“Win the dads’ race or I will eat your head.” With these words, my daughter persuaded me to enter the dads’ race at her school sports day.
Truth be told, this situation took me by surprise. I’ve been going to sports days for six years and the school has never held a mums’ or dads’ race before. On that basis, I wasn’t expecting to take part in a race at all.
It all changed this year. With the children’s competitions finished, the mums were invited to race.
A surprising number of them took part and they were a diverse bunch. There was the mum in ripped jeans who ran barefoot, a group who linked arms, seemingly in an attempt to ensure that no one crossed the line last and there was the one in active wear.
Now I’m always suspicious of people who wear active wear anywhere near a school. To me it’s a way of saying to the other parents: “Yeah, I work out” without ever actually being seen in a gym or breaking a sweat (the “lycra impsoter” according to an article I saw recently). This woman, however, did not live up to this cliché at all. She powered down the track at a phenomenal rate.
All too soon it was over and it was time for the dads’ race. I was the second to make it to the start line. I know that I’m not the youngest of dads, but I keep in shape and I’ve been taking my fitness a lot more seriously over the past year or so. In my younger days I was also an enthusiastic runner, either running long distance or doing the killer 400 metre sprint.
I was realistic, I wasn’t going to cross the finish line first. I was not, however, going to loose to some millennial hipster with tattooed hands who wears oddly designed sunglasses and shorts in all weathers.
Despite my confidence, I faced a couple of issues. Firstly, I was wearing walking boots and jeans. Hardly ideal for such a race. Secondly, well, you know, I’m on the waiting list to see a specialist because of long-term issues with my ankle. This is the result of an injury when I jumped off a wall as a teenager and landed badly.
I shouldn’t really have been taking part in the race at all but what could I do? Both my daughters were watching.
I looked up the track while an increasing number of runners joined me at the start line. I’m not sure what the distance was. I estimated 70 metres. It was very short so this was going to be a fast sprint.
By rights, the school’s deputy head was supposed to start the race. At this point, however, something bizarre happened.
One of the mums called out “On your marks , get set, go.”
She was clearly joking but half the guys thought she was serious and started running. I looked to the deputy head, realised she wasn’t going to do anything and knew I had to get going.
This was not a good start. No, it was worse than that, it was a dreadful start.
Although my eldest daughter, Helen, told me afterwards I was “going slowly” I passed a number of other runners and went some way to making up for the false-start. I even passed one poor guy about two thirds down the track who had fallen flat on his face.
All too quickly it was over. I couldn’t tell you exactly where I came but it was somewhere between the first third and the first half of runners. Obviously I’d have liked to have done better, but considering I was running in boots and jeans and was late starting, I didn’t think I’d done too badly.
My daughters did not share my opinion. Helen made quite clear I hadn’t done well enough while Izzy, who had been very keen for me to take part, had a complete change of heart. As she was being led back to her classroom, we managed to swap a few words and she told me off for running on my injured ankle.
I hate to say it, but Izzy did have a point. While my ankle was absolutely fine at first, it froze up when I got home and I had to apply an ice pack to it.
I thought my days of taking part in sports day were long gone but seemingly not. Who knows, maybe this will become an annual thing? Next time I may come in trainers and running shorts, just in case I end up running again. Although perhaps I should bring the ice pack with me just in case I need it?
What’s your experience of running in mum and dad races? Have you ever been caught up in a false start scandal? Maybe you refuse to take part? I encourage you to leave a comment below with your thoughts.