I was challenged to a race by a five-year old little girl. If I was not so amazed by the outcome, I would be humiliated.
When I say little girl, I mean really little, like 38 pounds and about three and a half feet tall, with spindly arms and skinny legs. She was a little wisp of a child, and so I thought it funny that she would challenge me to a race around the yard.
After all, in my day I used to be a reasonable sprinter. I was not on a track team, but I was one of the fastest in my college gym class. My only concern was that I would have to hold back and pretend to let her beat me so she wouldn’t break down in tears. You know, pre-kindergarten kids have pretty labile emotions. They cry a lot.
As it turns out, they also laugh a lot.
Together we chose where the race would start and end, and before I knew it she was off, giving herself about a five-yard head start before telling me to start. Fair enough I thought; the puny child deserves a head start.
The only problem was, when I started running I found I was not closing the gap. Her tiny feet, with a diminutive stride, were eating up the yard at least as fast as were my much longer legs; maybe faster. Not being a trained runner she couldn’t resist looking back at me, laughing gleefully as she continued her headlong charge. I just knew she’d trip when she looked back, but yet she didn’t stumble. If anything, the distance between us was increasing.
Apparently I’d gotten out of practice.
I saw my chance to cheat — and took it (experience counts for something). As she ran behind a car parked in the driveway, I cut through a small garden and slid between the car and house, almost bowling over her startled father.
I’m sure she was shocked when I suddenly appeared just ahead of her, but exerting her champion-like dominance of the sport, she grabbed my shirt, pulled me back and shouted forcefully, “Get behind me.”
I obeyed of course, pleased by my outwitting of a five-year old, but not really wanting to teach her that cheating pays. So I let her win.
As I bent over with my hands on my knees, panting hard, I begged for mercy when she said she wanted to race again. I wouldn’t stand a chance the second time.
Being both a biologist and a physical scientist, I have marveled at the anatomical design of young children. They are perfectly proportioned for survival. For example, they are no match for a wrestling match with older kids or adults. Their weight and muscle mass is too small, and they understand that. Yet when it comes to running away from other kids, or adults, or wild animals, they would seem to fare pretty well. The amount of muscle mass for their weight is surprisingly well balanced, resulting in an amazing ability to sprint.
I would also have to conclude that my muscle mass to body weight ratio is no longer ideal — by a long shot. Therefore when she next challenges me to a race I may be tempted to say, “How about a game of scrabble instead?”
Would that be cheating?