THIS ( RUN­NING) LIFE

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Viewpoints - SCOTT MACKIE

YES­TER­DAY, I ac­ci­den­tally ran a half­marathon. I’ve been a run­ner for 10 years. It started in­no­cently, jog­ging around Melbourne’s Princess Park af­ter class. But the more I did it, the more I en­joyed it and the faster I was get­ting.

One win­ter’s night, early in my run­ning days, still stands out. As a younger brother, I had lit­tle suc­cess in back­yard games with my older ri­val. Foot­ball, cricket, wrestling, golf: it didn’t mat­ter. Any ath­letic event had al­ways been a non­con­test. With my first six months of run­ning be­hind me, I had a new level of fit­ness. He was cocky and cer­tain. Why wouldn’t he be af­ter 18 years of dom­i­na­tion? We went out for a run to­gether. He led the way, as usual. For 3km we moved steadily through the night air. From his breath­ing, I knew I had him cov­ered. We turned for home with 1.5km to go and I took off. He still talks of how his jaw hit the ground.

My run­ning has con­tin­ued. When­ever I’ve trav­elled over­seas, my run­ning gear has al­ways been packed. I love go­ing for a run in a new place, with or with­out a map. I re­mem­ber my snow- run in Cal­gary in mi­nus 17C, my Golden Gate run in San Fran­cisco when it took me more than an hour to get to the bridge. Of course then I had to run across it and run back.

Yes­ter­day, how­ever, I had no ath­letic in­ten­tions. I woke at 6am but hap­pily snoozed for 40 min­utes. The lo­cal run­ners’ club had its big event on. A smor­gas­bord of run­ning; ul­tra­ma­rathon, marathon or half- marathon. But while I wasn’t par­tic­i­pat­ing, sev­eral friends were, so I strug­gled out of bed to give moral sup­port.

I ped­alled my bi­cy­cle over to the course. It was a crisp morn­ing with a gen­tle breeze. The first run­ners soon came into view, breath­ing steadily as they went up the hill. My friend Sam was along shortly. He spot­ted me and called out: ‘‘ Run­ning to­day?’’ ‘‘ Not me,’’ I replied. ‘‘ Keep it go­ing.’’

As other run­ners am­bled past, I felt left out and a lit­tle twitchy. Per­haps I could run? There was noth­ing wrong with me. A light jog would be nice. As I ped­alled home ( quickly), I planned how to squeeze an en­durance prepa­ra­tion into eight min­utes. Multi- task­ing was the key. My bread went into the toaster as I headed for the loo. A quick move­ment while I put on socks and shoes. Out the door with brekky in hand ( yes, mum, I washed them).

My lit­tle car made it to the club with min­utes to spare. I jogged to the pavil­ion, a warm- up of cham­pi­ons. I scrawled my name on the en­try and handed over the late fee. Re­mov­ing my jumper, I took a sip of wa­ter and headed for the start line.

I set­tled into stride and watched as the lead­ers slipped away. Five, 10, 15km and still run­ning well. But some­one was clos­ing in on me. I heard slap­ping of feet, then heavy breath­ing. I looked over as a tough- look­ing, wiry man edged past. He wore a faded sin­glet with sev­eral holes. It read: Rot­tnest Marathon, 1987. An­other run­ning tragic. A mo­ment of truth. I could lock horns and fight to the line or stay in my own lit­tle world. I looked out over the ocean as he went ahead.

Not sur­pris­ingly, I didn’t run a per­sonal best yes­ter­day. In­deed, it was a per­sonal worst. But I’m a run­ner and I en­joyed ev­ery sec­ond of it.

this­life@ theaus­tralian. com. au

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