Golden Gala 2018, RomeI’ve been going each year to this annual international track meet, a part of the Diamond League competitions, ever since my track-obsessed younger son began running at seven years old.

This has become a tradition for us each May or June when this international meet arrives in the Eternal City – at the Olympic stadium that is more commonly hosting professional soccer.

If you are in Rome during this time, and especially if you’re accompanied by kids, I highly recommend a visit to see the Golden Gala.

There’s something for everyone. Men’s and women’s sprints, 1500 m, 300 m, steeple chase, hurdles, pole vault, long jump, high jump, discus …

Golden Gala 2018, Rome
American Ronnie Baker wins an exciting 100m race

It’s a fast-paced international competition, with some of the world’s best track stars.

My son, who – embarassingly -becomes a bit of  a stalker when it comes to meeting his track and field heroes, always uses this as an opportunity to gather autographs and selfies with all his favorites.

And what can I say except that these talented men and women are awfully patient with their young fans.

Golden Gala 2018, Rome
With American 400 m champion Fred Kerley

He was thrilled to meet South African long jumper Luvo Manyonga, the women’s 200 m winner from Cote d’Ivoire Ta Lou, 400 m phenomenon American Fred Kerley, some of his favorite 100 m sprinters, like winner Ronnie Baker, France’s Jimmy Vicault and South African Akani Simbine – who kindly offered my son his signed race bib that now hangs in his room.

A fabulous evening filled with exciting competitions, incredibly fast times and long distances, and those perfect Roman spring evenings that often accompany the Golden Gala.

And my own track and field enthusiast returned to his next track practice with even more enthusiasm after such an inspiring evening.

Don’t miss out on Rome’s Golden Gala if you’re passing through the Eternal City next May. And if you’re one of the competitors out on the track – heartfelt thanks for all the inspiration you offer to your young fans.

Golden Gala 2018, Rome
At the adjacent warm-up track – the spectacular Stadio dei marmi
Golden Gala 2018, Rome
With South African long jumper Luvo Manyonga