Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Another Sports Day

Writing about sports day yesterday got me thinking again about the sports days I took part in as a boy.

As I mentioned previously, I was, for a few of my years, a half-decent sprinter, winning the McGregor Cup as Senior Boys' 100m champion in both of my final two years at school.

Unfortunately, this success didn't translate to other events, and I was never crowned overall champion, although Baby Brother achieved that feat a few years later.

My inability to convert my sprinting prowess to other events reached its peak when I was around 14. At the end of each school sports day, the final event was always the boys' open 1500m race, an event in which every boy in the school was entitled to compete, regardless of age.

Entering the event as a fresh-faced 14-year-old, I had no grasp of the concept of pacing myself. If I did something, I did it flat out, as befitted a sprinter.

Lining up alongside my fellow male pupils, I was one of the younger runners. But, as the gun signalled the start of the race, I flew out in front of the pack, determined to rattle around the track as quickly as possible.

For the watching crowd, comprising every other pupil in the school, all of the teachers and a few bored parents, it must have been some sight. By the end of the first lap, I was 200 metres in front of my nearest challenger, a senior pupil four years older and considerably fitter than I was.

As I crossed the line at the end of the first of my three laps, I received some sterling advice from those congregated at the line:

"Slow down!"

"You're running too fast!"

"Move into the inside lane!"

True enough, by the midway point of the second lap, my lungs and legs were burning, and the runners behind me were closing in fast. By the end of that lap I was second.

Midway through the third lap, I thought I was going to die, my legs barely willing to carry me any further, my heart dancing to its own private hardcore rave compilation and my lungs wondering what they'd done to deserve the punishment I was inflicting upon them.

Finally, desperately, I stumbled over the finish line in seventh place, staggered to a nearby grassy bank and collapsed.

The world was spinning and I could see spots flashing wildly in front of my eyes. It took me a good 10 minutes to summon the energy to stand up.

The lesson I've learned from that race?

If nature had intended me to travel 1500 metres in one go, he'd have given me wheels instead of legs.

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