It is said that absence makes the heart grow fonder and as the burnt orange sun rose across the Ratcliffe grounds on Saturday 29th January, I for one realised just how much I had missed the excitement and anticipation of what was to transpire as dawn broke on Ratcliffe Prep School Cross Country Festival morning.
It had been 2 years since this magical event had been run and as the young athletes, coaches and parents started to arrive, the old familiar atmosphere of friendship, fellowship and family started to permeate the air. There is nothing quite like a cross country festival, the colourful banners of the different schools fluttering in the ever-increasing breeze, the nervous energy of the athletes creating a palpable excitement for what was to come, the familiar chatter of parents and teachers reuniting after a long time apart and finally the static crackle of walkie talkies cutting into the midst ready for it all to begin.
With marshals in place, the course waiting and expectant and the children eager to just get on with it, the time had finally arrived. 9am on Saturday 29th January, on your marks, get set, GO! The cheers rang out, the children rushed forward, and the Year 3 Girls Race was underway, Cross Country was back at Ratcliffe.
The course was set up in such a way to allow there to be a funnel of noise and cheering at the very start to send the athletes on their way and at the end to celebrate the athletes at the front, to encourage the athletes nearer the back but most importantly to welcome these brave souls home when their legs were weary, their lungs burning, their hearts pounding but their spirits unbroken.
Over 250 unbelievable young athletes raced during the event, they all showed courage, commitment and Corinthian spirit as demonstrated by one young athlete who was some metres ahead of his nearest competitor, but on looking back realised that runner was struggling and so he slowed to run alongside his compatriot and stayed there until the end, these two boys were from different schools, had never met each other before, but shared a common desire to complete the course, which they did.
Of all the special moments that this event once again provided, this is the one that will stand out as a beacon for what sport can do and what life is about. If we all pull together and run alongside each other each day, then we will all complete the course with a smile on our face.
Congratulations to all the athletes, you have inspired us!
Mr Faulconbridge, Head of Preparatory School Sport