Matt Heath: Putting in the miles on the tough road of fatherhood


My son humiliated me last week. It ended an era of sporting dominance I will never relive.

When you become a dad, you know your son will one day surpass you. Holding your beautiful baby boy for the first time, you think two things:”I’ve never loved somethingso much in my life” and “This guy is here to take my place”.

That’s why a father works hard to impress his son early.

You throw him dangerously high, chuck balls at him hard and carry the shopping in from the car in one go. It is also essential you run fasterthan your offspring. My son and I started jogging together when he was 10. I’d put serious distance on him. I’d set a strong pace early and then destroy him in the last kilometre. The trick is to get home far enough ahead you can hide your puffing. I’d roundthe final corner, gun it home, hit the recovery position for a minute, compose myself and then calmly check the mail as he stumbled in.

Boy, was he impressed: “Dad, you’re not even breathing hard.”

It’s all about creating the illusion you are someone to respect.It gives a young man something to aspire to.

A good dad smashes his kids at board games, stone skimming and burps. You must drive golf balls further and put more food in your mouth.

I’ll do anything to impress my kids. I eat whole apples in two bites. I breakwind into their bedrooms from the hallway and shut the door on them. Dads need to do higher bombs, wear fewer clothes in the cold and order spicier food than anyone else in the family.Unconditional love and pretending to be excellent are the cornerstones of good parenting.

Ofcourse, It’s only a matter of time before you get found out.

In the past year, my son has surpassed me in height, defeated me in a press-up competition and eaten two family pies in one sitting. Worse still, our dog Colin has started following him around thehouse instead of me. My boy has also been winning our bi-weekly runs. Luckily I’ve had a calf injury, so it doesn’t count.

My leg came right last week, so I decided to make a stand and challenge my boy to a 5km race. Not a friendly jog, a time trial. We would run around the block until our apps told us 5km was up. This ultimate race for family superiority was scheduled for 8pm last Monday.

When the time came, it was a bit cold and rainy, so I requested a postponement. After being labelled a chicken and losing the toss, I headed off into a thunderstorm. My pace was good; my form excellent. Lightning crashed, and thunder rumbled as I poweredthrough the torrential rain to a solid 25-minute 5k finish. Back home, I yelled”game on” before collapsing in the hallway gasping for air.

My son calmly downed his 4th post-dinner toasted sandwich and headed out into the wet.

I waited and waited for himto return, and then the unexpected happened. I won. Twenty-five minutes rolled around, and my boy wasn’t back. I celebrated the victory by sitting upright for the first time. He finally finished in a pathetic 34 mins. Victory dad.Not that he seemed to care. He simplygave me a hug, grabbed a plate of cereal and headed off to his room, leaving his phone on the table.

Something didn’t seem right. This win was too good to be true. How had I beaten him by 10 minutes?

I checked his Strava running app. The idiot had it set tomiles instead of kilometres. He had been running 1.6km for every one kilometre of mine. He ran 8k instead of 5 at an impressive 4 mins 20 a kilometre. Much further and much faster than me, and he didn’t even notice he was doing it. He wasn’t even puffing. Theboy had well and truly surpassed me. Our dog Colin was right to follow him.

The years had caught up with me. It was time to do the right thing – retire unbeaten, never to race him again.

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