THIS ( RUNNING) LIFE
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