The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner

Yesterday’s run of 13.5km, or 8 and a wee bit miles was the hardest run I’ve done. Ever. Whatever comes up for me in my running journey, it’s gonna have to go some to beat the two hours I was out and about yesterday morning.

Let’s begin at the beginning. Run the Rock is a well-respected, well-attended run in country Victoria, organised and supported by Sole Motive. A fabulous company that support smaller, quirkier runs; The Harvest Run in the Yarra Valley is one of theirs. Kath and I had a great time with that run last year, (it also persuaded my GP that I had a problem with asthma, the gentlest of slopes defeated me, since then and a medication change, I’ve progressed in leaps and bounds).

Race bib collection opened at 7am, the half-marathon started at 8:15am, my race left at 9:25am. The joining instructions were clear, road closures in place from 7am. I booked a hotel room in nearby Woodend as I was not getting up before 5am to get up and ready to drive an hour so I could get in before the roads closed.

Then things started to unravel. Kath, my running buddy, messaged me on Wednesday, she’d came down with gastro and her daughter started vomiting that night as well. Thursday I checked in on her, she was still in bed, I asked Hubs if he wanted to come up for the night instead. Hubs asked Archie if he wanted to go on an adventure on Saturday morning?

On Friday Kath confirmed she wasn’t going anywhere fast; we threw some things in a bag and all headed to the motel after work, driving in rush-hour traffic, watching the sun set and chatting. We dropped our bags off at the motel and went for out dinner, finding a great pizza place nearby. Archie was ready to eat his arm off, they were flat-chat, by the time we got pizza, Archie was climbing the walls and on the verge of a meltdown. When he blood sugar dips, he’s feral. Just like his mother.

After we’d eaten we headed back to our room for the night, we all had showers, went to bed and got up before the alarm went in the morning. Mainly because Hubs and I had the weirdest, vivid dreams all night long. I can’t say either of us rested really. I got everyone packed back up while the boys had breakfast. It was cold, windy and spitting with rain when we left.

Mount Macedon was hiding behind clouds, the wind was picking up, and I was very grateful for my extra layers as it was a balmy 8c when I got dropped off at the Hanging Rock Racetrack. Due to the winds, the course was changed, we couldn’t Run the Rock any more, on account of low flying rocks. I collected my bib, then sat on a picnic bench, eating my breakfast while wrapped in a picnic blanket and trying to stop my paperwork blowing away.

I called Kath, people watched, dropped my bag in and like everyone else huddled under the marquees that were threatening to blow away. I warmed up as best I could, but knew until I started running, I was stuffed. After one last wee, we lined up, and trotted off. The wind blew my breath away, it took me 3km to warm up and get under cover of trees so I could run, breathe and feel like I’m enjoying this. Then, frabjous joy, Jac appeared out of nowhere. The pair of us shrieked with joy, ran, hugged and caught up on three years over 3km. We kept each other going, chatting and laughing with each other.

The course had now turned into trail running, which I do not do. I’m so clumsy, I prefer roads, at a pinch – grass, and will put up with footpaths in parks. Jac headed off as I needed to walk down the hills so I didn’t fall arse over tit. A girl has got to know her limitations.

It was now more than spitting. It was rain.

Then hail.

Then the rain started to come in sideways.

Then, despite the road closures, some fuck knuckle decided to move out a sheep transport articulated truck. Right in the middle of the runners. “Fuck you, I’m a truck”.

I was so cross I instagrammed a story, on my already damp phone, which pushed my phone over the edge and it gave up on me and shut down. I’d found my stride by then too, I felt strong and was consistently hitting 7 and a half minute KMs. The truck was the beginning of the end.

Did I mention the rain? And the wind? And that I was now soaked to the skin? With no way of contacting anyone? AND no Hugh Fraser reading me Poirot?

I was well grumpy. There was literally no way out but through. I ran, walked, ran a bit more. Peed behind a tree. Ran a bit. Walked a bit. Swore a lot. Complained to anyone who listened that this ‘was not fun’. Professed undying love to the CFA and volunteers handing out drinks and encouragement.

I got to the end, I didn’t even bother running over the line; I just wanted to find Hubs, Archie and get dry. I did make the lady who was handing out medals laugh, as I lifted my sodden jacket up to show my bib. I went to collect my bag and managed to miss Hubs completely who was waiting with a bath sheet, one of two he’d brought when the weather he and Archie had been in turned in his words ‘Biblical’.

I went to the bathroom, hands purple with cold and tried to wiggle out my wet clothes enough to pee. This was when I nearly started crying, I had stuff in my flipbelt I did not want to drop on the floor, but didn’t have the movement in my fingers to get lycra off. I also had dry clothes in my bag, but couldn’t cope with the thought of changing in a tiny stall with no room to move.

My phone thankfully switched on, I found my family and Hubs wrapped me in the towel. We walked to the car, found another toilet block with bigger stalls and as I was a bit dryer and with a bit more circulation, I got changed.

I can honestly say that buying those towels was up there with him helping me have a shower the day after Archie was born.

There was a coffee waiting for me in the car, another towel that I doubled up and spread over my legs. I put my heating on to 27c and thawed out. When we got home, I had a hot shower and got into bed with the duvet, a blanket and a hot water bottle. I emerged at about 3pm wanting cake.

That was a lot of work for two samples of a pre-workout drink.

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