It’s 5.30pm, HB has barely been home from work for 15 minutes and I’m lacing up my running shoes and I’m heading out the door. I look down at my Garmin, wait for the GPS to kick in and then I start running, one foot in front of the other, repeat. I’m smiling because I’ve just conquered one of the most difficult running tasks of all – getting out of the front door.
My first kilometre is always my slowest, my legs are heavy, my head is tired but soon enough my running form becomes more fluid and less robotic. Just before I hit my first kilometre I hear a familiar tiny voice, ‘ Look there’s Mummy, she’s a superhero!‘ and I turn to see two of my favourite people riding behind me. We are off to the park, I will leave them there, run a 5km loop and join them to go home again. It’s HB’s rest day.
It’s the first day of Winter in Darwin, it’s 32C at 5.30pm and the sweat is dripping off me along with the day’s stress and frustrations, but for some reason I’m still smiling. I never used to be a sweater until I moved here.
Running is hard work. It requires so much effort and time. It often hurts and it’s quite boring.
I was never athletic as a child and I went to severe extremes to avoid all related physical activities. In primary school, I used to fake asthma attacks to get out of the annual sports carnival. I remember being told to breathe into a paper bag and being whisked away to the local doctor’s surgery. I was secretly thrilled when I was handed my first Ventolin inhaler – a permanent get of running free card. In hindsight, I realised that these were my first panic attacks.
In high school, it was much worse. There was something called a swimming carnival which required me to strip down to next to nothing in front of 800 people and attempt to swim laps. Hell no! I always had my period that day. I also remember wagging behind the hockey sheds with my BFFS because not one of us wanted to run the 2000 metre race.
2000 metres?! That was 7 laps of our school oval and equal to child abuse according to myself and my peers.
Now I wasn’t completely against exercise, I did play the obligatory netball and hockey seasons and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of team sports and the warm fuzzy sense of belonging. In fact it was this I missed most when I finished high school, it never occurred to me to keep playing a sport beyond school. I wish I did, more hindsight.
Why do I run?
When I first met HB all those years ago he would often sneak out in the early mornings for a quick 10km run around the river. I remember he used to walk into the house, red as a beet but he just glowed from the inside out.
I wanted whatever drugs he was on. I wanted to feel that good. I wanted to be a runner.
I tried several times on my own to learn to run and failed miserably. I disliked the huffy puffiness of it all and why was something that seemed so simple be so damn hard? I couldn’t breathe after the first 100 metres. I couldn’t run up a path with a slight incline let alone attempt a small hill so I gave up every single time. I was always happy with my decision to quit. I was studying full time again, I was also raising three children and working full time and had more than enough distractions to put the idea of running to the back of my mind.
And then I had my fourth baby who was a different kettle of fish to my others. This baby wanted everything she could possibly take from me and more. Attachment parenting was not a choice it was simply the only way to survive. As we approached her first birthday I was a few kilos overweight, chronically sleep deprived and I knew I had to do something for myself if I was to survive this stay at home mum gig.
It was later on that year when I signed up for my first round of 12WBT that I began to run. It started off with the baseline fitness test which required a 1km time trial. I remember stepping on that treadmill and running an 8min/km and for the first time in forever I felt alive and invincible. I was also dizzy and wanted to vomit violently in the corner. The cogs in my brain started to turn again, the cobwebs were brushed aside and I realised if I could run 8 minutes without stopping on the treadmill I could run 10, then 12, then 15 and so on.
And so it began, my many sweaty sessions at the gym soon transferred into running my first 5km on the road and I felt like I hit the jackpot that day. I can’t count the times I’ve whined to HB ‘All I want to do is to be able to run 5kms’, and there I was running it, hills and all.
That was 2.5 years ago and there have been injuries and running breaks since then but I’ve stuck with it which is surprising for someone whose hobbies don’t tend to last longer than an ice cream on a hot Summer’s day. I have since run a marathon, several half marathons and some shorter distance events.
But the truth is I have just started to truly enjoy running these past 3 months. All the blood, sweat, tears and countless pavement miles I have endured has been repaid and in return I now have some fitness. It’s certainly still a challenge but it’s not as hard as it once was and I no longer feel the need to call 000 after the first kilometre. A 5km is now a warm up and I can run the half marathon distance and have a conversation with someone the entire way or an argument if you ask HB. I think about running more than I think about sex which is a big disappointment for HB, but if he answered that question honestly he would have no choice but to give you the same answer.
Running will break you in the beginning but you will be rewarded greatly for your perseverance and efforts.
Running is now something I can share with the love of my life. We run together several times a week and since we don’t get to spend a lot of time together it’s a great opportunity to talk about our day without a 4-year-old monopolising our conservation. We have planned a trip to Europe later this year entirely around running and only other runners would understand just how exciting that is.
Today I run for many reasons which are very different to my original ones a couple of years ago. I run for the joy it brings me and for the demons it keeps at bay. I run for the personal achievements as I have learnt the harsh lesson to not to compare myself to others. I run for the health benefits. I run because it makes me feel strong and invincible. I run for me and also because I am a small person’s superhero.