The Parent’s Race

I remember the burning sensation in my lungs, I remember my class mates cheering me on. I remember my Green Flash trainers scuffing the orange dirt of the running track, ah yes, I remember school Sports Day like it was yesterday. I also remember the day I left school thinking, “Great, I will never have to humiliate myself on a running track ever again.”


Because there’s a thing they don’t mention in any of the parenting books. An annual thing that must be done, like dental checks and car MOTs; The Parent’s Race on Sport’s Day. This event causes even the most laid-back of parents to reveal that they have secretly been having one-on-one training with Jessica Ennis, just for this race. In my experience, this is what happens at a Sports Day Parents’ Race: A ramshackle collection of parents, ranging from the mega-fit to the slightly hungover, will be arranged at the starting line by a young, bouncy P.E. teacher in lycra, his/her whistle glinting in the sunlight. The whistle will be blown and a race, more a sort of middle-aged carnage will ensue, a bit like a scene from Wacky Races, as Competitive Parenting reaches its zenith. The  resulting victorious mum or dad will ride the tide of Uber Parent glory and get all the best cupcakes at the PTA sale for the entire year until the next race. Me, I opt out. There are various ways of doing this such as pretending you have a bad back, are pregnant or drunk, or are so frighteningly competitive that it’s, “probably best if you sit this one out”. Failing this, you can opt out on moral/ethical/religious grounds. I don’t quite know what this means, but it works. Or, you can do what my husband and others did last year and stage a comedy protest. They decided to infiltrate the highly competitive Dads’ Race and leapfrog over one another instead of running. Unfortunately, someone leapt when they should have frogged and ended up in A&E. That is a totally true story. It occurs to me that generally, parents are more comfortable with the idea of competition than the children these days. Sports Day seems to be one of the only times my kids are encouraged to be really competitive at school. I only noticed this when our youngest, running streets ahead of her classmates in the 100 meters with us screaming red-faced encouragement from the sidelines suddenly stopped, mid-race,  to wait for her mates to catch up so they could cross the finish line holding hands. That would never have happened when I was at school. I just don’t know anymore; is competition good for our kids or does it crush their spirit? Whose idea was it to have parent’s races anyway? Do you take part? Furthermore, does lycra really look good on anyone over 30? Image Credit : Timothy Takemoto