We pause your regular broadcast for a quick rant…

I have a running friend who suggested I change my blogging name to ‘macgirl ranting’ as I have been known to do that from time to time (and, sometimes, much more frequently than that). Today’s post is another one – this time, about ranting itself, oddly enough.

Earlier this year, I put my name in the ballot for the London marathon. I knew this was a phenomenally long shot. To be honest, that was probably part of the appeal. The course itself would be amazing and invoke so many memories of my very happy years living in London but I also liked the fact that it feels like an honour to even get a place. Not in a ‘Boston Qualifier’ type of honour (as, without wheels, there is no way I would ever be fast enough for that) but in a ‘wow, I feel so lucky’ kind of way.

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I didn’t get in. And yes, I was sad but in the same kind of way I am when I buy a ticket in the Lottery – sad to have to put away the dreams I’d fancifully been concocting while playing ‘what if’. I moved on. There are other events I can aim for next year and not have the burden of having to find the spare change required for a return ticket to the UK.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the flood of bitterness that ensued in social media threads for weeks afterwards from others who didn’t get a place. ‘It’s not fair!’ seemed to be the biggest complaint. I haven’t been in the London Marathon offices and checked their methods but my grade of 10 year olds understand how probability works and that ‘random’ means, well, random. It’s not weighted based on whether you’ve run it before or your speed or your postcode or your shoe size or brand. Some people will get picked out of the virtual barrel, many won’t. That whole ‘random’ thing again. You haven’t been picked multiple years in a row? Yeah, that sucks and I’m sorry – why not try again next year? Some were talking of previous years where those unsuccessful 5 times were given an automatic entry however they hadn’t thought of the logistics of administering that – additional time, manpower and cost to an event that really is already big and complicated enough.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into it but the big undercurrent of the complaints seemed to be a tone of selfishness – as if the person complaining had some sort of right to get into this event and, by not being picked, was being denied something they were entitled to. There were some people celebrating others getting in which was great however there were also some ‘Oh yeah, congratulations. Great that you got in on your first time when I’ve been waiting x number of years. Enjoy!’ which really annoyed me. Be a kind human. I know how I would have felt if I’d been lucky enough to be picked so am really, really happy for those who get to experience that, regardless of how many times they’ve entered or run it. You ran it before and are running it again this year? Wonderful! Have an amazing time!!

I’ll put my name in the ballot again next year and take my chances, without whingeing about the system. It is what it is and I’m completely fine with that. It would be an absolute dream come true to run it. I never thought I’d even contemplate a marathon so the thought of running that one, in a city I still think of as home actually makes me teary. And that fairytale of knowing my name was randomly chosen out of a field of hundreds of thousands of other hopefuls is actually icing on that particular cake.

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Dopey training – week 16

First week back of term is not really the ideal week for training to go up to another level but it is what it is and there’s not much I can do about it. So I just got on with what the training plan told me. Be ready for a long post – it was a loooooong training week.

On Tuesday, I set my alarm for 5.45am, got up and ran around my neighbourhood. I am not at all an early morning runner, as much as I’d like to be. The thing that got me up was knowing husband and I had movie tickets that night that would give me no chance to run after work so it was early or not at all. So early it was. I’m pleased to say I actually enjoyed it. Now that it’s getting light earlier, I didn’t need my head torch and was treated to the soft, welcoming colours of dawn as the neighbourhood woke up. And I got to bask in that ‘I’ve already done my run’ kind of feeling all day. Tick.

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Tuesday night, husband and I did go to the movies but not ordinary movies – it was the Run Nation Film Festival in Melbourne and we had won tickets thanks to a parkrun competition. I think it deserves a blog post of its own but, in summary, it was brilliant. The films chosen were a perfect mix and provided exactly the inspiration I needed this week.

Thursday afternoon ended up being a hill day as my friend and I headed out to the You Yangs for our regular trek up the Saddle. I’d been getting a bit paranoid about my leg which had been doing what it does – flare up for no reason when I have an event coming up. However it was perfectly ok after the hills so which reassured me that it was all in my head.

Saturday called for 11km which meant parkrun plus some extra. We were going to Bannockburn Bush parkrun launch so we went out early and ran the course (and a bit) before the others got there. It was actually really, really lovely. It’s a very peaceful place and the fog added to the atmosphere. We took it easy, aiming for a pace that would keep us a bit ahead of the balloon ladies and achieved this without a problem. Completing parkrun afterwards was also very low stress and I had no soreness at the end as we tucked into breakfast. I did take it easy for the rest of Saturday – not sore, just a bit tired and knew we had an early morning this morning.

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Today was our long run – 27km on the training plan which suited us as we’d signed up for the Melbourne half marathon. We arrived early, dropped off our bags and then set off on some laps around the MCG to add on some extra kilometres. I think the people arriving for their events thought we were possibly a little insane but it was actually quite enjoyable. We then joined everyone else at the start line and were off, leaving our Garmins running to track our longest long runs yet.

I ran with a friend for quite a while and really, really appreciated having her there – I am sure I wouldn’t have had as much ‘run’ in me without her. It’s funny how, even without pushing you or telling you you have to, having someone there makes you instantly more accountable. You don’t want to let them down. And so it was today which was exactly what I needed.

The first part of the run went off pretty well and the kilometres flew. It certainly helped that we were surrounded by people all buzzing with event excitement and had glorious blue skies. Albert Park lake, the site last year of wind and bugs, was stunning today and my regular check-ins with my body confirmed that nothing was hurting. The only thing that was starting to get to me was that I was tired but that’s to be expected – a big part of this training plan is learning to run on tired legs.

Once we were back on St Kilda Road and felt like we were on the home stretch, I found it harder to keep up the intervals and set my friend free – time to knuckle down and just get on with our own journeys. My mantra today was ‘This is hard, yes but not impossible’ and that was enough to keep me going.

Clearly the fatigue and endorphins combined to leave me prone to random tearing up – cheers on the course from a parent of one of my students (who was running the marathon) made me teary as did hearing the cheers in the final stretch. I took a big gulp and entered the MCG. Last year, I remember finding I had to dig deep to keep running as I had run a PB and had nothing left. This year was very different – I was certainly tired but my legs and lungs were still well and truly strong enough to get me there.

However crossing the line wasn’t enough – I still had another 1.5km to go to reach my training plan distance so I got my medal, headed up the steps and found another friend who kindly offered to collect and carry my bag and do a couple of laps of the MCG with me to finish. 27km – done.

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48.7km run this week – my biggest training week ever. Will see how I am tomorrow but, for tonight, I feel great.

Weekly summary:

Tuesday: 5.6km (47:12)

Thursday: 5km (51:30)

Saturday: 11.1km (1:46:15)

Sunday: 27km (4:08:56)

Run Melbourne half marathon – race recap

I'm home – installed on the couch with my medal still in sight so all that's left to do is tell you all about it.

Run Melbourne half marathon was on this morning, requiring us to have a ridiculously early wake up call at some time beginning with a 4. We headed off to Melbourne and were dropped near Federation Square then got ourselves ready to run.

As always, I started this one not knowing how I'd go. Training has gone well and I've done all the runs I was supposed to. I'm not sick. I'm not injured. No excuses. However you never actually know how you'll feel and how the run will play out until you're in it. (Or is that just me?)

I started this one in a very familiar way – with my amazing running friends. We hung out at the back of the start, letting all the faster ones go through. It was only as we snuck a look behind us as we walked to the start line that we realised exactly how far at the back we were – a mere handful of runners were behind us. "Good," I thought. "Less people to overtake me."

And so we began. I'd discovered a nifty trick to have both run/walk reminders and my kilometre pace screen so felt doubly in control of what was going on. Right on cue, it beeped at 2 minutes, telling me to walk. I used to find it hard to walk that early in an event but now I know better – if you follow Galloway and do it properly, it should let you be just as fast but not as fatigued. As long as you do it properly. So I walked. I had a momentary "hmmmm, I'm last and this is going to be a very quiet run" as there was no one else around but knew the course needed to stay open for the 10km runners and no one seemed to be hurrying me so I kept going at my pace. We ran along a bit of Southbank and headed along Spencer Street then up Collins Street (and the hill – actually not too bad) into the Docklands. So far, so good.

My friend and I chatted as we ran and were soon joined by another lady we'd met at the start line who asked if she could join us – absolutely. We introduced her to the world of Galloway intervals and continued on our merry way.

Coming back into Southbank, we were on track and feeling ok. I won't say 'feeling great' because, well, we were running a half marathon and were bound to be feeling tired. But tired was all – no injuries, no terrible soreness, no real issues. And keeping up with the intervals.

Running along towards the Domain was probably the only time I felt lonely out on the course – here was this wide stretch of road with no supporters, no cheer squads and few other runners to keep us company. Soon enough, we turned into the gardens for a loop and all of that was fixed – lots of other runners and an absolutely brilliant choir singing exactly the inspirational music we needed to hear. We took advantage of a bit of downhill and made up some time then did a u-turn and headed back up the hill, power walking it out.

Anderson Street hill was next – not my favourite uphill part but I do love that downhill and we definitely made the most of it. We also glimpsed our first person wearing a medal along here and it was a great reminder of the bling we would be getting for completing – all incentives were needed by this point as things were starting to ache a bit. We also had some smiles for a runner who came hurtling past us giving cheers (or possibly just grunts but we'll take it!).

Along the tan and around the corner and we saw the crew from Lalor parkrun who had, helpfully, written 'one parkrun to go' on the road – exactly what we needed to hear. We then ran alongside the 10km runners lining up to start although they were clearly nervous and in the zone as there wasn't much encouragement from them.

Running back along the river and over Swan Street Bridge, we were passed by the first 10km runners. I found the last few kilometres a challenge and power walked a lot of it with bits of running when walking hurt too much. The dreaded hill up to Flinders Street actually wasn't so bad (did someone flatten it a bit this year?!?) and, soon enough, we were running down the hill towards the turn into Birrarung Marr.

I was ridiculously pleased to see the finish line but also so happy to be crossing it with my great running friend, Jo and new running friend, Julie. And I was also absolutely over the moon to have beat my half marathon PB by over 2 minutes. (I had also managed to smash my 10km, 15km, 10mile and 20km PBs as well). My time, according to Strava was 2:49:33 – so proud of the work that has gone into training for this and feeling more positive than ever with the journey towards Disney.

The (mind) games runners play

Tomorrow I'm running a half marathon as part of Run Melbourne. So, naturally, the anxiety and general freaking out started about a week ago and will continue until I cross the start line in the morning. Have I trained enough? Will the weather be ok? I wonder how far I can push myself?

These are the pre-mind games I play before every event and I don't know that I'm getting any better at reigning it in. Despite knowing that I've done this distance 7 times before, I've still got nerves. I have to remember the advice I give to my Grade 4 students – nerves about something mean that it matters. That you care. They're not a bad thing and we shouldn't try to quell or fight them – just accept that they're there and they're giving you a message.

However I know that, once I start, I'll be fine. Crossing the start line means a whole lot of other mental games come into it to get me to the finish. Here are some of my favourite tricks to make 21km not seem like, well, 21km….

  • run/walk intervals – I generally run my long runs at 2/1 or 3/1 (eg, 2 minute run, 1 minute walk) as I've found Jeff Galloways' training and techniques to really help me, mentally and physically. That way, I only allow myself to think about the next 3 or 4 minutes, never more. I do not, under any circumstances, think about the whole distance or time that I will be running. Get through this 3 minutes and the rest will take care of itself.
  • run the kilometre you're in – If I'm not feeling as tied into doing set intervals, I change the screen on my Garmin to show the pace per kilometre and I focus on that. This is particularly useful if I'm aiming for a time goal. I know what pace I need to aim for and I track that in the kilometre I'm in but don't allow myself to think of the next kilometre or any that I've finished. Just this one. Make this one good and keep it within the pace I want but don't think of the future or the past.
  • break it down – Thinking about 21.1km when you start a half marathon is a very, very bad idea. It's a long way. If you run at my speed, you'll be out there for quite a long time. Neither of those things will particularly inspire you while standing on the start line so I try not to think of it in terms of total distance, rather I think of chunks. A few kilometres to the first aid station. A few kilometres to a bridge or other landmark. A few kilometres to the half way mark or a turnaround point. A few kilometres to another aid station. Before you know it, the kilometres have flown by and you're counting them down towards the finish line. I only allow myself to count down once it's less than 5km to go – that's a parkrun. I can do a parkrun, even if I'm tired, sore and over it.
  • think about someone else – This one started for me while doing my first 'Run for the kids' where the kilometre markers were pictures of children who were in the Royal Children's Hospital, fighting all sorts of illnesses and conditions. Thinking about them made it very hard to feel sorry for myself and my pseudo woes. I also think a lot about my heroes and the tenacity they demonstrate – Turia Pitt, Kelli Roberts and Kurt Fearnley being 3 that spring to mind. The combination of thinking of those who would want to run and can't and thinking of those who show what strength really looks like is a potent one and always make me hold my head a little higher and run a little stronger.

Whoever said that running is more mental than physical was completely right – for me, it is definitely that way. My runs that are hard are usually that way because of what is going on in my brain and not my body. Here's to me winning the mental battles tomorrow.

surf coast trail marathon – not a race recap

It was one of my running goals this year to not run. Odd, I know. I wanted to make sure I gave up some of my potential runs and chose to volunteer instead. The running community has given me so much over the last few years, I wanted to be able to give something back and make sure others could experience what I have. Hence why I didn’t run the Surf Coast trail half marathon today but instead chose to don a high vis vest and volunteer instead.

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Sunrise from our briefing point in Torquay

For those who haven’t volunteered at a running event before, it’s not hard. I was a marshal today which involved turning up for briefing (easy), finding my given marshal point (quite easy) and raising my arm every now and then to point in the appropriate direction, accompanied by cheering and words of encouragement (very easy). The hardest part was probably not running although I did quite a lot of pacing around to keep myself warm while I waited enthusiastically for some runners to cheer on.

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My marshal point

In fact, I’m actually quite enamoured with this whole volunteering thing. You get a whole different perspective on running, events and the human spirit. I saw fast runners today for whom the whole thing looked completely effortless. And many of them gave up some much needed breathing time to thank me for volunteering.

I saw a whole range of different runners with different styles and different levels of concentration and pain on their faces. I saw some runners at the back of the pack who I thought were just amazing. It’s one thing to run with a group of people around you for motivation or with crowds awaiting you at the aid stations. It’s quite another to be out there almost alone, knowing you’ll be out there for twice as long as the ones at the front. All running requires you to draw deep but I feel like that sort of running requires you to draw into a magical well of miraculous depth. A well that most of us never have to find out whether we have access to. So my loudest and most enthusiastic cheers of the day went to those runners who had been out on the course the longest.

And, when the sweepers came through, letting me know that my shift was over, I headed along to the next aid station to continue cheering people on and gaining further appreciation for the human spirit as I watched runners wading across a river on the course which they probably hadn’t realised was going to be there. Resulting in my very wet feet thanks to the king tide that engulfed them when I was paying more attention to the runners than I was to where I was standing. All in the name of running fun.

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So, all in all, a very successful volunteering experience. If you haven’t volunteered at an event before, do it. Not as daunting as you’d think and a great way to spend a few hours. A huge congratulations to every single runner out there on the course today – you’re all simply incredible 🙂

 

 

parkrun tourism @ mernda

I will confess – the first thing that happened when we heard that Mernda was launching its own parkrun was……to Google where Mernda was. There, I’ve said it. Mernda is not exactly a tourist mecca and wasn’t somewhere I’d ever had reason to go to before so it took a little bit of interweb assistance to figure out where it was and how to get there. As luck would have it, it’s a smidge over an hour away so not too early a morning – an absolute treat for a launch.

At the end of our drive, the parkrun location was very easy to locate and we managed to find a parking spot close by (after a quick pre-run toilet stop up the road  – note to visitors: no toilets on site). As is usual for a launch, there was quite a crowd and many of the regulars, including the dedicated Victorian statespeople, keeping up their titles.

We were welcomed by the Territory Director then given a briefing by Run Director, Amanda. Thankfully, proceedings were short as it was a typically chilly Melbourne morning and, having already ditched my jacket, I was having trouble feeling my hands.

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The start line is a short walk from the meeting point and you set off and run a lap around the lake. With so many people there for the launch, it was a little crowded but we soon spread out as we approached the first little hill near the first turnaround point. In this direction, you run along the edge of the suburban park and have views both of the lake and houses bordering the park. After the turnaround, you head back over a bridge (watch out for icy patches) then up another little hill and onto a nature trail before another turnaround amidst a housing estate. From there, you head back down…and do it all again.

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As much as I’m not a fan of multi lap courses, this one was actually enjoyable. The variety of surfaces, tracks and views were happy distractions and having out and back sections and laps meant that there were lots of friendly faces out there. For the most part, the track was wide enough to cater for all although, with so many attending the launch, I felt for those faster runners who had difficulty passing once they were lapping the rest of us as it got a bit tight in a few places. The course markings (chalk path markings and signs) were fantastic with no possibility of getting lost and the ample marshals on the course were very helpful and encouraging.

The final sprint is up a very short rise and over the finish line, perfectly situated next to the meeting point so you get lots of cheers as you cross the line.

A huge welcome to Victoria’s 50th parkrun (can you believe that?!?!) and congratulations to all the volunteers and event team at Mernda who made this one possible. Definitely a happy way to spend a Saturday morning 🙂

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Run Forrest 2017 – race recap

Every now and again, it’s good to do something that scares you a bit. To stretch yourself, revise what you believe you’re capable of and remind you that life is full of opportunities and rewards for those willing to embrace some risks. In short, being brave, not perfect (Thanks to Jade Hameister for this one – I’ve adopted it as a personal motto).

Run Forrest has been on my wishlist for a while but has always scared me. Even though this year I felt more ready to have a go than ever before, it still took me until last Thursday to sign up. I’m not exactly sure what I was scared of – hills? Trails? Not being able to finish? The unknown. As much as I love trail running, I tend to stick to familiar ones and get nervous when I strike out somewhere new, in case I come across something I can’t handle. Thus my nerves when I thought of this event.

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The morning didn’t start too well as the fog was very heavy on my drive over and just added to the nerves. I arrived safely, parked up and stopped for a toilet break then faced the next issue – how to find the event village. There had been some information on the website but I had expected perhaps some signs however couldn’t see anything obvious (I later saw arrows on the road but had obviously missed them going in). To get to the event village, you follow a little path on the edge of town and wind your way down to trail heaven. There I found a great little event village, complete with fires to warm ourselves as we waited and hay bales to rest on.

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Having managed to slot in another toilet break, I added my bag to bag drop then ambled to the start area. My nerves were still there but I just wanted to get this thing started and face whatever demons I found out on the trail.

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From the start line, we headed out, around and back past the same area before running behind the event village where we were confronted with the first hill. A significant hill. Some people around me could even be heard muttering ‘Silvan’ under their breath (refer to this blog post for that particularly gruesome hill). Having this so early in the event did make me falter a little – I’d already been nervous; was this the evidence I needed to prove that my nerves had been justified? Would it be too hard? I’m pleased to say those thoughts moved on pretty quickly – I’m not in love with hills but I’m much better friends with them than I ever used to be and I knew I just needed to put my head down and get on with it. So I powered on.

At the top of the hill, we moved onto a narrow trail through the beautiful bush with undulations but nothing unrunnable. I instantly felt better, stronger and happier – I could do this. Of course I could. I also noticed I wasn’t alone, with a fair bunch of runners both in front and behind me which made me feel better as well.

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The scenery we were running through was, simply, stunning. The Otway Ranges have long been a favourite place of mine, even before I took up running. I couldn’t help but feel very lucky to get to run through this today, in the most perfect running weather you could wish for (especially in a place well known for rain). As well as getting to run along narrow trails, there was also a tiny bit of road as we headed up to the West Barwon Reservoir, adding to the impressive views. A woman running nearby and I were chatting about our ludicrously large smiles which seemed permanently etched to our faces – despite the sore and hard parts of running, this was one of those runs that just made us smile.

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We headed back onto the trails, past the drink station and up through the turnaround loop for the 10km. This was definitely my sort of running – gentle ups and downs, soft (and slightly slippery) paths and blissful serenity all around. The faint sounds of the event village could be heard through the trees but not close enough to worry about the run being over yet – I was happy for this one to keep going for a while.

As we continued to weave through, we hit more of the technical mountain bike trails with banked corners and a sticky clay surface – both a bit of a hazard but easily dealt with by my fabulous trail shoes. Not sure I would have coped in road shoes for this event. I could have run on this stuff forever – I felt strong and more like a mountain goat than I have before on the trail, ably picking my way around tree roots. But it wasn’t to be as we emerged out of the trees and back on the final stretch before the finish.

I actually think I managed to take a bit of a wrong turn in the last section as I followed runners ahead but then found others converging with us on the path further up. This might have contributed to me pulling up a bit short on distance although I think that’s probably more to do with the general difficulties of measuring trail runs – very hard to work out the line when you’re dodging all sorts of natural obstacles.

There was one last uphill then a downhill jaunt through magical tree ferns – a perfect prelude to the finish line. As always, the finish chute seemed to go on for a long time although I wasn’t as ‘done’ as I normally am and ran it fairly strong. To see the run for yourself, check out my link on ‘Relive‘.

This event really is a one of a kind in many ways. The location, the scenery, the trail, the diversity of runners it attracts, the vibe of the event village – it all builds to a very special package.

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