I’ll be honest, I felt a bit sad before sports day this year. Maybe because it was two days before my son’s final day at primary school. The last days of primary school tend to have that effect. Or maybe it was because neither my husband, mum or sister would be there to support the kids. But I generally wasn’t feeling great about it.
The day always starts with a non-competitive bit. Before you all groan, it’s actually really good fun. There are about 30 activities – throwing and catching, hula hoops, skipping, press ups, little obstacle courses etc etc. The aim is to do as many as possible because for every one you do you get a signature on your sheet and the more signatures you get the more points you earn for your house. So you can be the world’s worst at sport, but you are still helping your house to win. Plus all the kids get out of breath and work up a sweat, regardless of ability.
Then it’s onto the big one. The competitive bit.
My daughter had been excited about this bit for weeks and weeks. I think she had talked about it over breakfast and on the way to school every day for two months – endless speculation on who would take part in what race and where they would all come. When she started speculating on year 3 boys, who I don’t know at all, I slightly lost the will to live. But she loves it and she’s competitive and that’s a good thing.
My son was in the year 6 boys’ sprint. There are eight kids in the race – two from each house. My son should have come second or even first. He WAS coming second or even first, but then his face changed and he started hopping. He staggered over the line in tears. But he’d still come third.
The poor kid has got a long-term injury to his left foot. It appeared in March – in a week when he did three rugby tournaments in a week and he’s been suffering ever since. Three rugby tournaments in a week is just too much for a boy who will always push himself as hard as possible. He’s been having physio for the last couple of months. It will get a bit better, then it will get worse again. And when it gets worse, the pain is so bad it makes him cry. He collapsed onto me in tears. My big, cool year 6 boy let me, and his sister, kiss and cuddle him in front of the whole school. But he refused an ice pack and a chair and limped back to his team.
There are a lot of good runners in my daughter’s house. So many that she wasn’t picked for the sprint. She was third fastest in her year, but the two fastest were both in her house. So she ran the relay. As the fastest in her team, she ran first. She didn’t get the quickest start, but she gained on the girl coming first and then she overtook her, making it first to the changeover. They dropped back a bit, but not too far, with the second and third runners. Then the fourth runner picked up the pace and they won their relay!
Not many minutes later, she represented her house in the year 4 ‘long distance’ race. The long distance race is not very long distance at all. It’s basically a circuit of the field. I would be surprised if it’s any more than 200m. For a 9 year old girl, that’s too far to sprint, but it’s definitely not a long distance race. It was only ever going to be a two
horse girl race. Her best friend is an awesome long distance runner, who has got her Parkrun time down to an incredible 26 minutes – that’s just a minute slower than me for running three miles.
I told my daughter to pace herself and not take off too fast – all she needed to do was keep pace with her best friend and then sprint at the end. My daughter’s best friend isn’t a sprinter, just like my daughter isn’t a long distance runner, although she at least tries. As predicted, they left the other two girls for dust. Oh, and did I mention the four BOYS who were nowhere to be seen? As they came up the final straight, my daughter’s sprinting ability kicked in and she pipped her best friend at the post, but they were both brilliant and it was so good to see them give each other a really good race.
With the kids all done, there was only one race left for our family to do. Yep, the mums’ race. I’m the first to volunteer for the mums’ race every year and I come second every year. I would so desperately like to come first, but, like my daughter’s friend, I’m a long distance runner, not a sprinter. Sheer fitness can only take me so far. For the first time ever there were a lot of mums volunteering. So many that they had to split it into two heats. Maybe I shouldn’t have raced the mum who beat me last year, maybe I would have won the other heat. But I came second again. At one point I thought I could catch her, it was close, but it was never going to happen. (But as a dad who actually WON a local half marathon came fourth in the dads’ race, I didn’t feel too bad.)
And so I came away buzzing, not feeling sad at all. I was so proud of my daughter for her two wins and not even my son’s injury could take that feeling away.