Me and physical activity. The mind is willing, but the flesh is weak.
I’ve had a mixed relationship with exercise and exertion. At school, I loved the competition of team games. I always made sure to place myself in a position of intimidation in defence, rather than all that running about activity. Slim pickings of willing participants meant I would usually get on the school team. Mental.
In hockey I was Right Back. No “Right Back in the dressing room” jokes – you’re better than that.
For netball I was the Goal Shooter, a splendid position where I only needed to hang about underneath the net and wait for the glory. Although that would more often come to Becky who was Goal Attack. She zoomed about, pivoting like a mad woman, with a far higher percentage of goals scored than me. She still plays today.
Basketball was fun. More low level aggression was allowed and I really didn’t have to move about much at all.
Rounders. Hmm. I had to develop a pretty decent hit to achieve a rounder, but I did enjoy being the last barrier to the other team scoring when I managed to get a spot on 4th base.
Things became more challenging when I was in the Sixth Form and became House Captain for Tudor House. At our school, everyone was divided into one of six different houses and throughout the year you would have competitions for Drama, Music, Public Speaking and always most traumatically in the summer, House Games. In the creative arts, I’m proud to say Tudor flourished. In other competitions where we didn’t have to sing, act or sit down and play chess, we floundered slightly.
But not for the want of trying.
You see, I really enjoy team games. I relish being the underdog and sometimes surprising the opposition. More often than not, it ends in last place and humiliation, but I wouldn’t change that for the world. If life means always getting involved and often falling short, or never getting involved or attempting anything, then I choose the former.
An example from my illustrious school sports history. House Cross Country. Tudor House has 0 applicants to take part. I can’t have that as House Captain. I sign up. The day of the race I heave myself over, up and down a Surrey hillside, huffing and puffing my way along. A thoughtful teacher, mostly thinking of getting back to a warm staff room and his tea and biscuits, directs me to a shortcut so we can all just go home. Shamefully, I took it. It didn’t improve the result, but it meant the school bus could return before the sun set.
Another, more public example. House Summer Sports. No one in the Sixth Form steps forward. So I, and trusty Deputy Captain Clare, divvy up the races between us. Let me be clear. The ENTIRE school attends. You spend the day on the sports fields with everyone watching you. I got the 1500 metres and the 100 metre sprint. Sprint. Dear Reader, I don’t get up out of a chair without several attempts and a sweaty brow.
One hundred metres. Sounds such a short distance, doesn’t it? But when the school is watching, you are having to wear shorts, and everyone else appears to have superhuman fitness, it is a long, long way. Long. I’ll spare you the metre by metre details of that horrifying race, but just let you know that as I stopped for a breather at the halfway point, everyone else was already sat in their chairs receiving their medals.
I walked across that finish line, hands on hips, head hung in shame, but laughing at the ridiculous position I’d put myself in. What happened when I crossed the line? The crowd cheered. When Clare stormed the bend of the 200 metre race, our House stood on our feet and clapped, cheered, whopped and hollered her home. She did not win, but at least she ran it. Even the school-aged British love an underdog.
But trying. Making an attempt. Fighting against all odds. Bearing the brunt of losing. That is something to be admired. Winning is not everything, but I know this for absolute sure: You’ll never win at anything, if you don’t sign up for the race to begin with. You’ll never move forward unless you accept the possibility of failing, and try anyway.
And that is why, the London 2012 Olympics is a reason to be excited, and hopeful and full of expectation. We’re not going to top the medal table, but I think Team GB will triumph in the old Tudor House way – because singing, dancing and acting through tonight’s Opening Ceremony, of that creative endeavour then we are most definitely the champions.
To celebrate the Olympics this summer, me and Ellie from Buttons Children’s Parties decided to arrange a very special party in the Surrey woods, that gave some local athletes the chance to test their metal against other eager competitors. They carried boiled eggs on spoons, hopped along a sandy track in a hessian sack, found that 3 legs are not better than 4 and finally hunted for medals in the woods.
And what got them there in the first place? What made them hungry for success? (Literally hungry).
It was Ellie’s amazing sweet table, heaved into place with the help of Mr Kelly and excellent party helper Stevie. An antique bureau bedecked with old school, old fashioned sweets and topped off with a creative homage to the olympic rings. As ever, with all things crafty and creative Ellie did a gold-medal winning job.
The kids came. They conquered. They won bags of sweets. I believe all the sweets were made from root vegetables and contained absolutely no sugar whatsoever.*
* This claim cannot be verified. And actually if the kids had to do a sugar-based doping test following the races, I’m pretty sure they would have all failed.
So here it is, in pictures, the story of our Olympics-themed party in the woods. On your marks. Get set. Go!
Thank you so much to all the amazing athletes who came out to run, hop, skip and jump through the races. I’m so glad you had fun, cheered enthusiastically and smiled wildly through your own mini-Olympic adventure.
As ever, huge thanks to Ellie Kelly and her team for hosting the party, dreaming up the games and creating a sweet table to sugar-rush over.
I wonder what will be next for us. We’ve done sea and now land, so I suppose next is air. Any ideas?
Enjoy the Olympics everyone – watch and cheer, be thrilled and wowed. It’s a once in a lifetime experience to enjoy them on home turf. Don’t waste it.