Perry Lakes parkrun

There’s nothing like the launch of a new parkrun to draw a crowd – of parkrunners. The launch of Perry Lakes parkrun last Saturday was no exception despite a temporary return of winter temperatures and rain. What better way to start the weekend than to huddle with your tribe, teeth gritted against the cold, rolling your eyes at the lunacy of wearing shorts and singlets in the rain, knowing that by 9 am you’ll be delighted that you made the effort? Well, 272 people thought it was a good idea in Floreat on Sep 30.

I’ve been to a few launches, but this one was particularly close to my heart as my Nomads on the Run squad trains at Perry Lakes every Monday morning. We stick to the paths mind you, so this was a new adventure as the route offers up an opportunity to go off-road and negotiate softer, yet more challenging, surfaces.

Perry Lakes is a beautiful 80-hectare reserve with two lakes teaming with birds, a grass oval beloved of dog exercisers, and asphalt and concrete paths under tree canopies that, in summer, offer a welcome respite from the sun. There are also clean public toilets (a Nomad obsession) and a water fountain or two. Really, it’s yet another gem that Perth offers walkers and runners (and dogs). In fact, Perry Lakes was the location of the 2016 World Masters Athletics Cross Country Championships.

On Saturday, the Mayor of the Town of Cambridge, Kerri Shannon, was there to say a few words, welcoming parkrun to the neighbourhood. In his run briefing, Event Director Jon Storey, (who has run over 300 parkruns), mentioned swooping magpies and unleashed dogs as potential hazards on the route but really, as a Perry Lakes regular, I think the biggest danger is tripping over one’s own feet on the cross-country sections. Obviously, for normal people, this is no danger at all, but for the minority group ‘Runners Prone to Tripping’ of which I am a fully signed up member with the scars and hospital bills to prove it, the prospect of negotiating an uneven surface was daunting.

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Perry Lakes parkrun route, with the first kilometre marked in blue, is two laps of this course.

The route is two laps of the park. It starts on a wide asphalt path – traffic-free on weekends – then after about 900m turns onto a cross-country section, around 400m long, which is a little more demanding in terms of foot placement and balance. I did however not fall so yay for me – twice!

The next section is on a concrete-turns-into-asphalt path with a return to grass – clipped and even grass as it’s part of the dog exercise area – at around 1.8km. At 2.1km, there’s a change in surface again as runners enter another tufty grass, cross-country section before a return to asphalt and a u-turn, marking the almost halfway point and the start of the second lap. I’d estimate that about 2km of the flat 5km course is off-road, of which only 1.2-1.3km is on uneven grass.

As expected, I found the tufty grass tough to run on which is kind of funny for someone whose home parkrun requires 800m of negotiating sand, rocks, seaweed, and hyper-active dogs. I did manage it more speedily on the second lap which makes me think that mastering this cross-country lark might be a question of practice – unlike plodding along on sand, which after more than 80 parkruns, is still most certainly the boss of me.

The volunteers as always were well organised and encouraging with several familiar faces from the Perth parkrun family. Many in attendance were, like me, visiting from other parkruns, but 56 people turned up to walk or run their first ever parkrun. Welcome to the tribe first-timers. Saturday morning just got awesome.

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Courtesy of Perry Lakes parkrun Facebook page

If you’re new to parkrun, or wondering how it works, head here.

 

No More Excuses! Start Running.

So it’s the second week of the year, and your new year’s resolution to take up running hasn’t quite turned you into the gazelle that you’d envisaged. In fact, you might have been a bit rash in deciding that you could become a runner after all. True, it seems that everyone else on the entire planet is either trail running, parkrunning, or embarking on a marathon training plan (or all three), but clearly they haven’t struggled the way you have. Clearly they haven’t got the excuses for staying sedentary that you have. WRONG! If you are using any, or all of the excuses below, to stall your running journey, you’re deceiving yourself. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. If you are physically healthy, you can run.

EXCUSE #1: I’ve tried running but it’s hard.

No shit Sherlock. If running was effortless, we’d never walk anywhere, we’d run. It’s precisely because it’s challenging, and physically and mentally demanding, that it’s rewarding. The truth is, that even after running becomes a well-established habit, it can feel hard some days (at times, every day). It’s also true however, that running isn’t half as hard as your brain will tell you it is. There’s nothing your mind will like better than to try and sabotage your early running efforts with an internal dialogue that stalks your every step with phrases like: Stop, it’s too hard, stop, this is crazy, it hurts, it must be bad for you, stop for goodness sake, stop, you mother is right, this is bad for your knees, stop for the love of all things sedentary STOP!

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Remedies: Run with others. Running at a pace that allows you to chat with another runner is not only distracting from any pain but it also drowns out negative thoughts. If you don’t know anyone you can run with, get on Facebook, reach out to other beginners, join a running/coaching group, or form your own. Facebook is teeming with running forums. If you’re not ready to go public with your new activity, then follow a 0-5km (also called couch to 5km) program.Buy an app, listen to the instructions as you run-walk. As long as you stay committed to the 8, 10 or 16-week program, you’ll make progress. The trick is, for those challenging running stints, with no one to talk to, you need to talk to yourself. Try overwrite your negative inner voice with positive mantras such as I am strong, or I love running. The mantra doesn’t need to be true to be useful. Honestly, I ran Melbourne Marathon last year in a state of dehydration and nausea, and the only thing that kept me from completely freaking out was talking to myself, repeating such phrases over and over, to the beat of each footstep. Yet, six years ago, I struggled to talk myself into running 200m. Running, you will discover, really is a mental game, and nowhere is that more apparent than when you start out.

EXCUSE #2: I’m too slow

Granted I’ve never heard a man express fears that they can’t join a running group or a parkrun because of fear of being too slow to keep up but it is a comment I’ve heard from women. The answer to this fear is – it doesn’t matter if you’re slow. If you’re starting out, you should be running slowly, at a pace that allows you to speak full sentences as you run. Speed is irrelevant when you start. In fact, speed can be counterproductive because if you put your body under too much duress too soon, you are likely to get injured. You need to build up both pace and distance over a period of months to allow your muscles, ligaments, and tendons adjust to their new training loads. So, run slow. Running is running.

EXCUSE #3: I don’t have a runner’s body

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Please go to your nearest parkrun and have a look at the diverse shapes, sizes, and running forms on display. The only thing you have to know about a runner’s body is that it runs. End of. 

EXCUSE #4: I’m too old.

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I always thought it a bit comical that when I started running in Malaysia at the ripe old age of 40, I automatically slotted into the Veteran category at races. My father thought I was crazy to start running ‘at my age’. Since moving to Perth and joining Masters Athletics Western Australia, I’ve discovered that being in one’s mid-forties is still fairly young in runners’ years. I’m frequently inspired by septuagenarian marathon runners, women in their mid-fifties who make me look slow as a snail, and former state champions who, though not as nimble as in their prime, keep moving forward one step at a time. If you’re healthy, age is no barrier, and honestly running can often feel like giving the onset of menopause and the encroachment of age the proverbial finger. Age (or death) will get you eventually but that’s no reason to give into it prematurely. 

So, don’t lose heart, if the shine is going off your new year’s good intentions. Stick with it. Join a group or buy an app. Get a coach if you need one. Start walk-running at your local parkrun. Do whatever you need to do to get you started. You deserve it.

Patience, Progression, Perseverance. Essentials for the Beginner.

‘I’ve always wanted to run but it feels so hard and I’ve never managed to get that runners high you hear about,’ a new acquaintance lamented to me recently.

Firstly I was amazed by the lady’s desire to run. As passionate as I am about running, up until six years ago I had never had the remotest urge to do so. FOMO was my reason to start; desire didn’t come into it. And wanting to run, doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. The truth is that there is a lot of groundwork to be done in the first few weeks and months of running. Everyone, even those who consider themselves fit and active, find running difficult to begin with. The trick, my friends, is to remember the 3Ps: Patience, Progressions & Perseverance. Keep these in mind, especially when you’re struggling, and you will optimise your chance of acquiring a fourth P – passion! – just as I did. (The ingredients needed for a runner’s high – the fifth and sixth Ps – pace and performance  – will surely follow).

P1 PATIENCE

Unless you are five years old or unusually genetically gifted, you are not going to get up one morning, lace up your shoes, and run 5km in 25 mins. If somehow you do, it’s safe to say that you won’t be able to lace up your shoes again for a while because along with other parts of you, your hamstrings will be so tight and sore that you won’t be able to reach your feet. The reason that it takes time to build up a running habit, is that the body, or at least the parts of the body that are engaged in running, are not instant gratification machines. Your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal need time to adjust to a new level of activity and loading, and if you don’t respect the time required for your lungs, muscles and connective tissues to adapt, they will penalise you with discomfort and injury. And like my new acquaintance, you might at this point give up on the whole running idea altogether – sore and defeated.

The great news is that you will probably feel a bit fitter after only a few runs but remember that your ligaments and tendons take as long as four weeks to adapt to the new loads you’re imposing on them. Do not look at people who can run 10km in 45 mins and think resentfully that you’re just as lean and fit from your gym workouts as they are, so why can’t you run like they do? Don’t look at them and think that because you’re not as lean and fit as them that you never will be able to run as they do. Running has its own set of unique physical requirements so be patient, keep your eyes on the long game, and consider those early weeks and months of doing short, easy runs (or walk-runs) as an investment in your long term goal – whether that be to run 5km continuously in 35 mins or complete a half marathon before you turn 50. Remember you want to get into running for the longterm which ironically demands that you should not be in a big hurry to speed up – to start with at least.

P2 PROGRESSION

The main injury-prevention tool for new runners is to progress slowly. A couch to 5km program is ideal as it combines walking and running, with the walking intervals shortening and the running intervals lengthening, as the weeks progress. Within 10-12 weeks of thrice-weekly sessions, most people can manage a 5km at a slow pace. Remember to look at your total number of kilometres in a week and resist the urge to get carried away when you’re feeling good – it’s a good rule of thumb to avoid ramping up weekly mileage by more than 10% at a time. Slow progress is key. Train yourself to achieve a base mileage that is comfortably challenging over a period of months before you even consider starting any kind of speed workouts or races.

P3 PERSEVERENCE

In the early days of running, before you’ve trained that little nagging voice in your brain to shut-up and stop telling you that you need to quit, that you’ll never be able to run far, perseverance is key. It will be hard. Accept that and keep trying. You might look at other runners, who make it look easy. But you can’t hear what’s going on in their heads no more than they can hear what’s in yours. The brain is one of running’s greatest tools – and beneficiaries – so train it in tandem with your lungs and legs. Run with a friend if you can; conversation is a great distraction from discomfort. Like and read running pages on Facebook and Instagram to keep you motivated. Remember that everyone, even Mo Farah, has bad days. The important thing is not to give up when the going gets tough. Persevere!

I explained the 3Ps to my new acquaintance, hoping to encourage her to give running another go. I invited her to come along to my next coaching class for free. She said that she would, but in the end she messaged me to say that her foot was injured but she’d try again the following week. I really hope she does. The 3Ps are essential components of a beginner runner’s tool kit but of course to use them you first have to (be well enough to) show up.

This article first appeared on JustRunlah.com.

Taper Madness

We’ve moved out of our house, the kids are on school holidays, the weather is cold, frequently wet and windy, and apparently my training is done. I won’t go on about the ridiculous position of being a tenant in Australia whereby one is expected to improve a property and return it cleaner than when it was received. No I’ve left those rants ringing in the ears of every person unfortunate enough to meet me last week. Now it’s time to look forward (to the next time I have to move out of a WA house, not!), but also to more pleasurable things. First though I have to do my marathon – this weekend!

I’m torn between being grateful that I completed a marathon training program without getting injured (the niggle in my left quad does not indicate an injury, no it does not) and wondering if perhaps I didn’t train hard enough. Or maybe the latter thought is tapering crazy thinking. To be honest, I really don’t know what to expect on Sunday. And that I think has got to be the one of the best things – besides fitting into skinny jeans a size smaller than last year – about this experience at this point. I have never done a marathon before so the only thing to do, having done the training apparently, is to get philosophical.

If it was easy to run a marathon, everyone would do one, wouldn’t they? Okay, I can think of a few of you who wouldn’t but you know what I mean. It is designed to be hard. I read somewhere that only 20% of marathoners run 42.2km in under 4 hours and that statistic does not take advanced age into consideration. So a sub-4 hour marathon is a big deal. And there is a big chance that I won’t achieve that, as much as I’d like to. And you know what? That’s going to be fine. More than fine.

I hope I can make this run a celebration of good health, of freedom, of friendships – there will be many familiar faces both on and around the course – and of simply being. Running 42.2km is a silly think to do really. And I know for a fact that there will be a number of hours this Sunday when I will wonder why the hell I have chosen to do it. I oscillate between calm acceptance of what will be will be and oh my gawd this is going to be wretched and I’ll be lucky to finish.

Finishing will do though. I still remember finishing my first half marathon in 2012, crying with joy as I crossed the line in 1:59, the lady presenting me with my medal trying to console me, telling me not to be sad, that I’d win the race next year. I fully expect to bawl my eyes out on Sunday too. I just hope it’s not until after I’ve finished!

We are currently living in temporary accommodation in a building inhabited mostly by octogenarians. The decor has a certain 19th century vibe to it but hidden amongst the trinkets was this little gem of wisdom. Words to abide by even when running a race:)

 

Running Ambitions for 2016

In 2015, I sucked. As a blogger, I sucked. Fifteen posts. Hardly enough to to qualify as a blogger. AMBITION #1. Write weekly. Not because the running world needs me to, but because when I’m not being creative, I’m miserable. Except when running, but given that it’s physiologically impossible to run constantly, a blog post or so every week about running, seems like a more viable recipe for joy.

2015Review

In 2015, I had a fantastic running year, with many great races, most of which surpassed my expectations in terms of experience and results. I also avoided injury despite running 2355km, and achieving personal best times in 10km and 21.1km races. As my love affair with running has deepened (one November blip in the romance aside), so has my desire to spread that love. I want everyone in the entire universe (with functioning legs) to experience the joys of running. I want everyone to speak the language of pace, Strava, and blackened toe nails. Running is a journey that nurtures both my brain and my ageing body; it has also introduced me to many fantastic people who are equally in the thrall of placing one foot in front of the other for swathes of time every week. Running makes me feel alive, and powerful in the face of my inevitable mortality. In September, I qualified as an Accredited Athletics Coach Level 1. Basically, this means that I can coach kids at Little Athletics. Ultimately, I’d like to be able to coach adults who want to take up running, resume running, or attain a particular running goal.  AMBITION#2 Qualify as a Recreational Running Coach Level 2.

Then there’s the biggie. I have never had any desire to run a marathon. I’ve found each of my eleven half marathons challenging enough. I’ve been of the opinion, since starting running four years ago, that training for a 42.195km race would be too arduous, too time consuming, too likely to leave me injured and unable to run at all. It would also place too much pressure to succeed at one event. Basically, I haven’t wanted to take the risk. But now, suddenly, I do. I absolutely do want to take the risk of training for and running for my first (possibly only) marathon in 2016, aged 45. Of course, I do. Having warded off injury for 18 months, why not antagonise the Gods of tendons, muscles and ligaments? Why be grateful when you can say I want to do even more?! I happened to be out running by the sea,  feeling strong and happy, when this new resolve to test my body to its limits hit me. Unlike many of the ideas I’ve had while pounding the pavement, this one didn’t lose its lustre once I’d showered. In fact, several weeks on, and I’m pretty excited about the idea – which of course makes sense as I haven’t actually started training, and my targeted event – Perth Marathon – is over five months away. Loadsa time yet to get real. And scared. AMBITION #3 Train for Perth Marathon 2016 (see what I did there? Train, not run? I’m not even assuming I’ll make it to the start line. Best keep expectations low!) Of course, this means that for another year, there isn’t a hope in hell of being able to have a professional pedicure but big ambitions require tough choices – and having ten healthy toe nails simultaneously is an ambition too far.

IMG_2838Finally, I’ve become a parkrun enthusiast. I’ve met so many great people at parkrun, and I once again feel that I’ve found my tribe (having tearfully bid farewell to the previous one in KL in 2014). I’ve run in five different parkrun locations, including my home town Kilkenny, Ireland, and I’ve brought my three children into the parkrun family both as runners and volunteers. AMBITION#4 Run my 50th parkrun in 2016 (only 28x5km more to go!) and earn my volunteer shirt (16 more vollie stints to go). All this is a tad over-ambitious, more so even that the marathon, but hey if you don’t set goals, you can’t hope to attain them, so let’s see how this goes.

So, there it is. Running ambitions for 2016, above and beyond staying healthy and injury-free, something one should never take for granted, at any age. Ultimately, it won’t matter if I achieve any of these lofty ambitions. The true achievement will be in trying. How about you? Ready for 2016?

My 80/20 Update

I’ve been trying to implement the strategy advocated by Matt Fitzgerald in his book 80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster by Training Slower. This week, I haven’t run any session, other than my interval session, faster than 5:50min/km which hasn’t been easy, especially when it means allowing lots of other runners to sail past. Yes, running slow means leaving your ego at home. To be honest, it’s been hard to shake the suspicion that all this slow running business is in fact making me, well, slower.

However, today I got a little boost and possibly an indicator that this 80/20 thing may be working, even though it is still early days. I took 40s off my 5km time at Bibra Lake parkrun this morning while feeling much more comfortable than on previous attempts (despite the ill-advised breakfast I’d had before heading out the door). I took it easier than usual at the start of the run – getting caught in a crowd kinda helps with that – and had enough strength in my legs to pass all the other women bar the one, a teenager whom I never even saw. She whizzed around in a ‘slow for her’ 21 mins. I’d like to come back as her in my next life.

In the meantime, I’ll stick with the 80/20 system; it still feels counter-intuitive most days, but it makes sense when you read the science behind it. I haven’t finished the book yet, but will post the salient nuggets of information, once I have.

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Not bad for an old bird.

Running Slow to Get Faster

Yesterday I started a Training Peaks Half Marathon plan designed to get me across the finish line at the Busselton Half Ironman relay in 1:45. Well, I signed up for the plan two months ago when May seemed a long way off and I still believed in miracles! The schedule for Monday said 8km easy, so I ran 8km maybe not easy but strong, but not pushing too hard. It was one of the best training runs I had done in weeks. My Garmin watch, which is still under warranty, is out of action at the moment. I had to send the faulty charging cable to Garmin Australia in NSW for repair/replacement. So yesterday, I couldn’t actually see my pace as I ran. I was running purely by feel, recording the run using the Strava App. I felt great! My average pace turned out to be 5:10min/km. My last kilometre was sub 5mins. I guess I got a bit carried away with myself but it felt so good!

When I got home I checked the training plan again and noticed for the first time that the pace indicated for the run was just under 6min/km. Not only that but this pace doesn’t increase for any of the non-interval runs throughout the 10-week plan. Surely this must be a mistake. How can you go out and run 21.1km at 5min/km pace or faster when most of your training runs are done at a minute slower per kilometre!? I dismissed the plan as lightweight.

As Monday progressed, my energy levels did the opposite. I was zonked. Today’s planned interval session didn’t happen at all. It’s almost 3PM and I’m still dressed to run but the only run I’m doing soon is the school run, in a car. So as fabulous as I felt in the immediate aftermath of yesterday’s 8km, I’m not feeling somewhat deflated. Day two of a plan and I’ve already skived. Day 1 and I’ve already over-trained. So what to do?

Well, buy a book of course! And finish a novel. I should slip that in too that instead of running today, I had a little nap then finished a novel I’ve been working on for three years. No one has read it yet so it could be complete tosh but at least it is completed tosh.

Back to my purchase. It’s called 80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster by Training Slower. Its main message is that in order to run faster, runners need to train slower. Yes, its counter-intuitive but the premise is based on scientific studies and analyses of athletic performance. I’m still sceptical but I think it’s worth a read. Certainly, the press coverage for the book has been very positive.

fitzgerald Book

It’s hard to run slow when you feel you can run faster. It’s also hard on the ego to deliberately run slower that you are capable of 80% of the time, then display the fact on Strava. Well it is for me! That said, my constant attempts to run every run as fast as is comfortable without pushing too hard isn’t paying dividends other than in measures of frustration as I’m not actually getting any faster. I’m feeling tired and heavy legged a lot of the time, and I am developing new aches and pains on a weekly basis.

So, I’m ready to try something new, ready to slow down if it really means I’ll stay injury-free and run faster in the long run. I’ll let you know what I think of the book. I’ll let you know too how long it takes Garmin to return my cable!

View from the Finish Chute

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WAMC Club Rooms, Burswood, WA.

Yesterday evening I went to my first race event of 2015, not as a runner, but as a volunteer. Taking out family membership of the West Australian Marathon Club (WAMC) in Spring 2014, several months before we left Kuala Lumpur, smacked of good intentions but in reality setting up a new life got in the way of actually participating in any (bar one, on my own) event. I rejoined without the family for 2015 and one of the conditions of membership was volunteering for at least two club race events this year. The Burswood 5km Twilight Run seemed like a good option as it was an evening race and only 25 minutes from home at the WAMC’s club rooms.

It was nice to ‘rock up’ – that’s Australian for turn up by the way – without the usual pre-race nerves. Just the other kind of ‘I hope I don’t mess up’ nerves. Collecting money from non-registered non-member entrants was easy – there were only 16. My other job was to call out the number of each runner as they crossed the finish line and indicate if they were female. My fellow volunteer – now my Facebook friend who I plan to meet at a race next weekend – did a great job of noting down the numbers on the results list.

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And they’re off! The start of the Burswood Twilight 5km Race.

I think race finish lines must be some of the happiest places on earth, even if happiness comes in the form of tears of relief and vomiting. For the record there was no actual puking last night, but one lady was on the verge of retching. The majority of runners – there were 173 – wore WAMC club bibs which are made of fabric and pinned on the front of the torso. They are the kind of bibs that, if only pinned on with two pins, blow in the wind or fold over. I had to ask a few men to unfurl their low hanging bibs as I didn’t want to touch their bits. Thankfully I didn’t declare any men as females nor vica versa even though there were a couple of people, including kids, whose gender wasn’t clear until I got a close-up in the chute. It’s a short hair thing. Age-wise, runners ranged from around 6 or 7 to upper-80s. Most of the kids ran faster than I would have. Sigh.

Pencil at the ready....
Pencil at the ready….

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The finisher chute wasn’t empty for long.

All in all it was a lot of fun to greet finishers, and congratulate them on a job well done. It was also a real eye-opener into how fast runners are here.

Last night’s winner was Gerard Hill with a time of 16:21 in hot windy conditions. That’s 3:16 minutes per kilometre. The fastest lady, 22-year-old Hannah Castle, took a mere 18:41 minutes to complete the 5km (3:44 minute kilometres). I don’t think I could move that fast on a bike! Speaking of wheels, the fourth man across the line ran 17:06 – pushing a large toddler in a stroller. These elite runners made running look effortless. The winner popped over the line looking as if he’d been for an easy jog. Really, every person who ran last night was a winner, though only the top 3 finishers of each gender got medals. Even the lady who, on finishing, declared her run a personal worst was a winner in my eyes. At least she went out there and made an effort, which is more than most people (including me) did on a sunny Sunday evening.

So, it has only taken six months, but finally I think I’m doing as planned – using running to meet people. And last night, I didn’t even have to get all worked up with worry over running. I might be on to something…

Race results:

WAMC Burswood Twilight 5km

Sun going down over the Swan River at the WAMC rooms in Burswood.
Sun going down over the Swan River at the WAMC rooms in Burswood.

Happy New Year

IMG_0838I spent 279 hours running in 2014. That is 279 hours of free therapy, meditation and physical exercise combined with friendship, competition, toe-nail loss, and some sunburn on the bits I couldn’t reach. Even counting the miserable hour limping to the finish of Borneo International Marathon, and the few training runs that were frustrating and painful, I don’t regret a single moment of the 2250km I covered. I ran in the dark in Malaysian smog with inspirational, supportive women, and interrupted Catherine Ndereba, the Marathon Queen’s dinner. She was eating pasta in case you wondered. I got injured (ITBS) because of my weak butt, sought treatment from physiotherapists on three continents, and became reasonably accomplished at the single leg squat. I ran 10km in 48 mins, discovered a love of running skirts, and completed the Angkor Wat Half Marathon without stopping to use the bathroom. I know, I was quite the overachiever in 2014! I reluctantly left the friendliest running community in the world to move to Australia where no one knew that I’d appeared in Expatriate Lifestyle Malaysia, not once, but twice. In running gear of course, before anyone thinks I got photographed at some glamorous social event. I completed the running leg of two Half Ironman’s in furnace-like conditions and came to the same conclusion each time – ice cubes stashed in one’s bra are essential for hydration, triathletes are awesome and crazy, and I secretly wish I was one. With that in mind, I bought a racing bike but haven’t saddled up since I test drove it outside the shop in May. If I was going to mention goals for 2015, I might segue off there but I won’t as swimming is a major challenge, and these days I spend a disproportionate amount of time running by the beach, watching out for sharks in the sea. I have been in the water precisely once. Speaking of wildlife, I discovered the Australian magpies can be not only unfriendly but violently confrontational. Thankfully, Australian people are far more welcoming and better behaved. A lot of them run but it seems that even more of them cycle; swarms of lycra-clad pedal-pushers appear on the roads every Saturday and Sunday, and I’ve heard rumours that the real die-hards are out on weekdays too. I discovered parkrun which is a fabulous community of runners who gather every Saturday morning to run 5km with barcodes in their pockets. It’s organised by volunteers, one of whom is always a photographer, which is a massive relief because having grown used to the paparazzi at races in KL, I was getting seriously worried that I’d never ever be tagged in a running photo again! Finally, if there is a singular running achievement worthy of mention, it must be the fact that I did not fall flat on my face, wrists, elbows or knees once in 2014. That’s an improvement of 300% over 2013. You can’t ask for better than that.

So cheers runners – and walkers who don’t yet know they are runners – thank you for accompanying me on some of my kilometres this year, either in person or via the power of the Internet. Here’s to moving forward, and continuing to put one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.

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In Case of Emergency

onlinreg

My favourite part of racing is registering. Months in advance, I love to complete online registration. Just a few clicks and some typing, and I’m giddy with excitement and a sense of accomplishment. If only I always felt the same after the race!

Every race requests details of medical conditions and a contact number in the event of an emergency. Now this is a detail I’ve been quite blasé about; whether he’s racing with me or not, I type in my husband’s name and phone number. I recently signed up for my first race in Australia. It’s in August and as I don’t possess a crystal ball, I’ve no idea what my husband’s phone number will be come race day. So I provided his Malaysian number knowing full well that by then this line will dead. In addition he’s running too so he won’t be carrying his phone anyway. I felt a slight tinge of bad conscience but really, what are the chances that anyone will need to call an emergency number on my behalf?

All this irresponsible form-filling lit up like an Emergency beacon last Sunday at Borneo International Marathon. Hanging out after the race, I saw a member of my running club who had trained really hard for his first marathon, being stretchered into the back of an ambulance. He had collapsed at the 41km mark. When I saw him he was unconscious and quite frankly looked dead. I remembered writing my husband’s number on the back of my bib in the space allocated to Emergency Contact but I couldn’t tell if my friend had done the same as he lay in the ambulance, paramedics urgently settling him for the siren-blazing ride to the hospital. I don’t know his wife but knew that she was staying at a hotel. Though the ambulance crew assured me that they would contact her, they couldn’t confirm that they had her number. I got the name of the hospital and rushed to retrieve my phone from the baggage area, found the hotel phone number and called her. She had already been contacted and was getting ready to head to the hospital. I still don’t know if the race people called her based on the information my friend had provided at registration, or if he had a number on the backside of his bib. (Bib swappers take note!!!) Either way, at least his wife was contacted very quickly. My friend was unconscious for four hours and luckily has made a ‘full recovery’ from heat exhaustion after four days in hospital.

My friend Lorna's pretty pink ID bracelet
My friend Lorna’s pretty pink ID bracelet

The shock of seeing him unconscious aside, the incident brought home the importance of these emergency contacts we provide. That day, my husband was nowhere nearby.  He was an still in bed, on an entirely different land mass, almost three hours flight away. He didn’t have a phone number for any friend I was with on Sunday. In fact, I don’t think he really knew who I was hanging with on Borneo. And my friends were racing, their phones stowed away in the baggage area. So, I wondered who should I have had as my emergency contact? Who would have ensured that I received the best possible care? Who would have hovered anxiously over my comatose body urging me to wake up. I suspect that given my circumstances that day – no one!

Several of my running buddies wear ID bracelets which provide essential information in case of emergency. I have held off buying one because again I don’t have contact details that will still be valid in a month’s time. However, once we get our new phone numbers, I vow to buy bracelets for both my husband, who cycles, and myself. Of course, even if I wear my bracelet, calling the number on it could be a waste of time.

Next weekend I plan to run the NM Galaxy 15km. My husband, it turns out, will be on a plane to South Korea as I curse the hills of Bukit Tunku. Until last Sunday, I’d have just shrugged and said, ‘Ah well, what are the chances of me collapsing at the race? After all, I’ve vowed to take it easy and not push hard.’  After the incident at Borneo Marathon, I’ve had a wake up call. Now, I need to find a friend, who isn’t running next Sunday, but who is prepared to take a call on my behalf – just in case.

How seriously do you consider the emergency contact information you provide at racing events? Do you wear a safety bracelet on training runs? If your partner races too, who can be contacted if one of you falls?