While I’ve been a bit under the weather and not running I’ve found myself contemplating my childrens’ own involvement in sport and exercise.
Usually on a Sunday I tend to stay behind while my eldest, who is 7, goes off with his dad to play tag rugby. Last Sunday it was too beautiful a day to stay at home so we all went down to the rugby field as a family to cheer the minis on. As I watched my boy play I noticed two things. The first was that he had obviously improved since I had last seen him. His passing was better, his tagging had improved and he has even developed a little dummy move. The second thing that I noticed was that he played the entire time with a smile on his face. There was a look of pure joy as he chased kids down to grab their tags and glee as he would find the ball in his hands before he decided to run with it or pass.
The next day when we were in the car together I turned to him and asked him if he had enjoyed playing and he said (of course) that he had. Then I told him that he played with a huge grin on his face.
‘I know Mum’, he replied ‘It’s because I love rugby so much and it makes me happy and I want to play it all the time’.
I think I remember feeling the same way about athletics. I remember being excited about going training and loving being around people who wanted to try and run fast. I loved the competition and I loved finding out what my session was going to be.
I remember my father taking my brother and I to all sorts of activities and sports. If we showed the slightest inclination about trying something he would take us along, let us have a go and then if we moved on so be it. Before I found running I had tried swimming, karate, dance, Brownies and ballet. But when I found the thing that I loved there was no going back. It was like being given a gift. It took practice and time and effort but because I loved it, it never felt like work or a chore. It’s a special thing and I have always vowed to do the same thing for my boys. I will let them try as many things as they can until they find the thing that they really want to do.
My son is still young and he may decide next week, or next month or next year that he doesn’t want to do rugby anymore. Until then he will keep going to rugby as long as it makes him happy. His little brother will carry on going to karate while it excites him and makes him want to practice his moves around the house to Iron Maiden. But equally I don’t want them to specialise too young so I will encourage them to continue all manner of other activities for as long as possible.
I started running age eleven and at age thirty five I still love it. Maybe I’m lucky that I found a sport that I loved at such a young age and despite all the peaks and troughs I’ve had with running I’m still drawn back to it. I found something that I loved and when you find that thing you shouldn’t let it go.