On Saturday I completed my first ever Olympic Distance Triathlon. It was an absolutely brilliant day, full of lots of ‘firsts’. First race Olympic distance race. First race in open water. First time competing in a trisuit and first time racing in my fabulous golden visor. But there was also a significant first for me. It was the first time my two children, ages 5 and 7, had come to see me in a race.
As a teenager I raced nearly every weekend. Through the year track races would become road races and road races would soon become cross country competitions. I would have family at nearly all my races. Mum and Dad. Sometimes just Mum or Dad. Mum, Dad and brother. Occasionally extended family would come along too and it would become a massive deal. I remember cringing at being cheered on or as a female relative would loudly lavish me with praise in front of my team mates and other coaches. My nerves didn’t help either. Before a race I would become moody and irritable, snapping at anyone who tried to talk to me. I wanted to be left alone but I never was. In my own selfish, teenage way, I envied girls who were on there own, probably not even thinking that maybe they would like to have someone with them. Looking back I can see how I took my family being there very much for granted.
When I started back running after my second son was born I had accepted that I might not be able to have all the family around watching me in races. Trying to entertain a toddler and a young baby at a long event is no fun for the parent trying to support and it’s boring for the kids. I decided a while ago that I wasn’t going to force my children to come along to races to support me, especially if it was just a glimpse.
And then there are the crowds, trying to manoeuvre children on public transport, stopping them from running off, fighting and arguing. Ugh. It just wasn’t something my husband and I wanted to inflict on the family, especially when I felt like what I was doing was a little bit on the selfish side anyway. So for the races I have done since then it has just been my husband who has met me somewhere near the finish line. I don’t think I’ve even seen him on the sidelines as he’s had to fight through those crowds to try and find a good place to try and spot me while trying to get to the finish.
A few weeks ago I did a novice triathlon. It was a really early start and even though it was local I hadn’t wanted to drag the whole family out of bed to see me. I went along on my own, finished and then wandered around. I could see lots of children running along the side of the running course cheering on their mums and dads. Whats more these kids were around the same age as mine. I felt a little pang inside and started to wish that I had had someone at the end to give me a hug. I fought off the temptation to go up to one of the marshalls and hug them and went home.
On Saturday I had fully intended to go to the triathlon on my own, meet up with Team Tricurious and head back with a brief phone call to family to let them know how I had got on. My husband was away at a function with his ‘bar bus’ so the boys were with my folks. In the morning my Dad inquired a little bit as to where I would be and how long it would take. I just thought he was showing concern and some interest.
As I came out of the ExCel after my bike transition I had a huge surprise. There on my left were four people I recognised. Four of my own people. People who were there for me. I shrieked in excitement as I ran over to greet my parents who had brought the boys to see me for the very first time. They weren’t somewhere else just to meet me at the end, they were here to see me run!
My heart lifted and I tried to get more spring in my step. At the end they were waiting just beyond the finish line and they all flung their arms around me. My heart inflated even more with the love of my boys…….until they started fighting over my medal, moaning that I was too sweaty and pulling daft faces when we tried to take a nice picture. Right there the inflated heart shrank a bit as I had to go back into parental mode.
On a serious (and soppy) note it meant a lot to see my family on Saturday. I can’t believe how happy it made me feel to see them and I am thrilled that they were able to come along. I’m glad that the boys got to see one of the events that they see me training for. They have seen that the hard work goes towards something special. I also think it’s important for young boys like mine to see that the women in their lives can be strong and determined.
Saturday was an incredible day for me for so many reasons but having the boys there really topped off a fantastic day. My teenage self obviously underestimated the power of having people there cheering you on. My 35 year old self however really appreciated having people there for me and right now being watched in all my races is something I could get used to. Until the time comes when the boys’ activities take over and I become the cringe inducing parent of teenager on the side line.