Bush Kids

Children and Nature

Learning by Imitation



It was a natural evolution for me (once a competitive swimmer, always a lover of adventure/endurance sports) to start dipping into trail running events. Last year I ran my first ultra-marathon, with 2000m elevation gain over 50kms. The main event (100kms and 4000m elevation gain) is something I dream of doing one day; my support crew tells me I should wait until all the kids are at school before ramping up the training to that level. I am currently training for a skyrunning event at Mt Buffalo – entering events is good for motivation.

We all travelled to last year’s event, so the logistics were a bit tricky. My pre-race mental prep involved bundling four sleepy children into their clothes and through breakfast at 5am, and hustling them all from a distant car park to the start line so that I would have a few minutes to stretch. It would have been easier for me to travel the 12 hour round trip in a weekend on my own. It would have been simpler for daddy not to have had to wrangle four kids around Katoomba whilst managing the building anticipation of when mummy would be coming back.

But then they would not have been there with me as I took on the challenge of my first ever ultra marathon, attempting to run longer than I ever had before. They would not have shared with me the immense satisfaction that all the hard work and training (given the many constraints at home) had been enough to get me through the 50kms. They would not have had the opportunity to witness the incredible efforts of the competitors who finished the 100kms over 24 hours later, having run on technical trails through the mountains by headtorch all through the night. They also would not have had the chance to participate in their own little slice of the action: a fun 1km kids race – tiny by comparison but of giant proportion to them.

Children learn by imitation: seeing their parents participate in sports or compete in events impacts immensely on their own motivation to get active and get out there themselves. My kids have watched me compete in a range of events, from ocean swims, to adventure races, all without ever winning a medal. They have seen the hours and the effort involved in training for a big event such as this. It is my hope that involving them will help them to learn the life lessons I think flow from participation in sport : persistence and commitment, good health and fitness, self-discipline, belief in yourself.

At last year’s event, they witnessed elite international athletes speed over the course in superhuman times. And they saw the courage of those at the other end of the pack, whose bodies had said ‘enough’ but the spirit carried on. And they saw me, their mum, set off nervously at dawn and return many hours later, somewhere in the middle of the field of a thousand runners. Running down the finish shute and hearing the cries of ‘there’s mummy, mummy, MUMMY!’ was what I had been focusing on through the race at the toughest moments. Seeing their faces at the end, knowing what it meant to them and to me, was the best of rewards.


2 thoughts on “Learning by Imitation

  1. Alison

    Pauline, you are an amazing and very inspirational woman. I am currently training to complete my first half marathon – a long held goal of mine since I started distance running as a teenager. I hope to complete a marathon by the time I am 40. 50km – wow, that is a whole other level. And on a side note – we have the same jogging buggy. I run down the hill to town most mornings with my little ones sitting in it and my bigger kids on their bikes. Would love to join you for a run sometime! x

    1. Pauline Post author

      Thanks for the lovely words Alison! We would make quite a sight – 8 kids, bikes, prams, dogs, imagine – what a circus! I would love to do a run together! Sometimes I end up with a bike on top and three in the pram if one of ours can’t make it up a hill, and sometimes the twins want to run too….But whenever I get a window to go on my own – I bolt out the door. Now the twins go to preschool it is easier to fit longer runs in, but I still have to make sure that I get out there straight away, no matter what other work awaits me. I find that running in the bush gives me what I need to help me be the mother I strive to be, so I really try to make it a priority. Running hills is also fantastic for building strength and fitness even if you haven’t got the time for a long run. And if you haven’t yet read ‘Born to Run’ (C. McDougall), it is great for inspiration too. Great to hear from you – sounds like we have a lot in common, I really enjoy your posts on camping and getting out there with the kids – so so good and also our favourite way to spend time as a family.

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