I often used to play on the streets by myself when I was a kid . Or with a few of the neighbourhood children. I think it made me fit and savvy.
Or you’d find me at the nearest wooded area. Dirty and disheveled making a camp, climbing trees and pretending to be Tarzan. For quite a few years I was obsessed with anything to do with Tarzan.
These are two important bits of information as I think they paved the way for the day I ran like the wind.
A Windy Tale
I had just started secondary school.
When the rounders and netball teams were being decided I didn’t get a look in. I now know I am dyslexic but looking back I think I had mild dyspraxia too – I was clumsy and not great at catching the ball.
And so the day came for the whole of the year group – about 120 – girls to do the annual cross country three mile run. Those that had made it in to the sporting teams were positioned at the front of all the runners. I was pretty scrawny but think I set off somewhere in the middle of the pack.
The race was held in a place that boasted mature woodlands, hills and banks. Not far from the school.
Ready, Steady, GO
We were started in groups separated by a few seconds. As soon as my whistle rang out I began to fly like the wind.
Up the banks.
Hurdling over fallen tree trunks.
Striding up the grassy hill.
Careful with my footing as I practically slid down a loose muddy, stony mound.
My long pony tail bouncing as the slight autumn wind kept me cool.
I flew past many runners until it was only the front group who were before me. My experience of roller skating in the streets and tackling the uneven terrain of my local woods served me well. I had strength and stamina on my side.
With the finish line in view I put in an extra spurt and to my teacher’s utter amazement I crossed it in second place with breath to spare.
After that day the PE department looked at me very differently. Although they never did manage to teach me to play netball.
Oh yes. The girl who beat me, well she ended up training in a junior Olympic decathlon team a few years later.
I did club run for a while – swept away by school enthusiasm – but hung up my running shoes when I was about 15.
I have often looked back to that day when I flew like the wind. Strong and determined. A good way to tackle life, I think.