At 26 years old, I consider myself to have registered a number of achievements in my life already.
I passed my driving test. Graduated from University. Organised a charity walk, taking 12 hours, travelling 32 miles from Bolton to Huddersfield raising over £1000. Became a home owner. But in my opinion, by far the most rewarding accomplishment I’ve achieved in life so far, was becoming a father, and I’ve been blessed with that opportunity twice to Georgia (4) and Isaac (1).
Having 2 sets of legs running round and round, more often than not running away from you, keeps you active as a parent. It was worrying how 2 kids so young can run rings round you though, and as I’m taking a break they find the energy to keep going, and keep going, and keep going… It was a highlight of how unfit I’d become in the years of no physical activity. Georgia hadn’t been born the last time I’d tried and failed to get back into running. My partner Hayley had been pregnant at the time as I vowed to give my fitness a boost ahead of the upcoming Rugby season, it probably lasted around 2/3 sessions.
I gave up, decided I’d stick to being an overweight, unfit winger instead.She was too young to remember me playing Rugby. The last full season I played in Georgia was only a couple of months old when it started. I made a brief comeback at playing when she was 2, but it only lasted a couple of months. My self belief in my fitness levels was masked over by the mud baths of pitches that you come to find in February. As the pitches dried up and became firmer, it was obvious I wasn’t fit enough to carry on playing. Georgia was there for my last game to date though. An international friendly between Bolton & Rotterdam. I didn’t have much involvement in the game, I struggled on through the full 80 minutes and as the whistle went, my boots were hung up.
Georgia’s been brought up on Rugby, I’ve made sure she’s had a Rugby ball in her hands from an early age, so it was nice to share that last game with her.Anyway, we fast forward back to March this year. We now have a cheeky 4 year old who doesn’t miss a trick and wants to know about everything that’s going on. Well this one night, she was faced with the unfamiliar sight of her Dad stood there with a nervous look, in shorts and t-shirt preparing for a run.
“Daddy, what are you doing?”
“I’m getting ready to go out for a run Georgia.”
Her response was just 1 word, that 1 word question that every parent of a child that age hears far too often. WHY! I don’t know how many answers I gave her the question was still fired back at me –I want to get fit and you can do that by running. But why? Daddy used to do a lot of running a long time ago and now I want to start again. But why? Well Daddy want’s to run because it’s good for you. But why?… I ended up giving her a kiss, sending her up to bed with her Mum and heading out. But she was intrigued by this new activity I was doing.
I’d signed up for the Great Manchester Run by this point, and Georgia was a child who loved being outdoors. She was a good runner herself, you could tell when playing football or rugby at the park, or any kind of games we’d play with her, she had some speed and we’d previously enquired into what age she could start athletics clubs, to find out she had to be at least 6/7! That was no good.
I made the decision to enter Georgia into the Great Manchester Mini Run. A 1.5km run. Due to start in the morning, I’d join Georgia in that run, before getting ready for my 10km later in the afternoon. I broke the news to her the next day and she was overcome by excitement. I knew she’d be fine over that distance but I made the promise I’d take her out training in the build up to it. She couldn’t wait to tell everyone she was going to run.
Training now since my own return to running in March, I’ve been reaching targets, and feeling proud in myself for doing so. But that pride I feel in myself is nothing compared to running alongside my little girl. She’d been mithering to practice since I broke the news of the Mini Run to her. I’d mapped out a 550 metre lap our of block. Brilliant. A perfect distance for her, which also gave us chance for a water break when we got back round to our house, and the occasional appearance outside the house from Mummy which would give her that extra boost! The funniest moment came in the 2nd lap of her 1st training run..“Daddy! Daddy… I’m. I’m running out of breath”Bless her.
Well I couldn’t stop laughing, it was the first time she’d experienced it and she didn’t know how to react. We slowed the pace and I explained to her it was normal when running and your trying really hard. She was fine with it, but the look of confusion on her face still makes me chuckle.
Georgia took the training in her stride. Each time we went out we ran 3 laps of the 550m circuit. By the time our last run together came a week before her big day, I knew she was as ready as she’d ever be. That coupled with a new pair of running trainers from Nana, she’d also caught the running bug.Race Day I was probably more nervous than Georgia was, and wasn’t for my race, it was for hers.
The morning was all about her, and I wanted to make sure she got the most from the event, promote the positive feeling’s and feed her excitement. As a parent, I wanted her to get that feeling of pride and belief in herself when running that I’d began to feel once again over since starting again. My heart had to melt a little when she started copying me stretching before we made our way to the starting area, she was taking this seriously. Start time came, she showed no signs of nerves and started with a sprint start. I couldn’t quite believe her. She settled down at a steady pace, and kept going and going. With not doing more than 500m at the time without a break, I didn’t know what to expect from her, if or when she’d want to stop and have a little walk but she kept going and before we knew it we’d hit the 750m mark, halfway, which she greeted with an increase in speed!
Before we knew it, we’d turned the final corner and the finish was in sight. My phone was out to film the moment she crossed the line. She was so close to completing the 1500m track without stopping, and in around 12 minutes! I cant explain the levels of pride I felt as such crossed the finishing line, she’d done it! What made me proud was the fact she’d done it by herself. I hadn’t pushed her to train, I let her tell me when she wanted to go out, how long we did, how many laps we run. It was her own determination to complete this run that saw her through to the end. I never imagined she’d take to running the way she did but I was overwhelmed. Her medal went straight round her neck. In fact over the next 24 hours apart from bedtime, she didn’t take it off. She wore it to show off at Nursery the next day, and didn’t take it off all day. She was so excited to show it to her friends and teachers.
So what next for my running daughter? At the time of writing it’s now been 3 weeks since the Manchester Run and she’s itching to get out again.
Junior parkrun 2k awaits.. I have no doubt that she’ll smash it!