Saturday, 29 June 2013

I've changed my mind.

It doesn't happen often, so I thought I ought to record it here, but I have changed my mind on something.  Husbando may not believe it is true unless he sees it in print, or pixels, or whatever this is!

Ever since I first started going to parkrun I have been aware of the 'all children under the age of 11 must be accompanied by an adult' rule, but being a very relaxed, laid back mum of 5 children my idea of 'accompanied' is vastly different to the concept as visualised by the mum of many a lone child.  It isn't physically possible to keep all 5 children in my line of sight at any one time and allow them to do anything much more exciting than sitting on a park bench, so my children have grown up with slightly more freedom than a many a child in a smaller family will enjoy.  I make sure that they know where I am, what time they are expected back and what the limits are (in terms of how far they can go, which trees they can climb, etc. etc) and we get along pretty well most of the time.  I have independent, adventurous children who seem to thrive on a system of benign neglect.

When my then 8 year old started coming to parkrun with me we ran together for the first time, so that he didn't get lost, learnt how to deal with faster runners coming along behind him etc. and knew what to do at the finish funnel.  The next week I asked him if he wanted to run with me and he was quite adamant that he would much rather run by himself.  This was fine by me, as I like to treat parkrun as my fast run of the week, and my son likes to run a bit, stop and look at a snail on a leaf, chat to a dog, etc.  But he likes the whole parkrun concept, chatting to people he knows and being part of the parkrun family.

So, when a newsletter came out stating that 'accompanied' meant that our under 11s should be 'within reach' at all times I was not a happy bunny.  Neither was my by now 9 year old.  He didn't want to run with me at parkrun.  We compromised a bit.  I said that if we were at any other parkrun but our home run he would have to run with me, if we were at out home run I would run with him unless we could find someone else he wanted to run with.  This happens quite often - he will run and talk with any number of the regulars there quite happily.

Today, however, the children were at a school fete.  I was on my own.  I thought I might just 'go for it' and see if I could get close to my PB.   My PB has stood since August 2011 and it is time I had a crack at beating it.  I moved closer to the front than I have for a wee while, not right to the very front you understand, I didn't want people thinking I was really making an effort!   I got off to a good start.  I was running at a faster pace than my PB pace, and it felt comfortable, not as though I was pushing myself to my limit.  I hit the 1k marker in a smidge over 4 minutes and carried on over the field enjoying the feeling of overtaking people for a change.

As I approached the top of a field I was aware of a child coughing near me.  Suddenly I saw the coughing boy stumble, fall and lie on the floor crying.  I stopped.  What else could I do?  I looked around to see if anyone else seemed to be concerned - they didn't.  I asked him if his mum or dad was nearby, he didn't know.  His dad was 'here' but he wasn't sure where.  He was sobbing and it was not easy to understand what he was saying.  If it had been my child (this one was also 9) I would have known if it was going to be OK for him to carry on, but this child was an unknown - I didn't know if he had asthma or something, so decided that the only option was to go back to the finishing area where I could leave him with the marshals.

We walked back.  I got some funny looks from other runners.  At the finish area the child saw his father and the two were reunited.  'Why did you stop him running?' asked the father.  I pointed out that I hadn't stopped him running, he'd fallen over and was crying and upset and all on his own.  The father was quite rude when I pointed out that children under 11 should be with a parent.  As I ran back to join the runners I shouted 'And thank you so much for looking after my child and giving up your run!'  Petty, I know, but there you go!

So, my 5k run became about 1k more than that!  I couldn't decide how to approach the run when I rejoined it - at the very back of the pack.  I jogged along, overtaking a few people, slowing down to chat with friends, stopping to talk to someone at the playground.  As I approached the end of the first complete lap I picked up my pace a bit, as the fast runners were completing their final lap and they spurred me on.  I was tickled to hear comments from runners (who know me well) about how well I was running and how I must be in the top 4 ladies to finish!  I wish!  I looked at my watch and realised that they thought I was on for a finish time of around 21 minutes, if this was my last lap, which would be over 2 minutes faster than my current PB!  I ran past the finish funnel and on to my final lap, still overtaking people all the way.  I ran the last half mile of my run faster than the first half mile so have decided that I probably should have a serious pop at my PB in the next few weeks.

The dad and child had gone by then.  Just as well, as I now had time to really let rip at dad for being so rude!  Parents running with their children is a good thing!  I wish my son liked running parkrun with me - he loves running with me during the week (he just likes to run alone/with parkrun friends at parkrun) and I love running and chatting with him about his day.  After today I am more prepared to sacrifice my Saturday parkrun for my child.

That said, had someone brought my sobbing child back to me I like to think I might have had the good grace to be grateful and not rude to that person!


  1. I guess if everyone were like you we would not need the "must run with adult" rule. But it is jerks like that which mean it has to exist, although he ignored it anyway! I think you did well to only give him a petty comment as you went back to running.

  2. The really sad thing is that, as I stopped to help the boy, I did think 'what happens if the parent doesn't like the fact I picked his son up off the floor and complains, what will happen to my CRB clearance etc.' Nonsense to feel that way, but people can be very strange!

  3. I think you did the right thing. If anybody is upset or injured, runners should stop to assist. For them there is always next week! The under 11 rule is contentious especially when you see juniors as front runners....some parents couldn't keep up with them, no matter how hard they try. However parents should know where their children are at all times and are safe. It is not recommended that children under 13 take part in races however, if they are running for fun and with parents its OK. There are some really nasty people out there and I cannot believe that any parent would not want to know where their child is at all times and safe.