Marathon Dad

Hills are just an excuse to run faster!

I’m talking uphill, not downhill of course because that would be crazy. I did it once. Tearing like a startled jackrabbit down the embankment at Moore Park where people used to grass ski, I hit the pavement at the speed of sound. My knee went backwards, my face went forwards and my head held a groundbreaking ceremony sans the ceremonial shovel.

Don’t worry dear reader I was fine, if just a little dirty. A mouthful of sod has many nutrients that the body requires as well as a uniquely crunch texture. Like peanut butter if it were made out of the shells instead of the kernel within.

But I digress.

The good thing about running uphill is the way your body reacts. Your heart gets a workout pumping oxygenated blood to your muscles, your lungs heave and expel the old stale air, your body sweats out all the toxins that accumulate from eating and drinking the wrong things, and your mind clears. I’ve not always been able to do this though. Eighteen months ago I weighed over 104 kilograms, and no, that was not muscle. A year or so before that I had had a little ‘scare’. Chest pains at forty are more frightening than a good zombie movie and a night in Prince of Wales Hospital with electrodes stuck all over your person is THE wakeup call to take notice of. Thankfully it was a false alarm but I decided to see a specialist anyway and see what sort of condition I was in.

The first test was to jog on a treadmill for fifteen minutes to see how my heart would react. After two minutes I was drenched with perspiration. Five minutes later I could no longer talk to the nurse. Within seven minutes my nipples were chafed and my lungs were screaming. By the eleven-minute mark I was hallucinating and had to stop. Not good at all. My heart recovered well – for a sixty year old man.

The second test was a blood sample and an x-ray of my neck. Thickened arteries – bloody hell.

The verdict: I was overweight, that was a given. My fitness level was a dismal failure though and that worried me, especially with five children, so I made a decision to get well.

I won’t bore you by repeating my initial escapades. If you would like to read about my first foray into jogging and the subsequent attack on my person by Tolkien’s Ents and Shelob the spider, click the image of the arachnid. Go on, I’ll wait for you 🙂

Suffice to say I had to do something and running for my life sounded like the best course of action. As I got fitter and the weight began to fall off, I found that I could push myself to longer distances. I did the Blackmores Bridge Run last September, a nine kilometre trip across the harbour and around the Domain to finish in Hyde Park. Beautiful!

Ten kilometres became fifteen. Fifteen became twenty. I began to run the coastal route from north Bondi to south Coogee and back. The stairs at Gordon’s Bay seem to go on forever and the hills around Clovelly and Tamarama are just plain vicious. My body responded well though and the fat cells continued to depart in droves.

Then I got cocky and decided to have a go at the half marathon.

This would be a test of endurance for a forty something year old that hadn’t exercised properly since his twenties and with daylight saving time now over it was becoming increasingly more difficult to find an opportunity to run the distances required to maintain my stamina. The outside track at Centennial Park was the nearest and best option however, although running the park in the dark is creepily cool, it is also a little unnerving. It is also very difficult to see the humongous piles of equine excrement at the Lang road exit. I don’t care if they are vegetarians, horse poo stinks!

As the distances shortened and the big day approached I started to worry, then I did something really stupid. After returning from work one evening I decided to test my mettle. The concept was simple, run from Erskineville train station to Centennial Park, two and a half times around the outside track and back again. The distance would have been between twenty three and twenty four kilometres and my stupid male pride would have been satisfied.

I made it there.

I made it around.

I didn’t make it back.

Somewhere in the dark, silent streets of Redfern my legs gave up on me. The cramping in my hamstrings was excruciating and my calf muscles felt as though they were about to liquefy. I could not walk more than a few steps before having to lie down on the footpath and I was getting cold. Foolishly I had left the house without a mobile phone or any money to catch a bus and so I ended up practically crawling home, my entire body shivering uncontrollably and frozen to the core. It took my physical being several days to recover, but the damage to my emotional and mental state was a lot worse. Running was no longer fun. It had become a painful chore and I was making up excuses to avoid it. With the half marathon only two weeks away, my campaign had ground to a halt.

Feeling more than just a little down in the dumps about my predicament, I headed over to my parents house for a few beers and a home cooked meal. As I passed by Booralee I saw an old friend whose name I never knew. The brunette with a bob haircut was still plodding her way round the park, looking fitter and faster than I remember. She had that smile on her face that a runner gets when they have conquered their demons and she looked like she was exercising for fun, and not because she had too.

Watching her I began to recall those feelings too. The sunrise over Wedding Cake Island. The silence of Waverly cemetery. Flocks of huge Puddle Ducks crankily quacking at me in Sir Joseph Banks Park. Rabbits, kookaburras, magpies, peace, solitude, tranquility.

I got my groove back.

I managed one more run before the big day. Thirteen kilometres. My legs were fine and my smile had returned.

I completed the half marathon a little slower than I would have liked. Twenty one thousand five hundred metres in two hours, one minute and one second. I felt fantastic.

A week later I headed out from Erskineville train station again.

I made it there.

I made it around.

I MADE IT BACK.

I’m still getting passed by blond hotties and bald dynamos, but I’ve beaten my demons and achieved something I never thought I could.

iDad did it and so can you.

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