One of the biggest events of the school year for me was sports day. The whole school would turn out to cheer, the teachers set up a loud speaker system and there was a great buzz for the day. For a 16 year old boy it was also a great opportunity to impress the girls. I was always a fast runner and so every year ran the 100m sprint; arguably the sexiest event of the day. When I say I was a fast runner, I mean I was before the other boys grew taller than me. By the time my last ever sports day came along I was the eighth fastest in the school. Not bad...just a shame I had to race against the 7 other faster boys.
Coming last in the sexiest race of the day wasn’t an option. So I devised a plan; and it was a beauty. I may well come last in the race but I would be top of the ‘cool list’ when it came to impressing the girls.
Like other schools, each year was split into 4 ‘houses’ and each house had to select 2 runners for the race. Myself, and my good friend were selected to represent our house. We both knew, no matter how fast we ran, we would cross the line in 7th and 8th place. If my plan was to work, I needed a co-conspirator so I shared my plan with him and he readily agreed to it.
The weather on the day was perfect, the girls looked great in their little gym skirts and they were starting to gather at the edge of the track en masse. The announcement over the loud speaker arrived and the 8 fastest runners in the school assembled. We drew lots to find out which lane we would run in; we got lane 1 and lane 8. Damn, this interfered with the plan; we had to be in lanes next to each other for maximum effect. Luckily we knew the boy in lane 2 was easily corrupted (I think he later went into politics) so we bribed him to swap with us. We were set.
We all stood at the starting line. We needed to show we were serious athletes, so we started some dramatic stretching exercises, jumping up and down on the spot and some of that leg flicking, you see professional athletes do before a race. We both knew we would probably be in trouble after this stunt but it would be better than going red in the face with exertion, only to cross the line last. If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime, was our motto.
This extra fear was intoxicating; only two people in the entire crowd knew what was about to happen, and that was a lot of fun. “On your marks, get set...BANG” As anticipated the other six runners quickly surged ahead, we on the other hand adopted a new, innovative running style.
Our heads went right back, eyes up to the sky, arms stretched out in an exaggerated fashion – just like that bloke in Chariots of Fire....but all in slow motion and with the Van Gellis soundtrack playing inside our heads. It took us a while to reach the finishing line. Our approach scored high on appearance, but low on ground speed. We did the facial expressions and everything; we even stretched our chests out and flung our arms back as we crossed the finishing line. We looked ridiculous. The crowds loved it.
No-one had ever attempted such an audacious stunt. To mock the Holy Grail that was the seniors 100m race, was sacrilege but no-one could stop us – even the teachers were shocked.
After the race we felt like The Beatles arriving at an airport, the crowds flocked, even the ‘cool’ kids came over to worship at our altar. We had come last in the running race but first in the race to be cool and rebellious.
Needless to say a short while later we heard the announcement over the tannoy that we were to report to the headmaster’s office; although I’m sure I detected a wry smile on his face while telling us off.