Our lives aren’t measured in days but in moments. So don’t wait for them, go out and make them.
A few months ago Mr 5 asked how come I have so many medals and he has only a few. I told him it was because I like to run races. Right there he decided that he will run races too. So when Nico got about entering us for the Dodo Trail Run on Mauritius, I suggested we sign up the boys too. And then we’d have to wait for race day to see if they actually wanted to do it, because heaven knows today and tomorrow are worlds apart when you are 5 or 7!
Now, we would never hoax or pressure the boys into anything just because it is something we love to do. But since Mr 5 wanted to, we knew his brother had to have the option too. We had to, however, make peace with forfeiting their (not cheap) entry fee should they opt out once push came to shove.
Luckily, the Dodo had an option for adventure seeking families like us. Since all of us wanted to run, we decided on the 50 km relay event for Nico and me and the flat 5 km fun run for the boys. Our day would involve Nico starting his 25 km section while I accompanied the boys on their run. We would then ease over to the 25 km handover point so Nico could take the boys home while I run. Easy enough!
So after a wonderfully relaxed week in the northwestern part of the island, we drove down to Tamarin in the south-west for race pack pickup. Much to our huge surprise and the boys’ delight, the goody bags were filled to the brim with goodies to die for. Not only did they receive kid-size Dodo caps, but also event technical shirts in their own size! That was surely a first, and made the entry fee worth every cent.
To see their excitement build when they saw some other kiddies at the race briefing was heartwarming, to say the least. That night, as I lay with them to go to sleep, already donning their shiny white little race shirts, Mr 5 told me “Mamma I just can’t stop thinking about my kiddies race!”. He was so excited I feared he wouldn’t sleep.
We were determined to make race day memorable for the boys as well. I knew there was no chance they would complete a 5 km run, so I planned to do a short out-and-back of about 2 km in total with them. With this in mind, I bought them each a standard gold medal long in advance, which I decorated with a sticker of a dodo on the Mauritius flag. I would give them the time they needed to enjoy their race, even if it meant that Nico would have to wait for me at the hand over point. We weren’t there to race, but rather to have fun as a family and enjoy the event and the scenery.
On race morning Nico left at 4.30 for his 5.30 race start. The kids and I had a leisurely breakfast before our 9 am start. During race briefing we discovered that their course would comprise two laps of 2.5 km, which worked out just perfectly for my plan and their little young legs! We could do one lap only without them noticing that they didn’t complete the entire course. No harm, no foul.
And then we were off. The day before Mr 5 announced that he was going to win the race. And he sure was gunning for it from the word go! This little guy, who still insisted to be carried on his previous nappy dashes and who is hardly ever a few meters from either of his parents, was bobbing an weaving through hordes of strangers with only the end goal in sight. He was running flat-out, determined to make it to the front. I watch him go, beaming and incredulous; he was in his element. Until he stopped dead in his tracks some 300 m in front of us and started calling me. “Wow”, I thought, “that took long!” Only to come within earshot to realise that he didn’t need reassurance, but that he spotted some small antelope. He wanted to make sure his brother and I see them too! Ever the sharer he is, he lost track of what he set out to do, because what fun it is when you have to enjoy it alone?!
Big brother and I caught up and together we went exploring further along the route. Mr 5 found fallen birds’ nests and insisted they were gifts for Daddy (which I then got to carry). Mr 7 was just too relieved for the shallow river crossings, which he promptly plonked through. Poor man’s feet were on fire because, as could be expected from wearing sneakers only twice a year, his shoes were too small. He also had a side stitch which was apparently relieved to some extent by race snacks and mostly walking. Once I reminded little brother that we weren’t too far from the finish he shot off again in chase of that podium.
Big brother bravely did run-walk-run repeats with me up to the last 500 m. Then I started to worry that Mr 5 would run past the finish for another lap. I wanted to go after him, but Mr 7 was taking strain. He wasn’t even happy with fast walking any longer, let alone running, so I gently gave him the option of quitting. His “No Mom, I’m finishing this for a medal” melted my heart. Just then a few girls bearing finishers’ medals approached from the finish area and cheered Mr 7 on. Just your typical race camaraderie and support after a tough day out. And in typical response our little big guy lit up like the break of dawn. He spontaneously broke into a sprint, all the way to the finish. I watched him go, photographers clicking away as he crossed beneath the finish arch and got his medal. Elated and proud.
From somewhere behind the barriers the little one was calling “Mamma I won! I won!”, much to the delight of the MC and the entire audience. And then he added “I ran all by myself and I wasn’t even scared!” My bag of magic moments was overflowing. Both our boys were happy, satisfied and proud of themselves, and that without any doing from either of their parents. My heart was completely full. What more could we ask for!
We were still right on schedule for the relay handover so the boys and I could enjoy some R&R on the lawn with fresh coconut water and savour the afterglow of the experience.
On the other side of the trail poor Hubby was taking shots. He was dealing with rain and mud on one heck of a technical trail. Somehow he missed a marker and got lost, losing more than an hour of allowed race time.
Waiting for Nico at the handover point, the boys and I had the privilege to enjoy a leisurely hike in the beautiful Black River Gorges National Park. They played in the cool streams (shoes already drenched from their trail run) and enjoyed the enchanting forest ambiance.
Unfortunately, by the time Hubby reached the handover point he was 25 minutes late for 12 pm cut-off. The poor man was dead tired and devastated. He had had to cross various peaks with a total of 2000 m altitude gain and similar loss, in zero viz conditions so there weren’t any beautiful views as reward, only mud and pain. I, on the other hand, had such a brilliant morning the the boys that I honestly couldn’t care for missing a run. I had gained so much, my heart was happy (also relieved to see Nico alive and without any limbs missing!)
But of course, knowing my super-supportive, loving husband, he was bound to shove me out the door the next day for a long run so I could get a feel for the mountains and the views. This, I already knew, would interfere with our plans for our last day on the island, and I really wasn’t in the mood to negotiate unfamiliar, steep mountain trails with no aid stations to look forward to. Panic set in, excuses were born, arguments were anticipated, countered and re-countered!
Just then the medics and sweeper came past and inquired about our aggrieved little party. One of the kind faces gave me the option to continue unofficially (after he crossed out my number, of course). So I started my race with a clear DNF, but I couldn’t be more grateful. Not only would I get to experience some of the most scenic parts of the Dodo trail (now bathed in full sunshine) but I would also be blown away by the the friendliness and kindness of the volunteers. And even though I got a 8 km “discount” on the race course, I still had to climb a total of 1000 m across the 15 km, which was absolutely grueling but so worth it.
Dodo trail organisers, you helped turn our Mauritius run-cation into one we will remember and cherish for the rest of our lives. Thank you for this fully-inclusive event. There certainly was a challenge and opportunity for every age and fitness level. But most of all you made everyone who participated feel welcome, special and pampered. These kind of events create runners for life.