Jun 6, 2017

Racing Dads, the Joy of Sports Day.


Edited: Jun 6, 2017

Summer half term has come and gone and we're in the final throws of the school year.


That means lots of fun. School trips, school plays, open days and of course sports day.


For me, it's the dread of knowing that the annual Dad's race is fast approaching.


I loved sports day as a kid. I was a House Captain and got to select (with teacher guidance) which kids would compete in which events. I was never the fastest or strongest, but I could hold my own and contribute valuable house points with decent placings. And our relay team was the equivalent of the modern day Jamaican team in dominating an event. I ran third and had the joy of catching and passing those in the outside lanes before handing the baton over to the fastest boy in the year for a Bolt like finish.


But now things are different.


I guess I'm above the average age of a father to an eight year old, and years of sitting behind a desk, steering wheel or meeting table have taken their toll.


Yes I work out, probably more than most men my age, but that's because I train marshal arts, which generally doesn't involve much running. Fighting yes, sprinting no.


So when the Deputy Head excitedly announces the call for Dads to get ready to race my heart will sink.


I remember the first time I ran, three years ago. The look on my son's face when he saw me at the starting line was one of sheer delight. Even his freinds were excited to see that a dad from their class was competing. With their encouragement and support I finished a respectable 5th in a field of 12.


The following year I ran again. My son now expected it but his delight was again written all over his face. After a slip on the starting line I recovered to finish 7th or 8th. But this time the race took it's toll. 100 metres has never looked longer than it did from the starting line that morning, and it took me the rest of the afternoon to recover.


Last year the fun of the Dad's race was replaced with a cold of competitiveness.


Some Dads turned up with running spikes (they weren't allowed to wear them) and I heard stories of the training regimes other dads had endured.


So many dads were competing they had to hold 3 races of 10-12 competitors. I ran in the first group, together with the keenest and fittest dads who were gathered at the starting line even before the anouncement was made.


The race was easily won by an ex Harlequins rugby winger. I'm pretty sure he had finished before I got half way.


Again I finished in the middle of the pack after a poor start left me in last position. 20 metres in to the race my own competitiveness kicked in, further bolstered by a determination to make my son proud, and I ran probably the fastest I've run for 25 years.


The remainder of the day was a write off. As was the day after. My body was shaking and my knees were weak. I was all shook up.


But my son was proud of me. He didn't really care where I finished, he just wanted to see me compete for him.


And I realised that this painful process is an important lesson for my son.


We both know there are younger, fitter, faster dads. We both know it would be a miracle if I won.


But the example of competing anyway, doing my best and trying with spirit and determination is something I feel good about. Once I've recovered.


So in a few weeks time I will be running again, just so my son can feel proud that his dad is a competitor rather than a spectator. But, boy, am I dreading it!





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