Keep on running


Tomas Duckling does all he can to avoid being roped into the staff sports day relay race...

School sports day is always one of the funniest events of the year. In our school we make quite a big fuss of sports – we have four competing houses and normally sports day is the culmination of a year of hard fought competition.

However, this year Usain and co are using our local athletics track in the run up to some (apparently more important) sporting event this summer and so we have been bumped a whole half a term earlier. This meant we replaced our usual sun-drenched sports day with running in the rain.

This year, the main event was the addition of the first ever staff relay. The emails had been flying around for months recruiting teachers to run and I had successfully avoided every one of them.

The kids even got wind of it and my form of midgets spent weeks snapping at my heels demanding I participate – still I managed to avoid signing up.

Then I got my big break, a shred of salvation. They needed someone to commentate on the race and after my talent show performance I was asked to be our Tony Gubba.

So there I was, warming my vocal chords, microphone in hand, and watching as the contestants took their places.

But then, all of a sudden, it became clear that my house had no-one to run the final leg. Before I knew it, one of the PE teachers was shouting at me to get out there. I had to drop the microphone, put some shorts on and I only just took my place on the last leg as the gun was starting off the first.

What’s more, the final 100 metres happened to be next to the stand, which was packed full of around 1,500 of our screaming kids.

Some incredible running down the back straight meant that when the baton reached me we were a good 10 metres ahead. Sadly for me, I was up against a colleague who I know from football to be a lot faster than me.

Panic took over, I saw the most embarrassing of situations flash through my mind – him catching me and me being forever known as the world’s slowest teacher. Luckily, the fear of utter embarrassment enabled me to find an extra gear and I crossed the finishing line in first place – and helped to bring home a win for my house.

I have to say it was quite an exciting experience as I never thought I would run to the sound of cheering in my life – unless it was chasing and missing a bus. If that is the pressure and adrenaline you feel from a school sports day, god only knows how Usain Bolt does what he does.

It is truly amazing the things that impress kids. I have been slogging my guts out all year preparing the best lessons I can, trying to think up new and innovative ways to make history accessible for students, and have marked with extensive feedback to improve their performance – and I have not had a single word of praise.

But I run 100 metres with a metal stick and before you know it I am a school hero. I have never had so many compliments and pats on the back before.

Still now the pressure is on and next year I am faced with either training or sticking to the commentary. I suppose I better get running.

  • Tomas Duckling is a history NQT at Queens’ School in Hertfordshire.


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