My teenage son Joel properly caught the running bug a couple of years ago. Until then, he’d dabbled with jogging and the odd parkrun. He enjoyed the sense of achievement, and showed an unnatural ability to pace himself even at a young age, but running itself never really stuck.
After busting my ankle in 2016, Joel joined me as I slowly rebuilt my fitness with a walk/run programme. And this time, something clicked. He began to understand what I loved about running, and found that he was enjoying it too. His parkrun times started dropping, and he dipped below 30 minutes for the first time. Then in 2017, he ran his first competitive 5K race in Yeovilton, finishing in a very creditable sub-28 minutes. He was hooked.
But I was still top dog runner in the Kirkman household, and always the first one home.
This year, Joel decided he wanted to tackle his first 10K. We picked Glastonbury, one of the biggest races in Somerset. The boy done good, finishing just a few minutes behind me, despite getting a stitch and having to walk part of the way.
A couple of months later, he tried again. This time, it was the Crewkerne 10K. I’d warned him it might be ‘a little bit hilly’. As I chugged up and down the very lumpy course, struggling to find any flat bits, I worried about how Joel might be coping.
Until he appeared alongside me with about half a mile to go, bounding along and looking fresh as a proverbial daisy. And then off he sped to the finish line. The Kirkman family had a new top dog runner, it seemed.
For a time, he’d track me in races, using me as a pacer. Then half a mile from the finish, I’d hear a cheery ‘hello’ as he loped past. Quite annoying, to be honest.
And that’s really been the story of 2019. At this year’s Yeovilton 5K, for one glorious moment I thought I was going to be first home. Then touching distance from the finish, I heard those familiar footsteps…
The Taunton 10K restored my pride a little. I ran under 50 minutes for the first time in many, many years, ahead of Joel for once. But this was a blip, and normal service was soon resumed.
Now, he’s slowly but surely leaving me in the dust. Each week at parkrun he’s taking chunks out of his PB, despite only running once or twice a week.
At first I tried to keep up with him. Now I just try to keep him in sight, and even that’s becoming difficult. It’s time to stop chasing and just be proud of what he’s achieving. He’s 17 and I’m 53 – this is a race I’m never going to win. Unless I tie his shoelaces together. Now, there’s an idea…🤔