I am probably the most excited father in Gauteng, as the two-year-old Egg has her nursery school athletics meeting tomorrow.
In my family, running is a matter of life or death.
My father was a good athlete, my sister was a great athlete and my son is still competitive at any level. Even I – old and lazy as I may be nowadays – found myself on the podium on the odd occasion in years gone by.
With the result that nobody has ever wondered if Egg would run one day. “She looks like a long distance runner,” my son said when she was about 10 months old. My sister squeezed her little baby thighs as if testing an avo for ripeness and disagreed. “Nope. She’s a sprinter.”
Now she will start her career as a sprinter with tomorrow’s 60m event. “That’s far,” my son said when I phoned him. “Tell her not to burn herself out in the first half of the race. She must run a negative split – keep in the pack and kick at the end. She can take this one. Strategy is one of the weaknesses of many two-year-old athletes.”
I didn’t ask my sister for advice. She’s even more competitive.
And me? I can clearly remember my son’s first race 19 years ago, when I proudly pinned a yellow rosette to my shirt to support him. He started slowly, as he suggested to Egg, and kicked at the end to steal the second last position from an unlucky boy just centimetres from the finish line.
So I don’t care if she wins or loses. If she can only learn the wonders of running, I’ll be happy.
The sport has always given me a lot of pleasure. The physical advantages are well-known, but to me the big benefits were always the lesser-known perks: it improves overall mental health, it reduces stress and it gives you confidence. Hell, some people even get enough confidence to believe they look good in spandex tights.
Which brings us to another big race on May 8. South Africans can certainly benefit from the physical advantages of running an election: lower national blood pressure, a bloated Cabinet will shed some weight, a spotlight on healthy government, hopefully stronger economic legs…
As long as we don’t give politicians too much confidence. Nobody wants to see Julius Malema or Pieter Groenewald in spandex tights.