The birds looked at each other and almost fell off their perches laughing.
Children frowned as worried Mums ushered them swiftly out of the way.
Men shook their heads in despair at the sight slowly lumbering towards them. They had to wait quite a while. Actually they had to wait ages.
It was New Year’s Day. It was cold. It was the day I never really believed would come.
January the 1st 2012 – the day we went for a ‘family’ run.
What were we thinking?
Still drunk from the success of December’s Santa Run where I, for one, had coughed and wheezed my way around 2 miles of Oxford streets by running slower than your Nan walks, we decided to try again – only this time it was supposedly ‘just for fun’.
Any parent reading this will know how hard it is to get their kids off the sofa during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday, and just how unbelievably worth the effort it is to do so. My boys spiral ever faster into anarchy, like a whirlpool of bitter, pent up Punk Rockers the longer they are left sitting around a treat filled house playing games and watching Christmas TV. It’s lovely for a couple of days but soon the fighting and noise levels rise worryingly high, so action has to be taken.
So you take them out on walks.
These work like a blood transfusion, spending their bad energy and replacing it with a fresh input of life that they can use eating yet more chocolate sat firmly in front of the box.
Three woodland walks later though, and the magic has worn off. You have to try and find something new. Bleary eyed from staying up until midnight to see in the year but refusing to stay in bed past nine the next morning, my two boys were itching for a hard day’s arguing. They put their feet down and made it clear that the walk I was suggesting would result in me losing the last precious few strands of hair on my head once and for all. It was not going to be worth it. They were too tired; they would sit in front of the TV and occasionally hit one another instead.
My wife, Jo – never short of a ridiculous idea – surpassed herself. “Hey, I know what we should do – we should go for a family run – all of us. That will be a laugh won’t it? Bagsy not running with Dad!”
Before I could point out that there was no way in hell I was going to be running anywhere when I could be sat here eating chocolate and pretending I can’t hear the kids trying to kill each other, the boys cheered and started laughing. Their sugar and inactivity induced vindictiveness could be aimed at me instead of each other. The glee with which they relished the idea of making me go running on New Year’s Day completely made them forget about how tired they were.
I put my shorts on.
We set off with Jo leading the way. We would run 5K or about three miles if you prefer. Jo and Daniel have run this distance together a couple of times; Jamie and I would just have to see how we got on.
It is safe to say that I didn’t get on at all – nor did the boys.
Two weeks away from the playground, mixed with the stupendous over-excess of Christmas, had erased all of the evidence that we had ever managed to run two miles together. The boys kept stopping to walk or just to stop – and well, someone had to stay with them! I tried to gee them on, but I was about as convincing as Russell Crow’s accent in Robin Hood. Who was I fooling when I said that we could do it? No one.
The boys whinged. I whinged. We sounded like a faulty ambulance with an extremely rough sounding exhaust as we inched along the paths, holding up Zimmer framed ladies who were dragging wheeled shopping baskets behind them and getting more than a little vocal about their delay.
Daniel attempted to complete the 5K, all be it by walking, while my youngest and I simply dodged behind a fence long enough for Jo to be out of sight and then hobbled a short cut home. I’m not sure how far we actually ran but I suspect you could measure it with a ruler.
However the thing is, as big a failure as the family run actually was, it was also a massive success. In fact Daniel wound up getting out of the house and walked / jogged for three miles. Jamie got off the sofa and walked / jogged for two. They got air. They got exercise. They had point blank refused to go for a walk with us, and yet they had – willingly.
And when they got back they were renewed. Oh they were tired and the TV went back on – of course it did – but the aggression was spent. Irritation and sibling rivalry had returned to its standard background level. I had my boys back.
Jo’s idea had not been so ridiculous after all – in fact it had been sheer genius. I probably only ran about three inches more than Jamie so I can’t claim that I got much exercise really, not that you would have guessed that from the amount heaving and sweating I was doing, but yet again just shutting up and doing what my wife told me to do paid for itself.
The world’s least impressive jog saved Christmas! Now there is a claim.
Worryingly, in those first few moments, when I was filled with positivity about the world of exercise, I came up with an idea – a potentially very silly one…