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Stay-At-Home Dad: Brace for this race, a parenting challenge

Updated: July 3, 2013 6:13AM



Obstacle courses are all the rage. Popular races send runners through fields of mud, blast competitors with colored dye, and even route participants into dangling live electric wires.

I understand the thrill of these extreme courses. But if runners really want to experience a gut-wrenching series of obstacles, try being a parent. That’s why I’m proposing a parenting-themed obstacle course. Let’s call it “Running from Your Responsibilities.”

The 10K race would be held at 4 a.m. The inconvenient start time is meant to symbolize all those mornings when your child wakes up incredibly early for no apparent reason and refuses to go back to sleep.

In part to make up for the lousy start time, my proposed race would be free. This is also meant to show an appreciation for parents with little money to spend on things such as obstacle courses. And if it weren’t free, I doubt anyone would show up.

Runners begin the race barefoot. That’s because the first obstacle is the Lego Mine Field. Participants must cross a field that’s been littered with Lego pieces. Anyone who’s ever stepped on one of these sharp, plastic building blocks knows firsthand the danger of this obstacle.

At the end of the field, runners hurriedly put on shoes. Any parent who’s ever tried to get out of the house within minutes of the school bell ringing or just before the start of a youth sporting event will have a definite advantage here.

After a short run, participants come to the Stairway to Heaven. This obstacle is three large flights of stairs with a fully loaded baby stroller at the bottom. There’s no elevator available. So runners have to carry this monster stroller up the stairs or walk backward, pulling the stroller up one stair at a time.

At the top of the stairs comes a refreshment station. Most races offer paper cups filled with water or Gatorade. Some even offer bananas and protein bars to runners. My parenting-themed obstacle course offers runners half-empty juice boxes and warm chocolate milk with the syrup settled to the bottom. Hungry runners are offered a cold waffle with three bites taken or a soggy bowl of breakfast cereal.

After that refreshment, runners reach the Bike Path obstacle. This paved path has a rack full of children’s bikes at the start. Participants have to run while guiding a small bike alongside them, simulating what it takes to train a child to ride a two-wheeler. If the bike falls, runners are reprimanded by a kindergartner demanding to know, “Why did you let me fall?”

From there, runners approach the Backyard Bombshell. A row of walk-behind lawn mowers sits at the edge of this field of overgrown turf. Hidden within the tall grass are tennis balls, Nerf darts and dog poop. Contestants must try to cut a straight line through the field without sending any of the objects through the mulching mower.

And if you make it through all of that, there’s a medal waiting for you at the finish line. All the medals are handmade. They are really just paper plates with dried macaroni glued onto them. The plates are haphazardly painted gold and have a piece of yarn for a lanyard.

A recommended training regimen will be posted online two months prior to the race. The training program is intended for participants without children and empty-nesters. If you have young children, you’re likely already in peak condition for my proposed race. Good luck.

Howard A. Ludwig is a former SouthtownStar business writer who traded his reporter’s notepad for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad. He can be reached at howardaludwig@yahoo.com.



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