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Stood at the back of the first family wave at the Vitality Westminster Mile reminded me of every race I’ve been in – the difference was that this time I was accompanied by both the GingaNinja and UltraBaby. For the first time UB was taking to the tarmac for a race powered solely by her own two little feet. Yes it’s true that she’d completed the Chislehurst Chase 2km last year but that was trail and I was quite excited to see what 6 months of growing, the training and some slightly more technical kit might draw out of her. 


As Lord Sebastian Coe dropped the flag at the sound of the starting horn we belted out of the ‘starting blocks’ and pushed hard. As parents we kept hold of our little athletes hand and reminded her of the medal we were aiming for.

Our training had been pushing for the mile in between 15 and 18 minutes and as we hit the first 400 metre marker at 3mins 12secs I did wonder if we might even break 15 minutes. The route had lots of awesome support to help keep us going and the Steel Drum band gave us a bit of a boogie wiggle opportunity. There was such a positive atmosphere that you couldn’t help but want to push on!


At 600metres in, the clock ever ticking, we encountered a problem though – UB wanted to run alone!

We tried a couple of parenting tactics to get her to hold onto us but to no avail…

  • She simply stopped.
  • Bottom lip drooped.
  • A little tear slid down her face.

The seconds ticked on and with a thousand metres to go I was worried we wouldn’t get started again. It was then than a little girl went past us and I used her as the reason to get going again, ‘look at that little girl…’

UB relented and pursued the young girl with all the vigour she could muster – faster than before and encircled, hands free, by her parents.


Cheers erupted from all over the course, volunteers and spectators generously giving of their applause. UltraBaby returning the response with a series of double thumbs up, culminating in lots of ‘ahhhhh’ from the crowd. But with a great swathe of focus we had pushed to the final quarter of the race, before us we could see other runners and we encouraged UB into one final effort.

Over the line my little monster raised her arms in the air and cried ‘ice-cream’ (a promise I had made her during her mini meltdown). We had done it!


With meltdown we finished in 16mins 04secs. I was incredibly proud and watched with a little lump in my throat as she strode around displaying her medal to all that would look, telling them that she ‘won’ her race. I shan’t be dropping the crushing reality on her just yet that she wasn’t quite the overall winner.


Post race we ambled around the race village (while UB slept) – listened to Seb Coe talking and generally soaked up the amazing race day atmosphere. What a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning!


Toddler Kit: For those of us looking for reasonably priced running t-shirts and shorts for our toddlers can I recommend Uniqlo, who have a reasonable range of smaller non cotton kit ideal for the active toddler. UltraBaby was wearing the 3 year old sized short sleeved ‘boys’ top and the peach shorts and UB is a small(ish) 2 and a half year old.


Conclusion: What I can say is that the Westminster Mile is a mass participation event that feels small scale, low key and uber friendly. It never feels pressured and has a smoothness that keeps it feeling that way.

The family friendly nature of the event means you aren’t worried about bringing gran or grandad along (as we did the first time we did it) nor do you have any concern about having your toddler or younger with you. I ran this our first year with UB strapped to my front and loved it – this time she’s old enough to do it herself and run in a great time. More events could learn to be this family supportive.

The only thing I would love to see is this event replicated across the UK – to help build sporting achievement in the UK and as Seb Coe said at the event ‘everyone can run’ and mostly he’s right. So let’s spread events like this to every corner of the UK.

On two final notes, the first is a huge thank you to the army of volunteers and supporters who make this event feel special (especially for the younger runners who are hugely encouraged by the positive, inclusive atmosphere). 

And the second thing, get involved, you won’t regret it.

  
The first thing I wanted was for UltraBaby to be born healthy and the second thing was that she was curious, the third was that she wants to be active.

It was a glorious day in Central London (if you like sun), UltraBoy, the GingaNinja, UltraBaby and SuperGran all turned up to St. James Park armed with our numbers and racing outfits for the Bupa Westminster Mile – today we were going to be joining the legends of running.

  

We joined our pen on The Mall, listened to the likes of Tess Daly, Richard Whitehead and the legend that is Steve Cram all provide inspirational words of wisdom as we slowly baked in the ever increasing sun. This was the mood setting, getting us ready to compete, finding our ‘zone’. UltraTeam say already there and we were filled with purpose.

UltraBaby was not the only child in the family run, far from it, there were thousands but it did seem she was the only competitor who was front mounted to one of her parents in a Baby Bjorn… We drew lots of attention and ended up being captured on lots of people’s mobile phone cameras. UltraBaby smiled for them all.

As we approached the starting line I pulled down from her head the buff that had been protecting her from the sun – and removed my own – we then had a bit of a warm up, stretched our waiting legs and listened for the sound of the start.

We waved over at mummy and gran before the off (they were going to go at a more sedate pace) and then when the crowds moved forwards we leapt into action. I pressed the Suunto on as we crossed the start line and then began lengthening my stride in the crowd. Normally I would have opened the taps a little but UltraBaby is now reasonably heavy and even my overfilled Salomon race vest wasn’t balancing us out very well. I darted in and out of runners, making for the inside of the first corner and dipping in front of families who had started significantly in front of us.

Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy. 

I felt compelled to offer some support to the ever bouncing UltraBaby but she simply played her part of waving and smiling at the infinite amount of goodwill that was waiting for her around St. James Park. 800metres in and I could feel the pressure of the run on my back but in the distance I could see the 400metre to go sign and there was no way I was letting these people over take me – so we entered a sprint to the next marker – a costly mistake I hear you cry? Not really as it afforded us the opportunity to have a little dance to the steel drum band playing on the route and it wasn’t long before we were back in the groove.

Another runner and his son overtook us as we hit the 200metre to go marker. Hmmm, I could see him drifting away from me in the distance and that wasn’t allowed to happen. In nearly 100 races I have only not managed to sprint finish on one occasion and that was the TP100 – UltraBaby crawled over the line with me there – today we were going to finish like legends.

  
Knees up, lean forward, forefoot strike and BANG. With 100metres to go we started to gain ground on the chap ahead of us – I could see his very step, we could hear the roar of the crowd, UltraBaby raised her arms in anticipation of a crowd pleasing finish.

And BOOM … We crossed the line hundredths of a second before our rival.

I apologised to him as we finished as I had shoulder charged him out of the way (lost control of my body a bit) but he just laughed and strode off to grab his medal. We accepted the finish line plaudits and then quietly waited at the finish line for The GingaNinja ands SuperGran to cross the line about 10 minutes after we had finished.

At the finish line we had lots of photographs and accepted our position as youngest entrant at just 264 days old, we had done it and in just over 8 and a half minutes – we were very, very pleased with ourselves. Both UltraBaby and I finished well within the top 500 of the Family Run groups which to me marks something of an achievement given there were around 2,500 starters.

  
A little note on the organisation and the event itself – it was pretty damn awesome, lovely medal, great goody bag and a brilliant day out. Yes £8 might seem a lot for a single mile but then getting the opportunity to run along the The Mall doesn’t happen every day and you don’t often get to race with your baby. The organisation as excellent, the. Olympic legacy and elite field racing was excellent and the takeover of Green Park with its family friendly zones was wonderful to see. We need many more things like this where parents and children are actively encouraged to take part in something together. Obviously I’m looking at this from the parent and child angle but as a running event it was also excellent and the single mile challenge should be given the respect it deserves.

I’ll be going again next year and so will UltraBaby (but I might double enter so I can see just how fast I can really go). Also many thanks to the Bupa Westminster Mile photographers from whom two of these pictures are taken.

      

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