Athletics Carnival and the Dreaded Parents Race

Yesterday was the school’s “athletics carnival”. Sports day we used to call it when I was in school back in the UK. But, just like the ones I remember from all those years ago, it is not just any sports. It is really just track and field athletics.

I had not been looking forward to it since Dani found out there was a parents race. He insisted I take part. Which I did. Reluctantly and under duress. More on that below.

The “Carnival”

The sports day was held at an athletics track near the Centennial Parklands. One side had a large covered seating area for spectators, and of course the screaming kids from each of the school’s competing houses.

They managed to get through a full day of events where every child participated in three track races (100m, 200m & 800m) plus three field events. To finish there was a series of relay races; the teams made up of the best runners from the previous 100m races. It was complete chaos but somehow they managed it. In fact some of it was comedy gold as it was clear that many of the kids had never tried the (more technical) field events.

The long jump was more like a long hop off the take-off board for many (Dani included). But the high jump would have made for YouTube blockbuster footage. I wish I could have sat there and recorded the whole event close up. Hilarious.

It is hardly surprising that the kids had no idea how to do a long jump or high jump. This was the first time many of them had seen or tried them. This whole sporting event had been cancelled the previous two years due to… Well, you know. The “C” word… Heaven forbid the kids might partake in a bit of sporting activity, keep fit in the fresh air, enjoy themselves and pick up a little dose of vitamin D while doing so eh? Who on earth would want that? Just as well they locked them all up and stopped all such activities instead eh? Anyway, I digress… (yet again).

Parents Race

I never wanted to do it. I hadn’t even done any jogging – let alone trying to sprint – for about a couple of months. And I honestly can’t remember the last time I ran 100m flat out. Would my back hold up? (I have had a little trouble recently.) Will I pull a muscle? Could it be even worse?

I expected a little help. I thought may be there might be some kind of age related handicap. I thought a head-start of 5 metres per year over the age of 40 would be about right. That would put me 90 metres ahead of the (official) start line and the youngest competitors. With only 10 metres to run. I would walk this race. Literally (just to take the piss!).

Alas, no such luck. When I suggested it to the sports teacher he laughed. That ‘yeah mate, piss off, we still have the relay races to run’ kind of a laugh. Not even one metre per year. So much for sportsmanship and fair play eh? I was f*#ked and I knew it!

I lined up with 9 others and the race was underway. I started OK (so I thought) until I saw everyone else ahead of me. I just tried to get into a fast but short stride not wanting to pull a muscle. As it turned out it only lasted a little over 10 seconds. No, no, no! I am not claiming some Olympic qualifying time here. I mean, I was about 10 seconds into the race when I realised I was going to finish last.

About the same time (and by my reckoning at the 80 metres mark) I could feel a little pain in my lower back and some muscle where I didn’t even know I had one. (Somewhere between the groin and top of thigh?) Anyway, I had to slow down. The race was already well and truly lost by that point (just in case you were wondering).

It was not a case of how my fast-twitch sprinting muscles would respond. It was more a case of ‘where the hell were they?’

On the plus side; the oxygen mask I thought I might need at the finish line was not required. In fact I was not even slightly out of breath. Was I really running that slowly? No, I was not. My stamina (lung capacity) was clearly still there but the legs and back simply did not want to play. I think I could have ran a whole lap (400m) at that pace. Could those parents who finished ahead of me? I like to think they would have tired after another 50 metres. Well, it helps to think that. My attempt at a moral victory.

While watching the final (relay) races I caught up with Dani. He seemed disappointed – if not embarrassed. “You came last. You were not very good” was all he had to say. I think I had let him down so tried to put it into some perspective. Mine at least. “Ah well,” I replied, “I was the oldest in the race, by some way.” But he seemed to brush that excuse off quickly.

I suppose that’s another bonus to take away from today. Dani is very unlikely to ask me to join in any ‘parents race’ in the future. But part of me wouldn’t mind trying a similar race again. But only if I had time to prepare properly. I definitely wouldn’t do it again unless I knew I was able to really go for it. Ah… We shall see… I won’t lose any sleep over it either way.

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