Running but not a Runner. Still.

Next Sunday morning at 9am I will be lining up with 7 friends from the office – and 74,993 other people – in Sydney’s city centre, ready to run 14km (8.6 miles) to Bondi Beach.

Why? You may ask. WTF? even.

“I don’t rightly know” is the answer.

Why do I run in general and why choose to run this particular course in particular?

Let me just make one thing abundantly clear: I am not a natural long distance runner. Yes, I am tall and have long legs, but I am sturdily built rather than whippet thin. Even in my twenties when I was skinny I still had broad shoulders and wide hips. I like to think my frame is built for power; you know, short sprints to evade hungry sabre-tooth cats, that kind of thing. Jolly useful for most of the 40,000 years modern hominids have been trotting around. Less so now, though, I grant you.

Anyway, my point is that hauling my not-inconsiderable weight around for more than a few minutes at any speed is truly pénible (I’m afraid only the French word is good enough in this case).

I hated running at school (I was a brain, not a jock, despite being Hockey Captain). I hated running at University (still a brain, though by now well soaked in hormones). I hated running when I moved to London and started work (my boyfriend at the time was in the Royal Marines and there is nothing more guaranteed to put me off something than being strongly encouraged to do it by a man in uniform robustly telling me how good for me it would be). I thought running was stupid and pointless and painful and considered that the harm to one’s joints more than outweighed the benefit to one’s cardio-vascular system.

I still mostly think all these things. And yet I run.

And when it comes right down to it, if I am perfectly honest, I run because I like people to think of me as a Runner. As a fit, healthy, outdoorsy, active type of a gal.

Of course, I also like actually being a bit fitter than the average. I like that I don’t have to diet or smoke to keep my weight down, unlike most women my age. I like seeing the seasons change as I run around the city and harbour. I like the feeling of satisfaction when I complete a course or even just make it to a certain point without stopping or within a given time.

But – and here’s the really galling part – I’m still not particularly good at it.

Yesterday I ran the Bay Run (a mere 7km and mostly flat) with a friend. She had done practically no training. I have been out 2-3 times a week for the last couple of months with my colleagues, practicing for next weekend’s race. She stopped to walk 4 or 5 times. I slogged round the whole course without stopping. And I was three seconds faster than her. Three seconds. Just 3.

I mean, come ON. Where is the justice in that?

Which brings me to my second point: what on earth am I thinking, planning to run 14km next weekend? And, perhaps more importantly, why on earth are my team-mates relying on me to get them round? I’m crap at running!

Can I be proud of myself just for getting them to enter their first race, for doing the training and, hopefully, for all finishing it? Even if I struggle all the way, hate it and desperately want it to stop, and only make it round in a barely respectable time??

Okay, let’s lay it out there:
I’m aiming to complete the 14km City to Surf 2009 in under 95 minutes*, a little over double my 7km time of 44 minutes. Given the hills, that is going to be VERY HARD.

Wish me luck or a sneaky taxi…

* And just to put this into perspective, my Running Accountant Friend did a test run of the course yesterday, completed it in 60 minutes and reportedly feels fine today. Bastard.

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10 Responses to Running but not a Runner. Still.

  1. Fugitive Pieces says:

    Yes, but Running Accountant Friend didn’t manage to run (screaming) in the opposite direction when he needed to, did he? It’s in the timing, not just the time. Evolutionarily speaking, ’nuff said.
    And if it helps you go any faster, I can be at the finish line with a bucket of cold water and a large bag of peanut M&Ms (though I can’t guarantee the bag will be full). I’m very proud of you for doing this – given that I couldn’t walk it, you’ll have to run for both of us. Just the extra weight your knees needed…

  2. Once I reached 55 I stopped running. The sabre tooth tiger is welcome to this old carcase. Up until then I ran virtually every day – cricket training does that to you. It was a relief when I finally stopped. Now, a few years later, I am getting the urge again. Maybe it is some sort of addiction. Good luck on your run and have a quick “warm-down” swim at the end 🙂

  3. modestypress says:

    One of these days, you will run down the love of your life, knock him to the ground, and drag him home with you and have you way with him.

  4. woo says:

    Fugitive Pieces – that is an excellent point. Thank you for the kind and extremely tempting offer to be my post-race rescue party, but I think Bondi will be heaving with people on the day (75,000 runners plus stewards and supporters etc) and finding parking will be a nightmare, so probably safer not to make the attempt. Offer very much appreciated though. 🙂

    Archie – I think it must be some sort of addiction. When I don’t run for a few days now, I really begin to get antsy. I just don’t feel right if I don’t run at least once a week. And oh yes, the idea of the warm down swim at the end will be what keeps me going for the last 3 or 4 kilometres…

    Mr Random – If ever I actually meet a man that I like enough to want to run down and drag back to my lair, you’ll be the first to know.

  5. If you *must* destroy yourself, I say, do it in the name of health! You’re clearly on the right track. I mean, literally.

  6. I don’t run, I walk. Sometimes I walk very fast, but I am not interested in the pounding of my joints that running involves. I am 56 now, though, and my knees are not what they were.

    Good luck, and godspeed. And may your knees and ankles not kill you in the morning.

  7. Shoot, I was going to say, maybe you were a sprinter, but it sounds like you were built for stamina and carrying the meat home after the hunt.

  8. woo says:

    David – yes, not sure my knees would agree with you but I’m resolutely ignoring them…

    healingmagichands – I love the thought that I’m built for carrying the meat home after the hunt! 🙂

  9. azahar says:

    I used to run and know that addictive feeling very well. But I always said the best thing about running was when I finished … that was when all the endorphins kicked in and I felt calm, clear-minded and centred in a way I could only achieve by running. I can’t say I actually enjoyed the running itself.

    Then my dodgy hip gave out (age 38) and I had to stop running. And I am sure my knees would not support more than a quick sprint to catch a bus these days.

    Do not ignore your knees, woo … you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

    I can’t think of a worse form of daily exercise to subject ourselves to. And yet I wish I was still able to run like I used to. *sigh*

  10. woo says:

    yep, its an odd dilemma, isn’t it? On the one hand, running makes us feel calmer, fitter, happier (apologies to Radiohead) and on the other it buggers up our joints!

    Well, I take fish oil supplements every day and I try, wherever possible, to run on softer surfaces. I much prefer off-road trail running to road running on tarmac.

    No problems with my joints yet, touch wood. Long may it continue!

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