It is with a fair degree of satisfaction and delight that my daughter is enthused about sport. Unlike her elder brother, for whom the lure of spending hours watching things on YouTube (that I don’t understand/make me feel 100 years old) is stronger than the urge to experience natural light. Although that said, he will subject himself to being utterly thrashed at badminton in the back garden occasionally. By me. Can’t for the life of think why he doesn’t like sport more… No, the boy and I tend to bond through our shared enthusiasm for cinema. Just last week I traumatised the lad with The Blair Witch Project. My ‘Father of the Year’ award is surely in shoe-in…
By way of contrast, my daughter is utterly absorbed by sport. Football, in particular – both in terms of watching and playing. As a spectator she has the relative misfortune of being born into a lifetime of following Middlesbrough FC, but even that hasn’t curbed her enthusiasm. And the recent fine showing by England’s women at the World Cup has simply poured yet more passion petroleum on the football fire. On the pitch, she’s part of an under-11s team and dreams of becoming a professional. Oh man, to be 10 years old again. I can’t remember what I wanted to be ‘when I grew up’, but it likely involved a combination of driving a train, catching ghosts and colouring in. One day. One day I’ll…erm, be asked to exorcise the spirit of Tony Hart from a Trans-Pennine Express. Or similar.
Speaking of great things I wish were happening to me but aren’t, the setup with this under-11s team is all very professional. They have squad numbers and a proper sponsor and little rain jackets to train in that have their initials on them. Of course, football at this level – as it should be at every level other than perhaps fully-fledged professionals – is all about having fun. However, I entered the world of ‘parent of junior sportsperson’ fully expecting to witness the worn cliché of the overenthusiastic parent reprimanding/championing their off offspring/team mates/opposition/match official from the side-lines. I’d like to say I was wrong, but there’s a reason most clichés are clichés, and last weekend I did witness a chap – perhaps best described as a ‘massive douche’ – berating another team of small girls who were not providing him with the opportunity to live vicariously through their victory. But, occasional douche aside, its all done in the right spirit.
In order to perhaps paint a more vivid mental image of my little girl, I should explain that she shuns convention at every turn. Whereas girls her age are stereotypically supposed to be interested in or at least starting to become interested in boys, clothes, make-up, fashion and so forth, my girl spent a large proportion of the last two days sat alone in a tent in our garden watching Goal! and Escape to Victory on a continuous loop. ‘But Ben’ I hear you cry ‘We understand you’re proud of your daughter, but what in the name of Satan’s sandals does it have to do with running?!’ Well, through this mutual love of football (I don’t play, but I used to…back in the day…*everything goes black and white and a highlight reel of Taylorson’s Undoubted Football Triumphs plays as a single tear rolls down his cheek*…) the girl has developed an interest in running.
Having completed her third 2k fun run earlier this year and in the process discovering the euphoric delight of the ‘needless sprint finish’, she’s semi-keen on the ol’ running. Just a couple of weeks ago she completed the Race for Life* and again seemed to enjoy the experience. Hence, I’ve suggested Parkrun as the next step. Now, we’ve not been yet, mainly as it’s been a bit logistically inconvenient, but the plan is to get along within the next month. It’ll be the longest run she’s done by some distance, and I’m hoping the fact it’ll be a bit trying won’t put her off. But to be frank, she’s not one that’s put off by a challenge – one thing I haven’t mentioned thus far is that she is deaf, and she copes admirably with that challenge every day.
This week’s running:
Hoho, what a week! 35.5 miles of runningness completed. A swift-ish 4 miles on Monday was followed up with a monster 18 miles on Wednesday. I cruised along at ‘marathon pace’ and got round in a time I was pleased with. Despite being chased by a dog. Again.
Then on Thursday I put in a ‘recovery’ 5k. Now, thinking back to the ‘massive douche’ mentioned a few paragraphs above, he was surely in the running for The Wanker of the Week Award**. But during Thursday’s 5k, a competitor emerged. No, not me. I was going at a steady pace and I caught and passed a couple who were out running together. I offered a passing pleasantries, as is my way. A couple of minutes later it becomes apparent that the chap I’ve just passed has abandoned his lady friend in an attempt to catch and pass me, which he duly does. Unperturbed by these events, I carry on at the same pace as Speedy Gonzalez begins to pull away, frantically checking over his shoulder to see if I’m catching him. After 200 yards or so, Billy Whizz blows up and has to stop, hands on thighs gasping for breath. I pass him again, at the same pace. It took all my restraint not to dip for an imaginary finish line as I did so. I just hope his female companion was suitably impressed by his effort. Of course, I took all of this not as a reflection of his insecurities, but as a sign of my status as an imposing physical specimen that other men fear will lure their women away on sight. Ahem.
On Friday afternoon I made the mistake of heading out too soon after lunch. Indigestion followed. Plus my legs were heavy. Then I ran into a lamppost. The event was witnessed too. But I saved face. How? Well, by sporting an expression that said ‘I meant to do that’ and then running into the next one too. Clang.
Earlier today I did a steady 10k. I wasn’t chased by anyone/anything and I didn’t collide with any inanimate objects. It was a good day.
* – I confess to almost being reduced to a blubbering mess on seeing her sport a placard that read ‘I’m running for my Dad’ in reference to my being diagnosed with cancer last year. But I held it together. Just about.
** – Not an actual award. As of yet. I’d worry about what the trophy might look like.