The finish-line was supposedly 250 metres away, but it might as well have been on another planet because all I wanted to do was give up. Everything hurt and I wanted to punch someone in the face. And the worst part about my suffering was that it was all my fault. I’d paid to put myself through this purgatory.
Four months ago I decided to teach myself to run. I’d tried various fun runs over the years and become adept at power walking over quite long distances, but when it came to actual running I could never manage it for more than a few hundred metres. Even when I was the fittest of my adult life in my mid-thirties, I couldn’t run very far at all. Back then, I was also still smoking and binge drinking every weekend, so my anxious brain often told me that to run too far meant a one-way ticket to heart attack city.
Six years later, when thankfully ciggies and grog were history, I suppose I could no longer rely on such illogical ‘medical’ reasoning to stop me running, yet still I couldn’t do it. B likes to run. I like it that he runs. He has nice legs. I tried to run to impress him in our first year of dating but I usually just ended up looking like a middle-aged, sweaty beetroot-lady who was clearly trying to astonish her younger paramour with her vigorous faux-athleticism. It’s a miracle that he took it all in his stride (see what I did there?) when I was mostly just making a clammy knob of myself while simultaneously worrying about having a coronary.
Then I realised that I’d gotten fat. Fatter than I’d ever been in my life. It seems that giving up drinking and falling in love at the same time may be good for your health and happiness, but not for your waist-line. Sure B and I often spent much time feeding each other organic chocolate while taking part in our saintly, mutual attraction sober-fest, but I didn’t expect that all of that love nobility would result in me looking like a walrus.
Because I am vain, I tried a personal trainer, spin classes, hot yoga, weight training, more power walking and that horrendous five and two diet which actually made me go a bit bonkers, but nothing worked. I was still wobbly in all the wrong places. My legs looked like two anaemic sausages that had been caught in a violent hail-storm and my stomach had more rolls than a Vietnamese bakery.
So begrudgingly I knew what I had to do and I didn’t like it one little bit. I thought there must be a more gentle way but the cold hard fat of the matter was that as a woman of 42, the old bod needed to be kick-started back into action big time. Eating a forest-full of salad, and upping my lady-like power walks, was no longer going to cut the skinny mustard when one is in mid-life. The only option was to run. Boo.
I downloaded a free app which strangely ended up being more motivational than my $75 an hour personal trainer. I started by walking 1.6km on the first day and by the end of week seven, I ran non-stop for five. I didn’t set any land-speed records, but I didn’t stop either. In a moment of euphoric weakness that same morning, one of my mates (who is a real runner) encouraged me to enter a 10km run in six weeks’ hence. Sure, I said, I’ll do it! What an idiot.
Over the course of the next 42 days, I ran and ran and ran. I think part of me was also running away from my demons. I ran outside, on the treadmill, perfected my playlist after much googling, lowered my pace per kilometre from a very old-ladyish seven minutes to closer to six and worked up to running continuously for eight (is this ever going to end?) kilometres. Oh and along the way, I lost 3.5 kilograms without starving myself to insanity.
Race day was Saturday just gone and it felt liberating for an A-personality like me to have a goal of just finishing the 10km distance. Of course, two kilometres in, I decided that I might as well try for a personal best for the first five, which I achieved, but admit now was a mistake. Because after that first half, there wasn’t anything left in the tank, plus I couldn’t get the sport gel bloody open so there was no delicious caffeine pick-me-up for me. Nope, I just had to keep on running as fast as I could.
I don’t remember much about the last few kilometres. I’d hoped that I could pick up the pace at the nine kilometre-mark.I even had Split Enz’s I See Red as the final motivational track. But even the Finn brothers couldn’t lift my spirits or my legs. I was rooted. I really, really wanted to stop but the crowds lining the route meant my pride wouldn’t let me. Bugger it. I was damned if I’d let all those strangers, who I’d never see again, witness me fail. I didn’t care if I had a heart attack. Plus I’d run all those days, mostly when I didn’t want too, so what a crap result would that be if I faltered so close to the mythical chequered flag?
So, I shuffled with what dignity I had left to the line. Never again I said to myself. As I crossed the line, I thought about vomiting but didn’t. B was there to congratulate me. He’d just run the same distance but looked like he’d just sauntered out of a day spa. I resembled a corpse. Then something strange occurred.
Within five minutes, I was checking my results and my pace per kilometre. Within 24 hours, I was back at the finish line, cheering on some friends in the half-marathon and marvelling at their awesome achievement. Within 48 hours, I was going for a light five-kilometre jog to “shake the legs out a bit”. And then the next day I jumped online to search for the next running event so I could work towards improving my time over 10km.
I still don’t really understand what’s happened but I do know it’s time for my run.