By Les Tan/Red Sports

Families for Life 800m Father and Child Challenge

Leslie Tan and his son, Young, take part in the Families For Life 800m Father and Child Challenge during the 2014 SAFRA Singapore Bay Run & Army Half Marathon. (Photo 1 © Lim Yong Teck/Red Sports)

“Would you like to take part in a run with me?” I asked my 12-year-old son after finding out about an 800m Father and Child Challenge at the 2014 SAFRA Singapore Bay Run. I expected a “no” and true enough, he declined.

When he was about 4-5 years of age, I brought him to a father-and-son 800m run but ended carrying him for most of it. Over the ensuing years, any suggestion to do a similar run was always met with a firm “no”. I didn’t want to push it either.

“But it’s only 800m,” I added, not wanting to give up. His eyes lit up. “Oh … okay then.” He realised it wasn’t as far as he thought, helped by the fact that he has been running the occasional 1.8km after school. The distance was suddenly manageable in his mind.

So on Sunday, Aug 31, 9am, we found ourselves with 736 other father-and-child pairs at the start line on the Esplanade Bridge.

“This is not a race!” said the emcee.

Some of the children were younger than my son, so I leaned over and said, “Watch out for the younger children.”

“Watch out that they don’t run into me or I don’t run into them?” he asked me.

“Both!” I said with a laugh.

We were supposed to hold hands for the full 800m so that the run would qualify as the largest father and child race in the Singapore Book of Records. So I held his hand and waited for the start. The fleeting thought hit me that in another year, my boy would probably not want to hold hands with his old man anymore.

The starting flag went down and off we went. I was just focused on him not tripping at the start. I didn’t want his first race to get off to a memorably bad start.

It was exhilarating to run down the wide open Esplanade Bridge. The road is usually full of vehicles on any normal day. Some father-and-child pairs sprinted off real fast but we were happy to run at our pace.

“Are you okay? Is it too fast?” I kept asking him every 50m or so. He kept saying yes and that he was okay. When we got to the 500m mark, he was surprised, because he thought we had run less. By then, some of the pairs who had started too fast were walking and we had overtaken them.

“Can we run faster?” he said.

I was pleasantly surprised.

“Okay!” We picked up the pace. By then, we had merged already with the finishing pack of 10km and 5km runners. The finishing chute was a mass of people.

We crossed the finishing line. It was our first official run together.

“What was our time?” he asked. I forgot to time our run but it didn’t matter to me.

I only will remember that I ran with my son, hand in hand.

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