A Father-Child Tradition That’ll Increase Your Longevity

You'll need 100 meters and a birthday cake. We explain.

Father and son with big and little sneakers lining up on a track.
You will lose one day. That's okay.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

This dadding idea is probably best rendered for young fathers, unless you’re really confident in your knees.

An Instagram account called @fullmhouse (one of those Cheaper by the Dozen-esque families that puts everything on social media) posted a video a month back that’s stuck with us.

Titled “Annual Birthday Race,” the clip shows the dad (35) racing his son (12) over 100 meters in their backyard. The dad wins, splitting the red ribbon — held by two of the other tykes — a couple paces ahead of his firstborn. His son channels humility and hope in his postgame presser, saying “I held with him.”

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Compete with your kids

There’s a lot that works about this tradition. First and foremost, it’s playful. It’s an inventive and low-stakes way to compete with your kid. Notice how the whole family gets involved — the tradition is an “event,” replete with its own pageantry and backlog. It requires that extra effort from parents to pull off. It’s the the sort of thing that kids cling to and reminisce over when they’re older.

Plus, if competition with one’s kids is inevitable (and specifically athletic competition, for some parent-child duos), then this is a nice entry-point. I know father and sons who’ve been at each other’s throats over years-long battles on the basketball court or at the ping pong table. A yearly race is a goofy way to burn off some of that energy.

There’s something predictable about it, which could also chart the passing of time. It’s like one of those doorframe height markers come to life. Over time, yes, that dad is going to have a seriously difficult time beating his boy. But there’s something beautiful in that fact.

Forever young

And yet, on the parent’s end, this is a pretty effective and offbeat way to check in on your fitness. If seven years from now (at age 42), that dad is getting smoked by his son, he could could chalk that up to his 19-year-old’s long legs and endless energy. Or…he could train ahead of time (with intervals or hill workouts) and try to close the gap a little bit.

Consider: sprinting is directly linked to telomere health, which is a hallmark of biological aging. (Little wonder that active dads like Chris Hemsworth, age 39, put in heavy-duty sprint training sessions on the treadmill.) It might seem a little goofy to work out with the express intention of beating a family member in an unsanctioned race, but has that ever stopped Turkey Trot families?

If you’re a young parent, consider this your CTA (and permission slip) to line up next to your kid each year on their birthday. The kid’s got it made — they’ll giggle through the losing years, until one year they start beating you and don’t look back. You get to see them get older…and maybe try to slow down your aging along the way.

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