," he offered.

As a 5:59 mile counts, the joke may be on us.

Not one to back away from a challenge, our daughter, who had already committed to joining the marching band in high school, signed up for cross country as well. And when time trials rolled around, she was the only freshman girl to make the varsity team.

Since then, she has remained among the top five on her team, earning meet points for her school. Her average 5K pace, currently hovering in the vicinity of a 7:30 mile — a pace that her "Ironman Mom" cannot match — continues to drop. And, while she may have initially joined the team to rise to her father's challenge, she has discovered that not only is she a good runner, but that she loves it. And that she may, in fact, be an athlete after all.

As I watched her cross the finish line at her first varsity meet, I became uncharacteristically emotional, the butterflies in my stomach the same as those I feel when I am the one racing. It was a hot, humid day, and a hilly, challenging course.

I understood the effort it took for her to push as hard as she did. And I knew how much it had cost her.

But I also knew, as she did, that it was worth it.