After a two-week delay due to all the rain that set the course under water, it was time for Alfie to compete in the Zone Cross Country.
In the big lead-up he trained once a week at Little Athletics where they worked on strength, distance and speed. Even though he only had a few training sessions before the race, he improved a lot and also learnt race technique.
And he’s needed a bit of help with his race technique because in the past he’s been very slow to start his races, ensuring he then has to spend the remainder of the race overtaking everyone else. And he used to think a casual stroll to the finish line was more than adequate. I’ve been on the sidelines tearing out my hair as more competitive boys whip past him.
The big event was a few days ago and while the course wasn’t under water it was certainly muddy and slippery. Around 15 schools made up the Zone and each school sent five competitors so there were around 70 in each race.
This year a highlight of the day was that his Beijing cousin was competing in the race just before his. But alas, a virus and a fever saw her bow out of the competition. There’s always next year!
I took Rosie as she loves to spectate and watch some fierce competition. A few people did look at her and then say to me, ‘Didn’t you use to have two dogs?’ Never mind.
After a wee delay it was time for the Under 10 boys to compete. They lined up in their rows behind the starting line. If you came first in your school’s race you were put in first position behind the line. It was with great relief that Alfie came first as he is not known for getting off to a great start.
Once the starter’s gun had fired, Alfie hesitated (but not for as long as he normally does) and then his legs started to move. At the first corner he was in about 30th position.
I quickly ran to where I’d next see him as he emerged from the bush and by then he was in about 25th position. Inching forward.
By the end of the first lap he was in about 15th position. As his goal had been to get to the Regionals and as only the first six place-getters qualify for the regionals, I yelled at him that he’d have to step it up.
As he came around another corner he was in about 10th position running neck and neck with another boy. I told him he needed to go hard and I saw him pick up his pace. And the boy beside him picked up his pace too.
He and the other boy emerged from the bush side by side. It was now a sprint to the finish. And I saw Alfie sprint. And that’s the first time he has ever sprinted to the finish. He finished his 2km event in 8th position and just in front of the other boy.
The boy who had come 9th then dissolved into a flood of tears and had to be whisked away by his parents. Competing can be brutal.
Alfie wasn’t in tears but he was a little disappointed. He had run his best ever race but his goal had been to qualify for the Regionals. Having finished in 8th place, he is a reserve. Never mind; you can’t do better than your best and he certainly ran his best ever race. Last year he finished in 13th position so he had certainly stepped up from last year’s results.
And next year he has more odds stacked in his favour. In the Under 11’s he’ll have to run 3kms instead of 2kms and the longer the race, the better he runs. As I’ve said before, there’s always next year.
After a bag of snakes and a packet of sour squirms (rewards), it was time to pack up and head for home.
But just for a little while. Because then it was off to swim squads. I thought he might have been too tired to swim but he didn’t mind going. In the car on the way home he turned to me and said, ‘Thank you for making me go to swim squads because I really love them’.
A good day out for the little guy.