There is neurological evidence that the first reaction a father has on seeing his new-born child is to look for signs that the baby is in fact his. The reflex is so instinctive and hard-wired that we don’t even know that we are doing it.
Louis Arthur Harvie was born at 03.49 on Wednesday 11th August. Having dealt with the extraordinary weirdness of being confronted by a complete stranger who was also my son, I checked him out from head to toe to see just who he was.
All babies look the same, pretty much, but the features which distinguish him most certainly come from his mother, although there was an amount of sympathetic coo-ing in my direction from the mid-wives. The feet were the last thing we checked. They are long. Great fat heels and lush soft pads. ‘Well, that’s all you’, said Mrs H. And she was right.
By now, most runners will have come across Chris McDougall’s best-selling Born to Run. What started out as a journey in search of an ancient tribe of Mexican ultra-distance runners became a thesis about the benefits of running barefoot over shod with trainers. It is a debate that is highly charged with emotions and much else besides, and his website has become a forum for both sides of the argument. When I finished the book I thought of running down the road barefoot, but got too nervous about broken glass, and turned back.
I am not sleep-deprived enough yet to start talking about anything more ambitious than getting ‘le dauphin’ in and out of his baby-grow, but every parent I have met has told me that he’ll be up and about before we know it. He though will feel no inhibitions, to start with at least, and I look forward to the day when he starts careering off on his own steam. When that happens and all the questions that McDougall raises will be asked all over again, but in a different light.
The maternity ward where he was born looks out over the final mile of the London Marathon, at the turn from The Embankment to Bird Cage Walk. I have run the course three times. Twice officially as a participant, and once from the finish line to the start at 4am on the morning of the Marathon, arriving as the starting banner was being raised. I pointed this out to his mother, and motioned towards the boy to make the connection. She rolled her eyes. ‘One step at a time.’