Family On The Run

I have been consciously trying to get my children – and my daughter in particular – into sport at an early age.  Not to be competitive – instilling that it should be fun first- but to create a lifestyle with sport as a part of it. The stats for school leavers stopping all sports – somewhere in the region of 70% – are staggering.  For girls however the stats are even IMG-20171208-WA0006starker, and even from a younger age – only 37% of 7 year old girls get the recommended amount of exercise (compared to 63% of boys).  Anecdotally, this is compounded when girls move on to secondary school.  I am a fair bit older than both my sisters (10 and 12 years older respectively) and both were actively into team sports, both stereotypically “girls’ sports” like hockey and non-stereotypically like football.  Both enjoyed playing and were good at their chosen sports.  Their participation however curtailed when they began secondary school.  A recent government paper (I say recent, it was published in 2014) seemed to identify 2 main areas that cause the decline in girls taking up sports in school.  The first focuses on the school environment – the lack of choices and over competitive nature of the school programme.  The second area has far more nuance, and can’t be changed with a restructure of the sports education system.  Over a third of the girls stated that a lack of confidence is a major factor, and a whopping 75% said that body image was a sport inhibitor, which can’t be helped by being forced to do sports they don’t like in front of a group of sniggering boys.  Now, I was a boy once and I can state with some confidence that boys can be arseholes.  The government report also stated that 51% of girls were put off physical activity in general due to their experiences of PE in school.  I find this stat heart-breaking as someone who looks back at PE, and team sports, with fond memories – I always tried to have PE at the end of my parents evening, so it could end on a high.

Women and girls who take part in sports are far more likely to partake in individual sports, such as running, and although they may enter mass participation events they are more likely to train alone (or with friends) than to join a club or formal group.  I don’t want this for my daughter; I don’t want it for anyone’s daughter.  Sport should be something enjoyed, not endured.  As a result, I have tried to give them a range of memories that include physical activity.  These have ranged from spending long summer’s days out exploring on our bikes and micro-adventures with wild camping to mass participation running and cycling events.   Initially it was just a way to spend time outside with my family, but increasingly it is also about trying to create a positive reinforcement that sport is a good thing, whether it’s something done with friends and family or competitively in a mass participation event or in a team environment.


It’s been two years since my daughter and I did the Santa run in Plymouth city centre, and after messing up the entry last year I was determined not to make such a mistake again.  The main difference to two years ago is that after years of “why can’t I come too?” my son was now old enough (he would have been last year) to enter, so it was now a family excursion.  We decided to try somewhere new and entered the Santa run at the Eden Project, rather than returning to laps of Plymouth city centre.

The route starts up by the entrance to the Eden Project, and slowly drops down to the biomes.  There are a couple of hundred Santas at the start and we end up splitting into pairs to make it a bit easier to keep track of each other.  As the route slowly makes its way down I chat with my son, trying to stop him from going full gas from the get go.

Once the route reaches the bottom we head through the main entrance to the biomes and IMG-20171208-WA0001make our way, or fight our way, past bemused bystanders and visitors and into the Mediterranean biome.  We complete our lap through the biome and exit through a side entrance rather than through the main entrance – which was far easier than the route in, before we begin our zig-zag ascent back to the finish line for a medal and a chocolate bar.

Having taken my daughter out for a few training runs before our first Santa Run, I was much more relaxed about their ability to run the 2km route, and decided that there would be no need to train for it.  They proved this was the right decision, getting most the way round before the need to stop to have a drink – and tend to a stitch.

I, and hopefully the rest of my family, really had a great time.  Really can’t go wrong with a run with a family and then going to see (the real) Santa.


If interested, the government report can be found here:


Doing her dad proud

My 8 year old daughter has recently signed up to run a half marathon – of sorts. She will be running the schools’ half marathon challenge in Plymouth and will be running a mile a week with the final mile taking place on the half marathon weekend on the Hoe (where the main event starts and finished).  This has really caught her imagination, and has reignited her desire to come running with me – which I am obviously overjoyed about.

Despite the looming threat of ‘Storm Doris’, an after school family run was all but img_0537demanded. So after school, we pop home to get our running kit on and head over to Saltram House (a local National Trust property), however not all of us are quite so keen to go for a run in the Plymouth mizzle.  So the two of us head to Saltram for a run around the grounds and down to the river. Despite the threat from meteorologists it’s a lovely night for a run, a bit cool but not too cold or windy and the trees protect us from the worst of the rain.

She is noticably excited as we set off – she skips, bounces and grins like a cheshire cat.  I try to calm her down a bit – without wanting to piss on her parade – and we jog around the grounds while we chat and generally just be silly.  Running as it should be, fun.

We make it as far as the river, before having to turn back for failing light.  It’s been a whileimg_0544 since we last ran together, and I honestly can’t believe how much more resiliant she has become, she is able to run much further and was able to push herself much harder, wanting to get to pointmarkers despite obviously working hard.

Famous Danish beers don’t make running buddies, but if they did she would be it.

A Family Affair

Forgive me reader(s) for I have procrastinated.  It has been a very long time since I had anything even remotely interesting enough to warrant writing a post – and arguably I still don’t.

I think the biggest development has been an increase in little runners in the family (note: same number of children, just both come running).  My 5 year old son had become more and more vocal in his annoyance that going for a run was either a solo or a dad/daughter affair.  I had come to the point that I had run out of reasons, proper reasons, why he shouldn’t.  My main reason was that this is the only bit of one-on-one I manage to consistently get with my daughter.   He is fascinated withIMG_20160130_112842 bikes and riding them and has happily helped me build him a bike.  We started off buying a cheap kids bike on eBay – which was a bit too big for him. We stripped, re-painted, upgraded and renamed it – giving it that personal touch.  Then once he was just about big enough he was riding it.  My daughter on the other hand isn’t so keen on the bicycle.  She is learning – and is doing well – but she just isn’t that into it, nor is she so keen on falling off.  With this in mind, I had pigeon-holed running as ‘daddy/daughter’ and cycling as ‘daddy/son’ one-on-one time.  So, once it was clear that a) he wasn’t going to let this go, and b) she was happy to include him it was a done deal.

20160102_102409Off we went around the block – the same route as the first daddy/daughter run.  It was incredible how well they cooperated, listen to instructions and most importantly both enjoyed the running – and my daughter genuinely seemed to enjoy having her brother join in too.

Since that wonderful, sunny winters morning we haven’t all been out for a run together.  This is due to a couple of reasons.  One of those reasons is I am trying to get them cycling as often as possible, but also I am waiting for them to ask me again.  I am conscious that I want it to be something that they want to do, so I don’t ask them if they want to go for a run , it has to come from them – I don’t want them to feel at all pressured to do it.  The weather may have played a part.  It has been a little wet recently, and I think this has put a little dampener on their running ambition.  But the interest is still there it seems.

Since the Santa Run in December I have been looking for another race which is suitable for the kids to run too, and then it came to me.  I had been half looking at a 9km night run organised by the National Trust.  Now a 9km run is definitely out of their range, but there is also a 2.6km option. Perfect.  A little bit of digging and kids are welcome.  Family entry booked, a proper race experience for the whole family.

The day of the race arrives, and there are equal measures of excitement and trepidation. The latest storm has hit, and – luckily for the Lake District – Plymouth appears to be at its epicentre this time.  In the morning I am emailed with the warning that a decision on the race will be made by 2 pm.  Finally the email arrives, and the final decision has been made – the race is off.  To be fair to the organisers it is probably the right decision, with trees being blown over and heavy rain over the moor.

We inform the kids that the race has been postponed – and subsequently cancelled.  Their disappointment is obvious, and I make an effort to lessen the blow by promising to look for more races we can do together.

The following morning the weather has calmed down significantly, the wind has dropped and there is even a hint of sun.  First out the door is IMG_20160207_104108me and the boy, who declares he wants to go for a long run.  A longer run it is then, a hilly two km later as we turn for home he still isn’t satisfied and wants to keep going, I – joking – suggest we throw in some hill reps on the way back “YEAH!… what are hill reps?” you’ll see my boy, you’ll see.  The prospect of running up two steep, but fairly short hills didn’t deter him, and the grin was smeared across his face as he plummeted back down them again.  He’ll be a fell runner by his 6th birthday.

Upon our return, I swap son for daughter and head out on the same route – minus the hill reps.  The improvement in her running is amazing, and it isn’t that she is getting quicker.  It’s the increase in confidence.  Knowing she can get to the top of the hill before having a little walk or running up to the road because she knows we’ll have to stop there anyway and have a breather.   The most pleasing improvement however, is that she is now confident enough to tell me to slow down.  Confidence has always been an issue for her, never really willing to back herself, so I love that she now has the confidence to tell me we are going too quick. I couldn’t be prouder.

On a personal level, the running has begun again in earnest.  I have entered two ‘spring’ half marathons four weeks apart, the Forest of Dean spring half in mid-March and Plymouth’s half in mid-April.  I am really looking forward to both for very different reasons.  The Forest of Dean will be my youngest sister’s first race and being able to run it with her is going to be a real joy.  Plymouth on the other hand is all about the time.  I set my personal best there a couple of years ago and running it again should be a good indication of where I am at.  Up to this point I have been concentrating on base training and some hill work, but it’s getting close to the point where some speed work will be required.  This is not my favourite aspect of training; I generally like to just lace up and run but needs must and if I want to get a time that I am happy with now is the time to put in the hard work.

Girl Racer

There are many childhood milestones that all parents should get to share with their children; first steps, first words, first day at school. This weekend I got to add another to my list – first daddy and daughter race.

After our first run – maybe our second – my daughter began to express an interest in doing a race together. At first I thought this may be something we would have to wait until spring to do. Then I thought of maybe a junior parkrun. Then I had a brain wave. Every year the local Rotary Club runs a Santa Run in the city centre. All the basics of a race are covered – lots of people, race numbers and race finisher’s bling. Also being a fun run the pace of the other ‘competitors’ shouldn’t be too high and there are other kids running it too. After speaking to Rhiannon about it I excitedly entered us both, and then went about telling anyone who would listen what we had planned.

FB_IMG_1449521139862The morning of the big race arrived and we got our selves sorted and made our way to the city centre, Rhiannon getting noticeably more excited with every passing Santa. Once parked, we don our suits and make our way down to the shopping centre. We pose for a few customary pictures and then make our way out of the shopping centre toward the start line.

The only possible downside, which I didn’t anticipate until FB_IMG_1449521131901lining up to start, was with everyone dressed as Santa keeping tabs on a 7 year old Santa in a sea of Santas may prove tricky. We started in a little pocket with a number of other people with kids, hoping that we would be behind any over excited starters. Once the race starts I try to manoeuvre us to the right hand side to keep us out of the way a little. I won’t lie I was a bit anxious for the first few 100m that she might get knocked over or put off by being crowded out. To her credit she just took it in her stride, happily going round peopleFB_IMG_1449521095529 who were slowing in front of her. As the horde of Santas thins out (I’m not entirely sure what the collective noun for a group of Santas would be) I begin to relax and we run side by side chatting away. One thing I couldn’t help but notice was the pace she went off at, much quicker than the pace she runs when it is just the two of us. She also manages to keep this going for the best part of a kilometre before having to ease up for a breather. We ease up a bit as we climb back up to the start, walk through the shopping centre and then run back down the hill to the finish.

FB_IMG_1449521119068We cross the line and the look on her face makes my heart melt, she has the biggest grin I have ever seen on such a little face.  The sense of pride I felt watching her cross the line was indescribable, much bigger than any personal accomplishment.

I won’t lie, I loved this race. I just need to find another fun run so we can do it again soon.

Dad Running

I have never really been one for ‘this is my best run because…’ until yesterday. Yesterday was my best, most rewarding run.  It wasn’t long, fast or special for any reason other than the company I was keeping.

My soon to be 7-year-old daughter has been keen to come out for a run with me for aIMG_20151101_120139 while, and this has been accelerated by my training for the Eden Marathon.  First things first, Sunday morning we head into town to buy her first pair of ‘proper running shoes’.  Nothing special, but something more suitable than the daps she currently has to wear to the park.  She was surprisingly excited about buying them, almost as excited as me.

The plan initially was for her to wear them in the house for a few days to make sure they were comfy and then go later in the week.  That plan didn’t last.  Once we got our proper parent-children duties done (i.e. homework) the words “Can we go for a run now” positively explode from her gleaming, smiling face. How could I say “No”? So I suck up the remnants of the cold I’ve had for what feels like an age and get changed into my running gear.

We head out the front door, stop for a couple of pre run photos then have a little stretch while my Garmin gets a fix.  While stretching – which she is far better at than me – I ask her where she wants to go, “Around the block” is her instant reply, even the news that it requires running up ‘that’ hill isn’t enough to dampen her enthusiasm. So off up the hill we go.

IMG_20151101_162710Once we get to the top, I drop back to get a picture, but before I can she has stopped to check on me.  Once I get the desired picture, we jog, we chat, and we even put in a little sprint at the end.

Roll on next weekend, so we can do it again.