‘Mushroom’ Chand still going strong

A long weekend to celebrate national wellness, as we did the other week, wasn’t a good move down in Darkest Flagstaff.

Three days at home with the littlest, nearest and dearests was almost more than the older person can take in one hit.

Nonetheless, we got to Monday morning and preschool time without blood on the walls or a call from the police. There was, however, a certain amount of stress involved.

Bicycles rampant in the living room, scooters doing a marathon around the kitchen table and mayhem on the front veranda.

I must have collapsed on a chair in front of the television because somehow I found myself watching the Oceania Athletics championships — live on TV, if that isn’t an oxymoron. I was watching the marathon because that was what was on.

So instead of being out jogging or even walking or kicking footballs about or doing zumba or cardio-gardening, I was sitting down and reluctantly watching fit people do sporty things. Admiring them but disliking them heartily.

And then dadadadaaah, along comes this cadaverously thin, stringy guy with white hair. I thought maybe he was supposed to be under the watchful eye of a nephew and had escaped his wheelchair.

Nobody seemed too concerned as he loped along. Then someone flashed a board with 10 on it. Ten laps to go, apparently.

He got closer to the camera and I realised it had to be Mushroom — Mushroom Chand, the Marathon Man, who had been running miles and kilometres before there ever was television in Fiji.

And apparently still at it. It seems he is now in the Masters class, which is where older athletes who still have the oomph compete.

As a person who never had oomph enough to run to the corner shop I could only boggle and applaud as Mushroom flashed over the finish line in a burst of style. While other marathoners in the younger competitors’ race lay about on the track massaging their muscles and getting their breath back, Mushroom gave a genial wave to his fans and wandered off camera.

Admittedly the younger marathon competitors had run a faster race, but Mushroom was still a standout and, we couch potatoes thought, a great inspiration to us all.

I don’t say I rushed out and circled the block at a swift trot, but I did think older athletes in the Master class would make great poster people for the campaign to reduce non-communicable diseases.

Older folk tend to be more at risk after a lifetime of nibbling choccie biccies and avoiding activities such as bicycle riding or running up stairs.

Mushroom would be just the right build for a “skinny but strong” crusade, while the older woman weightlifting champion who is already making a hit in a milk advertisement could target the plumper granny class.

I got such a boost out of watching the marathoners, especially the guys in baggy shorts who were panting along several laps behind the leaders. Behind everybody really, but not giving up.

These were the Oceania championships but there was much less hype about them than the national schools competition. It seems a pity, given the top champs of the schools will likely become the adult competitors a year or two on.

It would seem that all my chatter about older athletes and how activity is good for you was what inspired the youth of the household to stage their own fun and games.

They ran races across the wooden floor, no matter how often I told them that real races were run on tracks a long, long way from their grandmother’s house.

The couch, my territory, became the site of the upside down athletics that involved a lot of headstanding and waving of legs in the air. That competition came to a halt when one of the headstanders kicked the other one and he fell off the end of the couch.

There was a short pause for what in cricket is “tea” but in home athletics is called “ice cream”.

Then we went to the velodrome (front verandah) for the cycle races. We have serious bikers, Sons of Anarchy beware.

They think nothing of running over toes, banging into slow moving dogs and colliding with the elderly. They pedal with sticky sandwiches in their hands and turn circles while carrying sticky drinks. They are terrifying.

But perhaps the most terrifying sight of the Home Athletics was to see dad, the Alpha male parent, join the competition crouched on a bright pink Dora the Explorer scooter, knees bent, scooting at speed into the furniture.

* The writer is a regular contributor to this column. Views expressed are hers and not of this newspaper.

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