On Tuesday morning, I spontaneously answered a call to action. A call to run in a race worthy of champions. A race whose status on the racing calendar is right up there with the London Marathon, the Olympic 100m final and the Great North Run. A race so important that it had spectators lining the route on all sides. The noise was immense as those spectators cheered and shouted in unison, their voices rising high into the still, warm morning air: “Come on Dads, Come on Dads!”. That’s right folks – it was the Poringland Primary School Infant Sports Day Dads Race!
Now don’t let any of the “everyone’s a winner here” nonsense that the kids get taught for sports day fool you. The Dads race is the epitome of concealed competition. You can see it in the faces of every Dad that volunteers. They want to show their kids (and the other dads, wives and teachers) that they are the big dog; the main man; the grand fromage; the manliest man on the face of the planet. They want to stamp their testosterone fuelled authority on the world by winning this 60 meter dash and leaving the rest of the field in their quivering wake. Make no mistake people, this is no walk in the park. It’s cut throat, blood in the water, fight to the death stuff worthy of Maximus Decimus Meridius himself.
Clad in shorts (of the tailored, not running variety), polo shirt and deck shoes, I was not really equipped to race but the sense of responsibility tugged and gnawed at my conscience like a dog with a marrowbone snack. With hardly a moments hesitation I found myself walking to the start line. Seeing my daughter sitting at the side of the track and hearing her shout “That’s my daddy!!! Go Daddy!!!” steeled my resolve. I lined up with a fixed, grim expression on my face…
So how did the race go? Well let’s dissect that a bit shall we?
· Seeing my daughter’s form teacher at the start line (she knows of my efforts at the Brighton Marathon) led to a “well this isn’t fair on your competitors is it? Don’t worry I won’t tell them you’re a runner. But then it is a sprint not a marathon – maybe they’ve all got a chance after all” conversation. Nothing like ramping up the pressure. Thanks a lot Mrs Gardner.
· Being stood on the start line with one of my old mates from Norwich Dragons Hockey Club was not a good move. Ed and I have not seen each other for ages and last time I was involved in any sort of activity with him I was nearly three stone heavier than I am now. “So how quick are you these days?” was his start line question which led to lots of banter and trash talking
· The trash talking was not a good thing! So busy were we in needling each other, Ed and I missed the starter shouting “GO!” and were beaten off the line by the whole field. It was reminiscent of that scene in Peppa Pig where Peppa and Suzy Sheep are so busy talking at sports day, they completely miss the start. Oh the irony – I am just like a cartoon pig
· From the back of the field, Ed and I charged our way through, overtaking the back markers with our dazzling turn of speed. We passed the slower guys at the back and the chap whose shoe came off. We stormed through the finish line and into the world of mid table obscurity. The delay had cost us dearly and there was too much ground to make up, but what an absolute hoot. Everyone should do this at least once
And the day after all this exertion, the best thing I heard was my daughter telling my wife (who politely declined to enter the mums race): “mummy, I’m not cross but you really should enter next time. You only need to do your best you know…”. If only my little girl knew the reality that is parent racing at sports day!!!