Who goes to Paris and doesn’t take the opportunity to run the world’s most romantically-shaped parkrun course which happens to be located in one of the green lungs of Paris, the Bois de Boulogne? Well a lot of people apparently. With an average attendance rate of 33 people, after almost three years, it’s not only tourists who are missing out on this gem of a 5km. The city’s 2.2 million residents, many of whom are presumably runners, have also proved immune to the charms of parkrun of which there are currently two events in the French capital. The second, parkrun Montsouris, started in October 2016 and has an average weekly participant number of 21.5.

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parkrun is a little less popular in France than in England;)

I’m a big fan of small parkruns so low attendance isn’t a complaint just more of a concern. When a parkrun is dominated by tourists, it must be more challenging than usual to fill the volunteer roster. In fact, a couple of weeks after our visit, I saw on Facebook that the event in Bois de Boulogne had been cancelled due to a shortage of volunteers. Looking at the event list, this appears to have been a one-off so kudos to the core event team for that.

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Attendee and volunteer numbers for Bois du Boulogne parkrun April to Sep 2018.

We were staying in the 16th, about 2km from the start line, so I jogged to the Bois Du Boulogne with the aid of Google maps. To be honest, I was fretting all week about making it to the start line, and more importantly making it to the toilet, just before I made it to the start line. There is a public toilet at the entrance to the park at the Porte d’Auteil metro station but I completely bypassed this, unintentionally. The good news for nervous bladder owners is that the Bois du Boulogne being a park, has plenty of shrubbery. Even better, unlike in Australia, you don’t have to worry about dying ignominiously with your pants around your ankles thanks to a poisonous snake lurking in the undergrowth.

Once I found the parkrun flag, I discovered a huddle of excited, fellow tourists. There were two girls from New York doing their first ever parkrun, and an elderly couple and their daughter from the UK. I also spoke briefly to a West Australian on holidays, whose local parkrun I had done on New Year’s day this year.

Our event, on June 30, turned out to be one of the busiest of the year, the weekend of Paris Marathon notwithstanding when numbers swelled to 190 (April 7).

The English gentleman, who was in his seventies, claimed that it was his dream to die while running parkrun. We laughed as if this was a joke but I knew exactly what he meant; parkrun was his happy place and a testament to being active irrespective of age.

In addition to worrying about getting to the start line, I had also spent much time in my hotel frowning at the description of what looked to be a very complicated course. The problem wasn’t my French but my inability to convert the words into an image in my head that made sense of the map on Google. I was oblivious to the heart-shap until I had finished and saw it on my Strava profile!

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The wonky-heart-shaped route of Paris Bois du Boulogne parkrun.

I needn’t have fretted – as is usually the case – as the marshals did a perfect job of keeping runners on track and turning in the right direction. The marshals and the Run Director all spoke English which was very generous of them. They probably knew the chaos that would ensue offering directions in French. The course is flat, with a combination of tarmac roads and trails paths, so it’s a good course for a fast run if you’re in the mood.

A young Australian, one of the small band of regulars at Bois de Boulogne, was celebrating her 100th parkrun and had brought cake but I couldn’t stay as I had a flight to catch to Copenhagen.

I have a number of French running buddies in my Nomad group in Perth so I was aware that to enter any race in France, one has to provide medical clearance. I assume that to avoid being called a race, parkrun in France publishes the results not in order of crossing the finish line but in alphabetical order by first name. It’s quirky, n’est pas? Your parkrun profile will still record your placement as with any other parkrun globally.

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Results in alphabetical order.

In the end, all the worrying was a waste of time – when isn’t it? – and I was very glad that I hadn’t surrendered to the voice that told me to drop this parkrun tourism lark for an easier, more sedentary holiday (as I have done on trips to Singapore and Melbourne). I may not have gone up the Eiffel Tower, nor seen the inside of the Cathedral of Notre Dame since 1985, but in the summer of 2018, I did complete parkrun du Bois du Boulogne in Paris. If you get the chance, I recommend that you do the same.

Perth Marathon 2016

There’s so much I want to say about Perth Marathon but travel and jetlag have delayed my race report a tad. The short version is that the race went so much better than I had hoped and turned out to be more enjoyable than most of the twelve half marathons I’ve run since October 2012. Crossing the line in 3:55:07  rendered me a sobbing mess in the arms of my husband and daughters who had managed the logistics of cheering me on, at various stages along the course, around a soccer match.

I learned a lot from this marathon, the biggest lesson being about pacing. And determination. At a certain point, around 34km, determination overcame fatigue, a headwind, and a sore ITB. I will write more in detail at some point in the future. In the meantime, here are some photosđŸƒđŸ»đŸ…đŸ˜€

 

Moving & marathoning

Several of the thousands of people I’ve informed about my upcoming marathon aspirations have wondered why, if I’m only going to do one, I haven’t opted for an iconic event such as the Melbourne or London Marathons. I want to play it safe, I’ve said. I want to keep the stakes (and costs) as low as possible lest I don’t make it to the start line due to illness or injury. And I want to sleep in my own bed, eat in my own kitchen, minimise the variables (and stress) as best I can if I make it to race day intact. Best laid plans, as they say.

Just over three weeks to race day and one thing I know for certain. I will not be sleeping in my own bed the night before. My bed, and the rest of our furniture, will be in storage in Welshpool and our family of five will be living out of a couple of Samsonites and a few cardboard boxes. Our landlord is not renewing our lease and thanks to a shortage of decent properties in the rental market and the glacial pace of productivity of those tasked to ‘help’ us relocate, we have not secured a new lease before the expiry of the old. Hence the storage and the suitcases, and as yet booked temporary accommodation. In two weeks time the packers will be let loose with their rolls of brown tape and cardboard boxes, while I double and triple check that all my race gear (and the three kids) stay out of their reach. So it seems that I will end up having to plan marathon day accommodation and travel, and make a race weekend packing list after all. It will be like having the excitement of an out-of-town race experience without actually leaving town. Best laid plans indeed.

Cover Girl Interview

IMG_2727A couple of weeks back I opened the December issue of Runner’s World (Au & NZ) to see a photo taken in Fremantle six months ago at the launch of On My Feet‱. I was in the photo, ergo I was in Runner’s World. It’s a tenuous claim to fame but I’ll take it. It was a tad ironic that this happened just a few days after I had my major falling out with running. Really I only opened the magazine in the airport newsagents because I was bored, and I’m too old and cynical to be lured by women’s glossies hollering at me on how to change my life – FOR THE BETTER! Instead, I wondered if I my running malaise extended to articles on post-run snacks and classic running mistakes (& how to avoid them). It did, it turns out.

So I posted a photo of the magazine feature and cover on Instagram. The model featured on the front – her name is Joyce – contacted me asking if I could send her a photograph of the cover. I couldn’t resist asking Joyce how she ended up on the cover. I know a lot of runners, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never come in contact, even virtual contact, with any that look like her. I was curious if she actually was a runner or if genetics had bestowed her with the appearance of the idealised runner’s body, as opposed to the real thing. Here’s my email interview with Joyce who is Dutch and in her twenties.

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Joyce’s Runner’s World cover.

ER: Do you actually run?

Joyce: In my free time I run once or twice a week. I like to run short distances. So I don’t run more then 10km. Besides that, I keep my body strong with power training.

ER: How long have you been modelling?

Joyce: I started modelling when I was 19. My first shoot was a campaign for the sport brand Asics. The following year, I did some other shoots for a sport brand in Holland (Perry Sport). After that I didn’t do so much modelling because I was studying sport education for four years which allowed me to improve at many sports. Every year while studying, I did my internship as a sports teacher at different schools. So as you can hear, I am a sporty person.

When I finished my studies, which was in 2013, I started modelling full time. I travelled to many places e.g. Barcelona, Milan, Athens, Paris, London, Miami and Cape Town.

ER: How did you end up on the cover of Runner’s World Australia & New Zealand?

Joyce: I did the shoot for Runner’s World magazine in Cape Town. I worked a half day with a great team. They save all the pictures of me and the other models for one year during which the Runner’s World magazines worldwide can decide which pictures they want to use. So I guess Australia liked my picture, haha:)

It was such a great pleasure to work for Runner’s World, one of the best experiences til now!:)

So there you go. It sounds like Joyce actually does work out a lot. And even more impressively, she wears her claim to fame lightly. Unlike other people who only managed to get their mug in a group shot on page 18 but think it’s worth blogging about. Some people!

‱ On My Fee is a voluntary organisation that aims to use running to help the homeless and long-term unemployed build self esteem and create pathways to training and employment. I manage On My Feet’s social media accounts so you can boost my self-esteem by clicking like on the On My Feet Facebook page and following us on Twitter  @OnMyFeetAus and Instagram @OnMyFeetAu. Thank you:)

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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Race report: Angkor Wat Half Marathon 2014

AngkorWat3At the start line of this year’s Angkor Wat Half Marathon, rather than worrying about the 21.1km ahead, my mind was preoccupied with the issue of gender inequality. Lofty thoughts however they were not. I was eyeing the back of a runner, a male runner, who was peeing against a tree. Not fair! I needed the loo too, despite having just been to the portaloo, but with only minutes to go to the starting gun, I wasn’t going to risk missing the start of the race. Been there, done that! While I was feeling hard done by, other runners were climbing a mound of rocks to view Angkor Wat temple in all its sunrising glory. There can’t be many start lines to match this one but as ever my mind was (wishing I was) in the toilet.

The outfit. During the first km I saw a woman wearing the same skirt.
The outfit. During the first km I saw a woman wearing the same skirt.

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Blinking bladder aside, the race went very well. I got stuck behind a thousand runners at the start, but managed to weave through so that by the second kilometre I was doing a comfortable pace. I wasn’t going to risk ruining the race by racing; this was my chance to exorcise the misery of the previous year and savour the delight of running in such a special, and thankfully flat, place. Unfortunately after much mithering, I had opted not to take along my phone to take photos as I was already carrying a fuel belt. I sort of hoped I’d meet lots of people who’d take pictures and share them but that didn’t happen so here I am writing about running in a beautiful, special place with little photographic evidence. The photos I do have are from a family trip back in December 2012.

As usual, crowds of locals cheered on runners. I high fived as many kids as I could. My eight-year-old’s index finger spends a lot of time tucked into his right nostril but I put thoughts of hygiene aside; these kids probably had better manner’s than mine anyhow. Water stations provided small water bottles which is a waste really as most runners ditched the bottles after only a few sips. The volunteers were excellent at opening the caps and handing the bottles over and there was no issue of crowding at water stops as the route is wide and the runners were well spread out after a few kilometres. Kids collected the bottles for recycling all along the route so at least someone was benefiting from the excess of plastic.

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Typical road along the route. My socks turned orange from the dust.

I didn’t stop. I counted my steps to distract me from negative thoughts and worries. I barely looked at my watch. And until about 17km, all was going really well. I dared to think that I was actually enjoying myself. Then I started to feel a bit whoozy, a bit like motion sickness, a too familiar feeling from previous half marathon races. At least this time, the race was almost done when discomfort hit. I kept going, a little slower, but determined that I wasn’t going ruin yet another race. I can see from the official race photos that I must have been hurting by the end as my head is hanging and I’m staring at the ground, willing one foot in front of the other. At this stage, the 21.1km runners had merged with the 10km runners/walkers so more and more supporters – friends, family and fellow runners – stood along the verge, cheering people on. I seriously could have given one particular cheering American lady a big hug for telling me I was ‘awesome’  – I felt like sh*t – but that would have meant stopping and that wasn’t an option if I wanted to finish. Around the same time, I spotted monkeys hanging out of a tree. After all my years in Asia, monkeys are still a novelty and they served as a timely reminder that for an Irish ‘girl’ who discovered running mid-life, running around 12th century temples in Cambodia is a freakin’ amazing experience even with a nauseous stomach and heavy legs. Such thoughts got me to the end.

The south gate of Angkor Thom at the 19km mark.
The south gate of Angkor Thom at the 19km mark.

And I finished, happy for once. It was the fastest half marathon I had run but more than anything I was relieved that I hadn’t had a miserable race experience, only one that got mildly miserable near the end. When the official race results came out, my chip time was 1:50:59, a few seconds under what I had on my Garmin. I cared but I didn’t. I’d done such a good job of telling myself that my time didn’t matter that I had come to really believe it. I never run my fastest on race days but at least on this race day I had managed to run faster than on others without totally losing the gut plot (as I did last year at Angkor Wat and back in May at Borneo International Marathon.) I think the problem is low fuel and hydration which next time I will try remedy with a second gel at 14km.

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I’m still injured of course. My ITB hurt from 9km but I could run. It hurt a hellava lot more once I crossed the finish line. I was limping for the rest of the day. But it was worth it because for the first time in 7 half marathons, I didn’t wish I was somewhere – anywhere! – else. You could say that I took the endure out of endurance. The phrase ‘never again’ did not even enter my mind; that certainly was a first!

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Finisher medals from 2013 and 2014.

As for the bladder? Well I showed it who was boss. After bargaining with it that I would stop behind a tree – as I saw numerous men do along the route – it gave up nagging at about 10km. In fact it went into a coma and didn’t bother me for another six hours. If I ever run in Cambodia again – it really is a long trip from Perth but this year it was certainly worth it – I’ll make the effort to climb up and gaze at Angkor Wat as the sun rises. I might even take my phone along to take photos. For the record, I don’t really have any desire to be a man, though on my arrival in Cambodia, my wish was momentarily granted.

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For a  Buddhist country, the Cambodians certainly make a massive effort for Christmas. The decorations in Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim nation, were also amazing. (I stopped of in KL on my way to and from Siem Reap).
For a Buddhist country, the Cambodians certainly make a massive effort for Christmas. The decorations in Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim nation, were also amazing. (I stopped of in KL on my way to and from Siem Reap).

Chevron City to Surf 2014

I knew that running in Perth would be different than in Kuala Lumpur but when I went to put on my running shoes yesterday for the Chevron City to Surf event, I realised just how different. I had to warm the shoes with a hairdryer as they had been outside all night and felt too damp and cold for my still tropical feet. It was nice not to have to get up pre-dawn as the race started at the very civilised hour of 9:05. Not so nice was the discovery that the possum that had been squatting in our roof space had found an alternative to the entrance we’d had blocked up and was doing its morning yoga over our heads as we headed out the door. The spider – biggest I’ve ever seen outside a zoo – on the gatepost of our back gate got very upset as we disturbed its morning lie in. Thankfully, once we made it out onto the street, and left the wildlife behind, everything went smoothly.

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Half Marathon runners line up to start the Chevron City to Surf race. The 12km race started on the right hand side of the barrier afterwards. All very well organised!

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The Chevron City to Surf event which had almost 50,000 registered entrants in a Marathon, Half Marathon, 12km Run and Walk, and 4km Run and Walk, was as well organised as expected. The trains into town were free for race bib wearers. There were plenty of portaloos near the start, and signs directed participants to their correct assembly points. Despite the the fact that there were over 11,000 doing the 12km run, we found several of our friends from KL both at the start and finish lines, so the sense of camaraderie we had in KL wasn’t missing yesterday. It was great! (For the record, I saw no selfie-taking or twitter feed updating on the course but the route was tightly packed with runners so there was a lot I couldn’t see).

The start line wasn’t quite as chilly as I expected thanks to the warm bodies radiating heat all around us. The 12km event was divided up into four start waves which was a smart way of avoiding chaos! The atmosphere was relaxed and pleasant, and the race started on time. This is a real community event attracting non-runners, families and people who like to wear costumes. My favourite was the guy in the hind legs of a horse, holding the head and fore legs in his hands. Running 12km in that can’t have been easy!  

The race went well, the route was lovely though a bit more undulating than my ITB rehab would strictly allow. Though it hurt from about 6km, my ITB didn’t get sharply sore until the last 1 km, probably because of the hills at the end and fatigue of course. My tendon is a bit annoyed with me today too, but I’m hoping that another day and it will have forgiven me my race folly.

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There were lots of booths with food and drinks at the finishing site in City Beach but thanks to a text telling me that my daughter had gone AWOL during the 12km walk, I couldn’t tell you much about it. I had to return to the finish line to find her. Her excuse for running off, despite having emphatically been told to stick with the adult under whose care she started, was that she wanted to impress me. Well once my anger had died down she certainly succeeded in doing that. With no training whatsoever she ran 12km in 80 mins (I did 62). I had been worried that she mightn’t have been able for the 12km walk so the fact that she ran it faster than half the adults who signed up to run, is astounding. We ruined her imagined finish line triumph mind you as we were so upset with the fact that she’d left her group, worried and concerned for her welfare, but as she feels the tug of her overworked muscles and tendons today, I bet she’s already dreaming of her next race. She’s 11. I was 41 when I crossed my first finish line. I’ve a feeling her trajectory as a runner is going to be very different. I’m trying not to be jealous.

The spider was still at the gate when we got back but the possum had presumably gone out for his Sunday walk. Maybe I’ll turn the hairdryer thing into a ritual, blowing away any critters stupid enough to enter my Brooks and get cosy. Or maybe it’s time to take the running shoes inside. Either way, I just glad to be able to wear them again and hope to participate in many Australian races in future. The fact that it sometimes might be Expat Runner & Daughter has come a something of a surprise!

 CHEVRON CITY TO SURF 2014 RESULTS

One of our 'furry' friends.
One of our ‘furry’ friends.

 

London-bound

I was telling the receptionist at my physio’s office a bit about our lives, packing up and moving around the world, and she said that she felt her shoulders stiffen with stress just talking to me. Not quite the effect I like to have on people. She was right though- packing up house, home and heart is stressful, probably more stressful than starting anew- or maybe I’m better at the arriving bit than I am at the leaving. Anyway, I love packing so so much, that I’m embarking today on a short trip to London with my daughters. We’re going to do tourist things and meet up with friends from Malaysia whom we haven’t seen in a whole three weeks!
The thing with packing in this part of the world is that the weather is so changeable and unpredictable. In one day you might a wool onesie, an umbrella, a rain coat, a sun hat, shorts and running shoes. I don’t have a wool onesie by the way though sometimes in the cool evenings I fantasize how cosy one might feel.
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Yesterday, after checking the London weather forecast, I made a strategic gamble to remove my well-folded trench coat from my suitcase and replace it with my foam roller. I may not be able to run around Hyde Park as anticipated at the time of booking a hotel- you guessed it- beside Hyde Park but I am going to keep rolling this damn ITB, yes I am. The running shoes are coming too but only for walking, honest. The thing about physio here is that it makes my leg too sore to allow any delusions about being recovered from injury. Physio makes me feel injured in fact. Let’s hope this strategy of paying for pain pays off. And let’s hope the weather forecast is right and I won’t need the trench coat.

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Lessons Learned While Running

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For the past two days I’ve been more Angry Runner than Expat Runner, thought technically I guess I’ve been an Angry Expat Runner. I think I gained some insight into how my seven-year-old son feels when he doesn’t get to play on the iPad and he is frustrated that he has no control over a situation. So I’ve been a Childish Angry Expat Runner then.

The source of my frustration? I had a lousy race on Sunday, the kind of race that renders all your training redundant, the sort of race that make you actually hate running (a first for me), the sort of race that leaves you wanting to scream like a seven-year-old: “It’s – not – fair!’ No kids, the world isn’t fair, but mommy lives such a pampered life that she usually does get treated fairly, gets to feel in control sometimes, and usually does get her way.

With my friend Joanne who ran her first full marathon at Borneo. What an amazing feat - in the heat!
The night before the race, with my friend Joanne who ran her first full marathon at Borneo. What an amazing feat anywhere – in the heat it’s doubly amazing!

At Borneo International Half Marathon I most certainly did not get my way. I had great first 8 kilometres. The best I’ve ever had in a race. After two days rest, my legs were ready to go, my often-sore foot felt great, and I hit my target pace from the start line and felt strong and able to keep to it. I had managed to keep my nerves at bay too. I started to think that this might be my race. This might the one in which I break the 1:50 barrier and perhaps even make it to the podium.

Oh how fast things changed. A little heart flutter then the nausea hit. What?! No! Nausea and I are not strangers in races. Indeed in May/June last year we were bedfellows. During a half marathon and a 16km, I did 8-10 great kilometres, before what can be best described as puke syndrome hit. Puke syndrome feels like morning sickness. Yeah, try run through that! I figured out that it was gels causing the problem. At least I thought I figured out that it was gels causing the problem. I dropped my pre-race oatmeal too in case that made me feel sick. I ran on sports drinks alone. And I thought it worked. Sure, the 12km I did in January caused a nausea issue at 10km but wasn’t that caused by the salt capsule I swallowed at the last drink station? I thought so for months. Then there was the MWM Half Marathon. No nausea there. The lack of nausea alone made the run a triumph. Only three weeks ago, I did a PB in 39 degrees C at Putrajaya Half Ironman. No nausea despite the midday sun. I had put this niggling nausea issue behind me. I could run on Acclerade and a sip of something at the odd water station and I was finally going to be able to reap the rewards of my training.

I thought I was prepared...
I thought I was prepared…

Wrong! I can see that my pace at Borneo was only marginally faster in the first 8km than at Putrajaya so it wasn’t a case of going off too fast. The big differences were: I had breakfast several hours before Putrajaya; for Borneo I was up at 2:30 am and basically ran on a few ginger cookies at 5 am. Though the temp at Putrajaya was a good 10-14 degrees C higher than at Borneo, the humidity at 67% was 22% lower. The humidity (89% at the start) and lack of food were probably the dream killers. On Sunday, I was running so well, that I didn’t want to break my stride to take any 100Plus at a water station. Add a few sips of Accelerade, one Gu Chew, a crazy early start, mild dehydration before the start, and 8 sweaty, though blissful, kilometres together and what did I get? Puke syndrome. Except there was nothing in my stomach so I couldn’t in fact puke or eat or drink – just suffer the urge to vomit for the next few hours. I know no one else who suffers from puke syndrome, certainly none of the four women who passed me as I jog-walked through the last five km of the race, the four women who took the top five spots together with the winner who was in a different pace league altogether. Certainly no one else I know here in KL. I am unique but not in a good way. Unique in a way that forced me to change my running mantra from ‘I love to Run’ to a far slower ‘I must not give up’. What I really, really wanted to do was lie down on the side of the road in a foetal position until the nausea passed. I saw my PB and podium position slip away before my eyes but there was nothing I could do as much as I kept trying to move forward. It was a miserable, miserable feeling that had nothing to do with running as I know it.

I limped over the line sixth, in a personal worst (PW!) time that was almost the same as my first half marathon in Oct 2012 before I’d ever heard the words tempo, threshold or speed training. I may have felt like I’d come so far travelling to Kota Kinabalu on Saturday, but really by Sunday lunchtime, back at the airport, I felt like I’d gone nowhere and it hadn’t felt very pleasant either. All my training had been useless. My legs were fresh enough yesterday to do a 7km run as if it was just a normal Monday after a sunday 21km long run. In fact, I have done LSDs faster than I ran Borneo Half Marathon!

I won Rm150 and a pair of 2XU calf sleeves. I spent the money on my consolation proboscis monkey and kids t-shirts at the airport.
I won Rm150 and a pair of 2XU calf sleeves. I spent the money on my consolation proboscis monkey and kids t-shirts at the airport.

Anyway, that’s the story. I am almost over it. This morning I figured out why this episode of puke syndrome pissed me off so much more than the others. It’s because this time it robbed me of an opportunity to stand on a podium grinning while holding a fake cardboard cheque. It’s the kind of thing you really normally only get to see top runners do but in Malaysia, where walking for much of a race can still get you sixth place, such a thing was within my reach. And again no big deal. It’s only a photo op. So what if slower runners than me got their moment in the spotlight this past weekend. Why should I begrudge them their piece of cardboard?!

It’s because I realised this morning that too much of my self-esteem is wrapped up in running achievements. I’ve come to rely on running for external validation. I want people to think I’m good at something and to respect my hard work – which is supposed to pay off, right? Well this time it didn’t – and dammit I did work hard! As clichĂ©ed as it is to say, I realise that you learn more from failure than you do from success. I learned that I need to diversify my ego-boosting endeavours. Or as I try to teach my children, learn to be happy in my own skin and not rely on external validation from others to bolster my self-esteem. The other lesson is that some times things are just not within your control, and as my family enters a phase of tumultuous change, it’s easy to feel the ground shifting beneath our feet. I thought I could rely on running to get me through the next few months of not knowing where our home will be, who our friends will be, how we will feel in our new lives in Perth, and for the past two days, I felt that running had let me down.

But guess where I figured all this out? Why out running of course. I left the house this morning at 6:30 am an angry, frustrated runner who felt they had not got their due, but 10km later (in 92% humidity) I felt the metaphorical clouds clear. Running hadn’t let me down after all I realised. I had let myself down by placing too much of my self-worth on the outcome of a race. But I’m 43-years-old godammit, not seven, so I’ve got to be better than that. It shouldn’t matter what strangers think. I have good supportive friends whose opinions I value and who’ve been very forthcoming in offering their commiserations, suggestions and advice on what went wrong on Sunday. Emotional lesson learned. Now if only I could find a solution to puke syndrome (besides moving to Perth which may sort the whole thing out anyway)!

My friend KK, who'd did the full marathon, took this photo of my monkey and me in Kota Kinabalu airport. Did someone say weary?
My friend KK, who’d did the full marathon, took this photo of my monkey and me in Kota Kinabalu airport. Did someone say weary?

P.S. For anyone who arrived here looking for information on Borneo International Marathon, I do apologise for this bout of naval-gazing. For what it’s worth, the early start not withstanding, the event seemed very well run, the race flagged off on time, the route was mostly flat except for a couple of challenging long hills, and the traffic was well controlled. There were plenty of portaloos en route and the water stations provided water and 100 Plus in paper cups. Near the end, where the half marathon and marathon routes merged, there were also bananas and watermelons on offer. The finish line was inside Likas Stadium which if you had a good race was probably a great way to finish. I stayed at Horizon Hotel which was 10 minutes by taxi from the start point outside the stadium. The service was excellent, the room was very inexpensive when booked months in advance through Agoda.com, and my carbo-loading lunch on Saturday was delicious. A taxi to Kota Kinabalu Airport, which is very bright and modern, cost Rm 30 and took around 15-20 minutes.

Feeling the Fear – and never doing it again!

The Singapore Flyer and the Marina Bay Sands Hotel
The Singapore Flyer and the Marina Bay Sands Hotel

We spent most of this week in Singapore where my training plan went a bit awry but it was worth it to spend time in one of my favourite ex-home towns (and the birth place of two of my children). These over-indulged children, one of whom has a Forever 21 habit well beyond her pocket money allowance, enjoyed their third visit to Universal Studios Singapore. For the record, if asked, my kids will tell you that the have never in their entire lives been to Disneyland unlike ALL their friends! (All their friends have mobile phones too I’m told but that’s a whole other subject.) Back to Universal Studios. Obviously if my kids have been thrice, so have I. Lucky me! Three visits during which I have kept my feet firmly planted on the ground and my nose in my Kindle. I have never in my entire life been on a roller coaster  though I suspect most of my friends have. I am terrified of heights you see. You’d have to kill me before you could coax my corpse onto any sort of ‘fun’ ride or helicopter. Which is why I went on the Singapore Flyer. Obviously.

For those who haven’t seen it, the Singapore Flyer is like a massive ferris wheel from which hang multiple air-conditioned glass capsules that house up to 28 people. It travels very slowly so it’s not a thrilling ride per se but an opportunity to see Singapore from a new perspective. One of the things I am trying to do in my forties is live less fearfully; no mean feat for a chronic worrier with serious anxiety issues who thinks about death at least once a day, and more often at night. I’m very aware at how limiting fear can be, how it can drive you into an ever-shrinking hole of experience until one day your kids leave home, and you, living and working online, can no longer find the courage to ever leave home without some form of calming medication. I do not want to become that version of me. So, I’ve striven to push my fear aside by, for example, entering races, knowing that overcoming the fear of racing is in itself a reward, apart from any finisher medal. I got a tattoo figuring how sore could it be. Not very, it turned out. And so it was with the Singapore Flyer. I would continue my strategy of feeling the fear but doing things anyway in pursuit of feeling better about myself, and warding off late life agaraphobia. Anyway, how bad could it be? Ooh so bad!

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It seems that this vertigo thing doesn’t respond very well to cognitive therapy, not my version of it at least. Luckily we had the capsule to ourselves. After some initial bravado, as the wheel transported us higher towards the sky, I had the horrendous sensation of free-falling to earth. I needed to feel tethered to something to quiet the very real physical sensation of falling (to my death!) and clung to the benches in the middle of the capsule for dear life, keeping my eyes to the floor. I couldn’t even bear the sight of my children and husband walking freely around the capsule and shouted several times at my daughter to stand in from the edge. My husband took photos, and very helpfully called out interesting sights below, while I inspected my toes in need of a pedicure. Never have a pair of well-worn feet been so mesmerising. Thirty minutes of toe-watching, and the odd-side glance later, we were back on solid ground where I discovered that there had only been a mere metal hinge keeping the doors shut while we floated in space. One petrified woman’s flimsy piece of metal is apparently a robust hinge in the eyes of an engineer (my husband) but really when you think of it… I still get palpitations when I do.

So I have realised that it’s not always a question of mind over matter. It’s completely useless to tell me how safe the Singapore Flyer is. Sometimes, our mind and body does have limitations and being more than two feet of the ground while conscious is one of mine. Funnily enough, I don’t mind flying (much) in airplanes, despite my anxieties and recent tragic events, but of course you won’t find me volunteering to sit in the window seat. And I can safely say that fearless forties or not, I will never, ever go on a roller coaster. Unless you are prepared to kill me first!

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If you are not terrified – I’ve upgraded my fear from scared, but don’t do it if you’re merely scared either – of heights, the Singapore Flyer is a great experience. More info at this website.