Three Legs are Better than Two

Despite my best efforts, it’s been a crazy week here at our house. Before starting our family, now over nine years ago, my husband and I decided that we would try very hard not to be that family. You know the one.

Well, actually you might not know them very well. They are the neighbors that are never home. Instead they’re on the run because Sally has dance class at the same time that Billy has soccer practice, and Lulu has to get to her Girl Scout meeting, which starts at the same time as Freddie’s trumpet lesson. By the time they do get home, they only have time to hope that everyone ate dinner at some point, crank out a little homework, brush their teeth, and get to bed, which they had better do quickly because they have a busy day tomorrow.

And most of the time we are not that family. Or at least a lot of the time we’re not. But, of course, sometimes we are. We’re lucky, though, because in our family there are two parents and two children, which means that when the week gets a little hectic, we can still coordinate and run the race pretty well.

That is until we get to a week when the baseball season is in full swing for our nine-year-old who is also preparing for a piano recital and just volunteered for a speaking role in the upcoming third grade musical. And tee-ball season has begun for our six-year-old who is also taking first Communion class and his pre-summer “Mom is concerned you might otherwise drown” refresher swim classes.

Hurry, Hurry, Hurry! We can't be late for tee ball, which, by the way will be the LONGEST hour of my life.  photo credit: John Flinchbaugh via photopin cc
Hurry, Hurry, Hurry! We can’t be late for tee ball, which, by the way will be the LONGEST hour of my life. photo credit: John Flinchbaugh via photopin cc

And Dad has work meetings almost every night of the week.

Oh, and we should probably all eat dinner at some point. Also the boys have homework that they don’t want to do because it’s nice weather and they’d rather play outside, and, frankly, I’d rather let them. But I can’t. Because I certainly don’t want to be that mom.

On those weeks, when I’m running mostly alone, with two kids who are off in different directions, I begin to think that maybe I deserve a medal. Except that I really don’t, because I never feel like I can quite make it across the finish line in time even though I am reasonably certain we’ve all eaten dinner at some point each evening this week.

I have to wonder if that’s how US track star Lawson Robertson was feeling when he competed in the thirteenth annual championship tournament of the Military Athletic League held at Madison Square Garden in April of 1909. Robertson was coming off of a disappointing performance in the 100-meter sprint at the 1908 Olympics. Clocking 11.2 seconds in his semifinal heat, the same time as a fellow countryman who went on to compete in the final event, Robertson failed to advance by less than a foot.

Though he had earned a bronze medal in standing high jump in 1904 and was a noted sprinter who would go on to coach for the US track & field teams in future Olympics, the Olympic sprinting medals eluded him. Still there is one record for which he will always be known, a world record that has continued to stand for 105 years.
Strap this man to another track star and he is unstoppable.

On April 24, 1909, Robertson teamed up with fellow American track & field star Harry Hillman (best known as a hurdler who claimed three Olympic gold medals in hurdling in 1904 and a silver in 1908) for the 100-yard (91-meter) three-legged race. The men clocked in at a never-since-equaled 11 seconds.

Admittedly I’m not sure there have been many challenges to the record (assuming that the average Sunday school picnic doesn’t count as official), but still, I like the idea that these two men, neither of whom achieved much success as individual record-breaking sprinters, combined forces and established possibly permanent dominance as partners in the world of competitive three-legged racing.

I suspect that Hillman and Robertson’s race was somewhat more graceful than the average three-legged event. Probably even more graceful than the stumbling through a busy crazy week that my husband and I occasionally do when we can no longer avoid being that family for a little while.

It is entirely possible that I am underestimating the difficulty of the coming week. photo credit: Thomas Guest via photopin cc
It is entirely possible that I am underestimating the difficulty of the coming week. photo credit: Thomas Guest via photopin cc

Still, I’m grateful that next week, when the third-grade musical is on the same night as the baseball game, scheduled just far enough apart that with a quick change in the car, we should be able to make both, I’ll have my racing partner back. I’m betting I’m going to need him, but I haven’t yet been brave enough to check next week’s tee ball practice schedule.


4 thoughts on “Three Legs are Better than Two

  1. Velma

    Haha. That scenario sounds very familiar to me, Sarah. Having 2 boys who played sports at the same time but whose practices could easily be a mile or two apart and game times that overlapped and a husband who was often unavailable due to work schedules….. oh, my, it’s a challenge. I handled it by getting help from the coaches and other moms in the same situation. Since J is just starting T Ball and both are playing this year, you have many years of this. Yes, there were times I thought I deserved a medal. Then I met a family with 6 boys and the youngest was just starting T ball at the time and the parents had calculated how many years they had already been at ball fields and how many years were left…. well, needless to say, they deserved the Gold.

    1. Yes, the other day I met a family with four boys playing on different teams. They commented that they had been at a ballpark every day of the week. Another family that plays on E’s team has five kids and they expressed to me that they stagger seasons. Not everyone is allowed to play the same sport or even during the same season because it’s just too much to handle. I’m definitely grateful I’m only juggling two. And outside of the odd busy week, I usually do have help.

  2. Sarah, thanks for writing about one of my heroes, Harry Hillman, or two of them, if you include Lawson.

    I was just writing about them, in passing, and the search engines suggested I check out your work.

    Hillman and Robertson were very famous and accomplished as individuals, actually. And also as coaches, as you note. They trained and competed hundreds of times in the 3-legged race. Hillman coached at Dartmouth while Lawson coached at a rival school, Penn.

    Today’s runners are faster but it’s doubtful any two elite athletes would submit to a partner the way these two men did. Or we shall see.

    They had a set of signals to tell each other to go faster or slower so that their legs would stay in synch, delivered nonverbally as they raced, by squeezing each others shoulders. I got this from interviewing Donald Burnham, who was coached by Hillman and was a national champion for Dartmouth in the mile run.

I love comments! Please keep them PG, though. I blush easily.

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