I am making my comeback as a runner, and my three children are taking it with a fair amount of amusement.
Or as amusement.
I’ve been out of running shape for years, bar a brief attempt to keep pace with a few running friends a year ago. I once could run long and fast, finishing a marathon in my 20s and winning a two-mile race in university.
Now it’s time for my comeback at the age of 46.
I know that it may not be as easy or quick to get in shape as it was in my 20s or 30s, but I’m going for it. I started with laps around the city plaza, first four, then five. Now I’m going for longer distances while on holiday on the coast of Argentina, where the route is along the sandy lanes in a pine forest behind our house.
On my first outing, I take my son along for company.
The nine-year-old speeds ahead on his bike and then stops to let me pass before taking off and passing me again with a broad smile.
“Hi,” he says as he approaches me from behind.
Then “Bye” as he pedals past my determined but nevertheless sluggish gait.
He repeats these antics again with glee. And then another time. And another.
I put my head down to focus on my training. I think about Rocky Balboa preparing for the big fight in “Rocky,” when he runs alongside a train and past a river and through the crowded inner city. I can hear the theme song in my head as I run, as I put in the effort and as I put in the distance to get in shape. I can hear the choir singing, “Trying hard now” and “Gonna fly now / Flying high now / Gonna fly, fly, fly.”
I keep running with visions that around me people are turning their heads to shout me on: “Go, Rocky!”
But what do I get?
I lift my head to see my son racing past me on his bike and full of gaiety.
Yeah, I think. He’s right to make this fun. Heck, my running comeback is going take time and it certainly is better to enjoy the experience than agonize over it.
So I smile and call out to my son, “Hey, wait up Speedy Gonzalez!” as he whizzes ahead and we head home.
That’s when my son demonstrates how he’s becoming quite a wisecrack. Queried by Mum on my running, he reports that I am quite a slowpoke and that he had to go back to get me and make sure I didn’t get lost or collapse.
Mum, of course, laughs gaily.
And I, of course, don’t invite Speedy Gonzalez to join me on my next training session.
I choose any easier running mate: my youngest daughter.
The six-year-old still uses training wheels on her bike. That’s a good thing. The extra wheels slow her down. They even get stuck in patches of soft sand. This, I think, will make it appear like I am going faster than against Speedy Gonzalez.
The youngest comes out with excitement and, well, her own quota of determination. She pedals ahead, gets stuck, pulls her bike out of the sand and keeps pushing forward, and to my surprise, she soon starts to outpace me on the sandy lanes. Then she slows down so I can catch up and points to our dog, who has joined us but is still recovering from a back and hindleg injury. She points and says, “Hey Dad, you run like the dog.”
That’s kind of like saying, “You run like a cripple.”
The youngest whizzes ahead.
Then she slows down and I speed up to overtake her and, yes!, I have passed her and I am out in front!
But what is this, she has come to a stop . I look behind. She is gazing at the setting sun and then, I swear, she makes an attempt at whistling before casually mounting her bike again. Then she starts to pedal and, whoosh!, she’s back out in front.
And then she slows again to let me catch up and says, breathlessly, “Dad, maybe you should bring a bike next time.”