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Say Hello To The 4 Year Old Forrest Gump

I believe we all have seen the movie Forrest Gump where that kid grows up into Tom Hanks – the young man who just could not stop running. Once he figures out what he can do with his legs, he never looks back.

His obsession with running inspired millions of people around the world to start running and the movie went down in the history books as one of the all-time greats.

Definitely Not A Slow Start

Since the time our son (who is 4 years old now), realized that his legs can be put to better use for running as opposed to just walking, my wife and myself are constantly running behind him. And No, we haven’t shown him Forrest Gump just yet.

From the beginning of 2019, we started taking him for short walks along the sea-side promenade in our city. The purpose for those walks were to just spend some leisurely time with our 8-year-old daughter and him.

We thought this would offer a good time for all of us to take some walks together, enjoy the breeze, talk with the kids, have some ice-creams and head home. How wrong we were to dream about all this.! Because as soon as we used to park our car, our son used to just dart off on the promenade. And having caught by surprise, I had to take off behind him.

Now, am not a runner by any standards. Surely, I used to take part in my school and college sports athletic events, but that was 25 years back. I do have a certain spring in my step when it comes to darting off from stand still, but I can barely make it beyond 100 meters on full throttle

A Beautiful & Strong Mind

Our son like any other 4-year-old used to be a fussy eater when it came to eating veggies, fruits, or any home-made juices and milk-shakes. We have tried hard over the years to get him to consume veggies and fruits, but never been too successful in doing that.

Not that he is into eating any junk food. We keep that away from him. And we also are glad that he already understands that junk food/sodas are not good for health, and is careful about what he eats when he goes for any birthday parties or kids’ events.

So when his school’s Sports Meet was announced for Feb 28th 2020, little did we know what was to transpire in the run-up to the D-day. The date for the Sports Day was announced in the first week of December 2019

From then on, it seems he had chalked out a plan in his little head on what he needs to do to come 1st on the Sport Day. Somewhere deep down in his mind, he took it up as a challenge upon himself.

Now, am very sure it was not one of those blueprints that professionals draw for up with tasks and dates. But am quite positive that he already figured out the baby steps that he had to take to stand on the top step of the podium

Executing On The Plan

Baby Step 1

Since I operate from home, I pick him up from his school at 1.15 PM, and we are back in our apartment complex by 1.30 PM. Earlier, we used to head straight back home. But now, he wanted to run for 15-20 minutes everyday before heading home.

Baby Step 2

We stay in an apartment building that has 20 floors. After the afternoon runs which used to make him sweat profusely, he now wanted to climb upto our floor level. We stay on the 15th floor and have 2 levels of parking, so that’s a climb of 17 floors.

On Day 1 – he climbed 13 floors without halting. For the next 12 days, we climbed the 17 floors. He used to take a breather on the 12th – 13th floor and then set off again. Now that “17 floors” was in his pocket, he set his sights higher. He wanted to climb all 20 floors. And so for the next 12 days, he started climbing all the way to the 20th floor.

If anyone met him after this climb, one would take the impression that he had just stepped out of a shower.

It’s important to understand that neither I told him to do this, nor he had seen this anywhere. It was him leading it all the way. I guess most of the kids love to climb floors and he is no different. Or maybe this was part of his blueprint plan.

Baby Step 3

In the evening hours, we take both our kids to the play area in our apartment complex. Usually it’s just to get some physical play into their daily routine. This was a 2 hours activity every evening. Now with the Sports Day coming closer, he started running for good 30-45 minutes every evening, while his other friends engaged in other games and activities.

And he also started insisting to get himself clocked on a stopwatch during all his runs and push himself for improvements on subsequent runs. How does a 4 year old know the importance of clocking the runs?

With every run now being clocked, he started to go back to the start line to put in another run to better his earlier time. He pushed on every run to beat his earlier runs. Sometimes he did better, sometimes worse. He did it every evening. It became a routine

Baby Step 4

When his school announced a 3 kms Runathon for the pre-primary kids on a certain Sunday morning, we knew he had to participate in this run to build his confidence and get him to participate amongst a larger group of kids. We took our daughter also along for the run, even though she was not a pre-primary student. She is in Grade 3.

He likes to run with his sister, so why not make a great Sunday morning run for both of them.!

They both ran the full distance. Now my daughter is more a sprinter. She can dart off and make the 80-100 meters without much effort. But she is not a big fan of long runs. However, our son likes to run continuously as much as he can, slows down for a while and then picks up the pace again.

So he kept on running at his pace and slowed down whenever he got tired to catch his breath, again picked up his speed, and repeated this all along the run.

I had coached him early on that he should not try to beat the other kids when they take off from the start line, instead should pace himself so that he has enough energy left during his return leg to the start/finish line. And rightly so, towards the last 50-80 meters, when most of the kids were slowing down due to exhaustion, I asked him to pick up his speed and make a run for the finish line.

In that process, he overtook 4-5 kids before crossing the finish line.

Baby Step 5

Now this one was initiated by me, but he played the bigger part of saying Yes for it. After the weekend of the 3 kms Runathon, I decided to take him again to the same place for a longer run on the next Sunday. This time it would be 4 kms. He woke up before me. No alarm clock needed.

As soon as we parked the car by the roadside, he took off again. He doesn’t really give you any time to settle in, or pace it out. So we ran 2 kms in one direction and 2 kms back. Again, he knew how to pace himself quite well with no coaxing from my end. Actually it was more like – whenever I was fully out of breath, I used to slow down and to make sure I can keep an eye on him, I used to ask him to slow down a little bit so that I can catch up with him..! Talk about being a spoil sport.

Baby Step 6

By this time, we started having conversations about healthy foods, and how some fruits provide an instant energy boost. So we started offering him bananas under that pretext, and not entirely confident that he will eat any. But I guess he understood that eating healthy foods and fruits is a way to build your energy and stamina levels.

So he started with eating bananas, drinking freshly made juices, consuming veggies, drinking healthy smoothies made at home. Infact it reached to a point, that he used to decide what ingredients should be put into the smoothie.

Some ingredients were absolutely ridiculously funny, and we couldn’t stop ourselves from laughing. We went with his concoction, knowing that if he has decided on the ingredients then there is higher probability he will drink his own creation.

We on the other hand, did not have the gumption to drink whatever he made.

Two Days To Go

I take him down to the play area in our apartment complex. We had initially decided that it would be best for him to stay at home and take some rest. However, at the last minute I decided to take him down for 30 mins to get some warm ups done and couple of runs.

After clocking his second run, he stood next to me, while our daughter got ready to make her run. From the corner of my eye, I saw him jump slightly from the place where we were standing. My attention was on my daughter who was running towards me.

As soon as she reached towards me, she looked towards her brother and asked him why was he sitting down. I looked at him as well and he had that look on his face that something had happened, but he was probably too scared to tell me about it.

I reached out towards him and moved his hand from the chin. He had blood coming down from his chin. He had hit his chin on the edge of a short wall and got a cut when he jumped. It was a deep cut. All this while he was silent, didn’t cry.

I was utterly shocked by what I saw. He captured the look on my face and then started crying. We immediately rushed him out to a local clinic. At the clinic the senior doctor was not around. The junior doctor looked at the wound and cleaned it up.

Since the cut was deep, we decided to get the wound stapled for better healing. The other option available was to get stitches. On counseling with the junior doctor, we decided on 1 staple pin on the chin instead of multiple stitches. Since only 1 person was allowed in the ER room with him, my wife stayed inside and I decided to step out look after our daughter

By this time, our daughter who was sitting just outside the ER, went to sit over at the waiting area. I stepped out to look after her. While I was talking to her, I heard the crying shrieks of my son. I figured the doctor would have stapled the chin, so I hurried back to the ER room. Our son was crying in pain and my wife was consoling him down.

To our utter horror, the doctor said that he had not stapled the pin properly on his chin..! He had made a mistake while applying the staple pin and it was out of alignment. He would have to remove it. We just could not believe this. Here was a kid who had just got a deep cut on his chin, and then he braves himself to get a staple pin put on his chin, and now it needs to removed causing even more pain. But it had to be done,

After the pin was removed, we decided not to get anything else done and asked the doctor to just cover the chin with a bandage and that we will take a call on this after meeting the senior doctor later.

Practice Day

Next day, we decided to take him for his practice session at the sports ground. It was important to get back to running for him, so as not have a drop in his confidence. The practice sessions went off well. He did his runs effortlessly. That also gave us the confidence that he would be OK the next day for this race

That evening back at home, we took him down to the play area again and made him jog a little bit. But after few minutes, he started running again. The bug in him took over. I even clocked him for a few runs. This boy was back in business.

Before sleeping that night, he said – “Am surely going to win tomorrow. Not sure about coming 1st, but will surely make it 2nd or 3rd”  

D-Day. Was He Nervous? Hell No. 

We had an early start to the day. It was good to see him in high spirits, which means he had kept his pain aside and now focused on the race. He is a big fan of the Cars movie, and loves it whenever Lightning McQueen gets into a zone before the start of his race and says – “Speed. I am Speed. I eat losers for breakfast“. So, he did the same routine before we dropped him in his tent at the sports ground.

The school had made arrangements for the parents to watch the races.

Race 1

The first race was a partner race of 50 mtrs, wherein kids have to run half distance, get hold of their partner and run with him towards the finish line. He started off a little slow, but picked up speed. Grabbed his partner’s hand and literally dragged him to the finish line. He came 2nd. Good start to the day.

Race 2

This was a flat race of 50 mtrs. The big one for him. This is the one that he had preparing all along. To say that were nervous is an under-statement. There was nothing more important for him than to win this race.

All through his training, we always coached him to stay focused on the start line, and not to get distracted by what other kids were doing. He stuck to that advice and you could see him standing there with absolute focus, staring straight at the finish line. He did not look left or right. No monkeying around. The countdown started – On your Marks, Ready, Set, Go.

He took off like a bullet. Perfect start. He did not look left or right. It all happened so fast. He sprinted across the finish line and touched the silk ribbon. He came 1st  with a huge margin on the 2nd placed boy. Me and my wife were jumping with joy. Our excitement knew no bounds. We did our high-fives. But more than that, it was the flood of emotions that we felt being there watching his epic run.

He crossing the line will forever be etched in our memories.

He along with the other 2 kids were escorted to the podium for the medals. While he was on the top step, he did not smile nor he seemed very excited. We wondered what was going on his mind. Why is he not excited? Shouldn’t he be jumping with joy? After all, he had executed his blueprint to absolute perfection and that too with a chin wound.

His Own Finish Line

When we picked him from the tent, first thing that we asked him was how he felt. He answered, “Good”. So we asked him again whether he was now happy that he came 1st . To that he answered with a big NO to our utter surprise. We were take aback.

How can this kid, who had worked so hard and pushed himself every single day for the last 3 months, not be happy ? Did we miss something? Were we too blinded by his obsession for winning that we forgot what made him truly happy?

On probing him further on why he was not excited, he looked up towards us and said – “I am not happy because I had to stop at the ribbon at the finish line. I wanted to continue running”

With that one statement he cleared up everything for us –

True happiness cannot be defined by someone holding a silk ribbon for you at the finish line. It is found when you get to do what you feel most passionate about and YOU get to decide your finish line.

With that he took off again around the 400 mtrs track in the scorching heat. He did 4 laps. And when he was done, with sweat dripping all over his face, he broke into a big smile and said — Now, Lets Go Home.

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