I never been good at sport. I was always picked last in teams and since childhood I have a battle with my weight. Of course I love watching sport. Love footy and of course soccer and can’t wait for the Olympics, but I was always hopeless actually playing sport.
One way I can compensate for that is by running (and a bit of gym weights). I don’t have to worry about ‘letting the team down’. But running on its own after a while becomes a bit boring, and that’s why ‘fun runs’ are a great way to have an aim and keep a focus.
I used to do a few in my single and childless days. I even ran the Sydney to Surf once in Sydney. But once I became a father the energy and time to run became less and my fitness suffered as a consequence.
I always promised myself that I would come back to it again one day, and as my son grew up and my partner didn’t need constant help, I went back to the running. My comeback fun run was the City to Sea fun run last year (which I also wrote about). That was 14 Km. and I completed it fairly OK. So I thought, should I try for a half marathon? After all it is only 7 Km extra.
So I decided to enter the Half Marathon at RunMelbourne. I got on the website and got the ‘beginner’ 1/2 Marathon training schedule, which started in April and followed (almost) to the letter.
As I trained I definitely got fitter, my waistline did decrease (a little, not as much as I hoped) and my weight stayed resolutely the same. When I voiced my disappointment about this on twitter I was informed that I was replacing fat with muscle. Hopefully that is the case.
I felt I could do it. However on the long runs (90 minutes plus) I did notice that I was struggling a bit at the end. So I knew I had to pace myself.
So last Sunday arrived. Woke up in darkness which for a Sunday morning as everyone else is in bed is a struggle. Ate a couple of crumpets. Placed band aids on my nipples (after shaving the hair around them the night before – laugh all you like but it worked) got dressed in my gear and rode my bike to Federation Square. Yes had to ride my bike because the first train would have arrived at my station forty five minutes after the start of the run. Actually it was good as it gave me a good warm up.
From deserted inner suburban streets, immediately was into people in running gear once I reached Flinders St. Parked my bike. Walked to the start in St Kilda Rd. As with all runs, and especially this one, I always am at the back. I am not interested in times. So while the start was in front of the Floral Clock, I was basically on Princes Bridge (apologies for whoever is reading this and is not from Melbourne, but it is quite a distance away) so basically the start hooter goes, nothing happens for some minutes, then you start walking and finally can start running.
As with most fun runs I’ve been to, lots of people started running really quickly. So either everyone was a really good runner, or more likely they get swept up by the enthusiasm at the start. I knew that if I had any chance to finish the half marathon I had to pace myself really carefully, so as I was running at my comfortable pace many runners overtook me and I was left at the back with ten or so slow runners like me, and a couple of dads running with strollers.
Inevitably I caught up with some of them as they slowed down or started walking, but not that many. Obviously, unlike 10Km or 14Km runs I’ve done before, the half marathon attracts a more serious, fitter runner.
I was enjoying myself. I was running in my favourite city, with no traffic with other people and throughout the course there were people either playing music or DJs mixing disks on their consoles.
At the half way mark I was really going well. I wasn’t right at the back any more and I felt great. I felt like I could run for another 20 Km, but I knew better. I reached the 14Km mark and that signified the longest I ever ran before. It went well for another kilometre or so, but I could feel slowly that my legs were really getting tired and my knees were hurting a bit. Aerobically I was fine, it was my legs that were starting to feel it.
At the 17 Km mark I hit a bit of a wall. I had to slow down but I resolutely didn’t want to stop. I would shuffle to the end if necessary but not stop except for a drink station. I did stop at the first one to drink some water, but I fund that starting again was difficult. So I didn’t stop at any until the end of the run. While before the Kilometres came fairly easily, now they felt like they were hugely apart. Slight hills that I didn’t even noticed on the first lap, felt like huge mountains. However the sight of people stopping made me more determined to continue. As I saw the last kilometre sign I actually felt a bit better and started to pick up the tempo. But also because I wanted it to finish as soon as I could. I see the finish line. I see the clock that say ‘two hours and thirty minutes’ but I didn’t care. I finished. Mission accomplished.
Afterwards I went to the Commonwealth Bank tent and got myself a free muffin and coffee. Again apart from my legs I didn’t feel to badly. So walked back to my bike and debated whether to take the train back home. Decided, perhaps foolishly, to ride home. It was a hard slog and I had to get off the bike and walk the hills.
At home my partner and my son were still in bed. Had a shower and got back to bed myself. The feeling of relief permeated my whole body. And as I was lying there I ticked mentally the things I wanted to try in life. I finished a half marathon. But that’s it. I got fitter. Running has made me more relaxed. But only 14Km or 10Km fun runs from now on.