When you remember school sports day, do you smile wistfully or shudder in horror?
If you're in the shudder camp, I can relate. The annual 100-metre sprint was the only running we did at school, and I came last every single year. Not just last, but last by several metres, still plodding desperately while everyone else enjoyed congratulatory hugs and back-slaps.
A couple of decades later my morning run is the highlight of my day, and I'm looking planning to my next marathon with relish. Those who knew me at school can hardly believe it, because that 100-metre dash with no warm up was enough to label me forever as an embarrassment to running. I might easily have gone the rest of my life engaged in no exercise at all, because I'd been led to believe that I was terrible at it – even though those torturous Sports Day sprints bore little resemblance to what I now regard as running.
Seems I'm not the only adult runner who hated the sport as a child. At the time of writing, just under half the RW readers responding to today's poll say they 'loathed' running at school, compared with a mere 18 per cent who 'loved' it. To have your say and check the latest results, see the poll box on the left-hand side of the forum page.
Cross-country = Abuse of kids?
Not all those readers who hated running at school will have suffered experiences similar to mine. Some of you will have been put off by the terrible PE kit, physical shyness – or muddy cross-country runs at the hands of bullying teachers.
A new tongue-in-cheek citizenship guide for teenagers highlights the potential horrors of cross-country which, it says, may compromise their human rights. Today's Sun newspaper is among the tabloids who've leapt upon the guide, choosing to ignore that it was written jokingly and holding it up as an example of PC gone mad. (Stifles a yawn.)
But could there be something in what the guide says? Bullying is certainly an affront to kids' human rights, so if a long cross-country run is imposed upon an unfit, unprepared child by a bullying PE teacher, that child isn't being treated fairly – or safely. What's worse, that child could be put off sport and fitness for life, just as my own 100-metre ordeal convinced me that I "couldn't run" until I discovered by accident in my 30s that I wasn't so bad at it after all.