Lucky 13

Today was the day of the Zone Cross Country Championships for my Alfie.  As Alfie is in the Under 9’s and as that’s the youngest entry age, this was Alfie’s first year of competing.  To go to the Zone you have to have placed in the Top 6 of your school’s cross country race and Alfie had placed second.

A few pre-race nerves

A few pre-race nerves

The school’s cross country race was about three weeks ago and since that time, fabulous preparation and training was set into gear and organised by one of the mothers who is passionate about running and regularly competes in marathons.  For the race, Alfie trained on Monday afternoons and before school on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and last Sunday there was a training session at the venue so the team could practise on the actual course.

Last minute instructions

Last minute instructions

Alfie is not a sprinter and this race, being only 2kms long, is run like a sprint (if you want to win!)  He also has an astounding lack of competitiveness.  I don’t understand.  Last night I was giving him the pre-race pep talk of all time.  I was talking strategy and mentioning starting positions and not how not to be in first position but to follow closely behind the person winning and how to make great gains going uphill and how to use the downhill parts of the course as recovery.  But I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere.  I sat him down and made him watch the video of Roger Bannister when he ran that race where he became the first person ever to break the 4-minute mile.

‘Did you see that, Alfie?  Were you watching?  Did you see how he didn’t start out at the back of the pack?  Did you see how he ran the whole race behind the person in first position and then, when there was 300 yards to go, he made his move?’

‘Yeah mum’.

This morning I was at it again.  ‘Did you sleep well, Alfie?  How are you feeling?  Do you remember Roger Bannister?  Did you notice his strategy?  What do you think?  Is that what you’re going to do today?’

And Alfie looked up at me and said, ‘Mum, I just wish the world wasn’t so competitive’.

I had no words.

Lining up

Lining up – he’s the tall boy in the middle

We set off at 9am this morning.  I reined it in a bit and said, ‘Alfie, as long as you do your best.  As long as you put all of your training to good use, I’ll be pleased.  Before you’ve even raced, I’m proud of you’.  And when we arrived at the venue I gave him a big hug and a squeeze – just because I knew he wouldn’t enjoy that.

The start of the race and my little guy is at the very back

The start of the race and my little guy is at the very back

Have I mentioned the fabulous and remarkable weather we’re having?  With many days well over the average temperature of 20C (68F) this is officially the warmest May on record.  Today was like a balmy summer’s day with 26C (79F) which is lovely as a spectator but a little warm for a competitor.

So pleased to see him round this bend

So pleased to see him round this bend

Alfie’s race was the first race of the day.  I had told him to make sure he was in the front row at the start of the race and this he remembered!  He elbowed his way into a tiny gap and was at the front.  I could tell the poor boy was nervous but so was probably every other competitor.  There were 84 boys lined up and to advance to the Regionals, you had to finish in the Top 5.  (Coming 6th would see you be a Reserve).  I thought if Alfie could just finish around 20th, I’d be filled with joy.

Anxiously watching from the sidelines

Here he comes!

The course is 1km long and so you have to do two laps of the course.  Some of it is on an oval while the rest of it is running across bridges and through a bush track and up lots of stairs.  There were only certain parts of the course where I could see Alfie.

Lap 1

Anxiously watching from the sidelines

He didn’t get off to the best start and was two-thirds towards the back of the pack within 100mtrs.  But my little guy ran his fastest race ever.  He didn’t give up.  He kept trying and slowly but surely he began to overtake those in front of him until he was in the Top 20.  Meanwhile I was running to all the vantage points where I could see him along the course and was yelling at him, ‘Pick it up now’, and, ‘You’re going great’, and, ‘Get moving’, and he always seemed to lift his pace when he heard me.

Picking up the pace

Picking up the pace

Alfie finished in 13th position.  I was elated for him.  He had some water then said, ‘If I’d just overtaken seven more people, I’d be going to the Regionals’.  Even if he’s not that competitive, his maths is good.

On the home straight

On the home straight

And I can’t work out whether perhaps he is competitive or maybe he just loves running.  In the car on the way home he said, ‘Mum, running’s my thing.  You always make me do too much swimming.  I want to run more.  Can you put me in more running groups?’

And you know how much I love my swimming!  I mentioned to him that in summer, there’s a biathlon group that meets every Friday night where you swim and then run.  I think this will suit both of us very much.

Relaxing with a mate after it's all over

Recovering with a mate after it’s all over

The very best thing about today is that my little guy did his absolute best.  Lucky 13 is an excellent result.


  1. Good on Alfie – and it seems he found just the right balance between striving and simply enjoying the day. It’s a tough line to straddle but I think he has it mastered! That was a great result and how lovely that he has a sport he can enjoy (even though I love running now, I didn’t as a child or teenager).

    Also, just so you know, I most definitely ate my ice cream wafer basket 😉 I just savoured it last!

  2. Congratulations, what a great race! You’re right about your weather, it looks gorgeous.

  3. Yay!!! Go Alfie 🙂

  4. Alfie is a little legend. I am flawed by his wise words, he nailed it. Good balance of doing it for the pure love of it, and to win too. Lovely reminder to do things we love, and to do them for us. 🙂 Good to see you enjoying the sun shine. I hear we have the same here in the Berra!

  5. I think you both did well. He got no pressure and enjoyed the race AND he came in 13th. 🙂

  6. Congratulations to Alfie! Never having any of my three kids as serious sports enthusiasts and never being an athlete myself, I always struggle to understand the degree of competitiveness in sports.

    In the U.S., sports are taken way too seriously by many families who basically give up their lives so their kids can compete. Every weekend it’s run to this tournament, run to that tournament. I don’t get it.

    Participating because you enjoy a sport, that I can understand.

  7. I agree, it’s an excellent result. What a great lil kid you have there, takes everything with so much good spirit. But as he grows older, who knows, running might his thing. or swimming. or both.

  8. Yay Alfie! 13th is excellent! WooHoo! Nice job! Charlie, you must be so proud!! 🙂 xo

  9. Great job the 13th!!! this is super great …. good job Alfie 🙂 you have such a lovely kid.

  10. Back from my travels and starting to catch up. Nice to start with a happy Alfie spirit. I cheer for his lack of competitiveness (obviously he has just enough to get him out there and trying) in this world of over-competing at every level. Makes for a healthy person, I think. Good for him. And 13th is great!

  11. Awww this is such a sweet post 🙂 And I’m so proud of Alfie he did his very best and I think it’s a great idea for you guys to do the swimming and then running best of both worlds hehe

  12. Great job Alfie!! I think it’s the age Charlie. I used to give the same pep talk to Laith before his footie games but he never listened.
    As long as Alfie enjoyed himself. Looks like he did well though! Congrats!

  13. Charlie this brings tears to my eyes. I feel elation that a little guy is discovering “his thing” and I just adore his sweet nature in all of it. He seems to be focused on his “personal best” much more than being tied to the competitive aspect of the event. As a developing runner this sounds like a good way to go. He’s such a dear…we all tell you that, and you, of course, completely know that. Job well done, both of you!

  14. Alfie is just the best little kid … and he made a pretty profound statement there. We ARE pretty competitive and as a good mother I’m sure you want your little guy to succeed in whatever he does, but whether he’s first or 13th, Alfie knows you love him. And that’s what really counts. Please share a hug and a ‘good on ya’ with him from one of your blog-friends.

  15. You know, I adore that youngest son of yours! What a trooper he is! Congratulations to him on a very successful race! 🙂

  16. Go Alfie! Wow 13 is fantastic!

  17. Great job Alfie! I agree that things are too competitive, unless it’s the Hunger Games there’s no need to beat everyone one else, just give it a good try. A biathlon group sounds like the best of both worlds xox

  18. What a great story. We’ll done to your little man. I can just see you running the vantage points?

  19. Go Alfie! He’s so enthusiastic about everything he does and what a great result especially in the heat.

  20. Lovely to see Vicki back and commenting – I am afraid I too absolutely cheer Alfie’s non-competitiveness: if he finds something he really enjoys doing he’ll do it in his own time! Often one wins by not trying too hard! Meanwhile let each child find their own tempo!! Vive la difference!!!

  21. Yay Alfie! Well done!! 🙂

  22. congrats alfie! i love reading your stories, it always makes me smile!

  23. Congrats to Alfie and had to smile when he said ‘Mum, I just wish the world wasn’t so competitive’. I have to agree to a certain point, but sometimes competition is good :). Have a fantastic weekend 🙂

  24. You must be so proud of him. He has such a great attitude. If you do what you love you can’t go wrong. The Roger Bannister video was fascinating; thanks for posting it.

  25. Well done Alfie! What a super star you are and most wise for your age too!
    Have a wonderful weekend Charlie.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  26. What a fabulous little chap. He actually looked like he was leaping along in that second to last photo. If the competitiveness was added in, he would come first. It’s great he loves it.

  27. Great job, Alfie! What a good sport. Sounds like the race was a lot of fun for the runners and the spectators!

  28. Congrats! What a marvelous job Alfie did. Looks like it was a perfect day for a race too.

  29. I can sense enthusiasm in Alfie. And he seems to take things positively, too! Running is good for the health and body – that alone makes him a sure winner! Congrats, Charlie!

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  30. 13th out of that large group is something to be proud of…yea Alfie, you did great!

  31. Great job, Alfie! Amazing! I was impressed how matured he is when he said “I just wish the world wasn’t so competitive”!!!! Despite that, he did fantastic job! You must be very proud of his achievement, and I felt happy reading this post!

  32. Well done Alfie, but rather him than me. God I hated cross country when I was in school, and it was always a winter activity too, so as if freezing cold weather wasn’t bad enough, but we had to go running to boot :'(

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