Friday, April 24, 2009

First marathon finish

Yet another race report lagging far behind the actual race. Ah well, slow by name, slow by nature.

Canberra Marathon - Sunday 19th April

The Canberra Marathon was definitely one of the best events that I've ever been in. I went there hoping for an enjoyable run and, of course, to make it to the finish this time, but I had no idea it was going to be so much fun.

It was a lovely day for running, cool but not cold. The race followed a very scenic course looping (as you do in Canberra) around Capital Hill, taking in the National Library, the Carillon, the War Memorial and providing lots of views of Lake Burley Griffin. The course layout, with its double out and back main section, meant that even those of us at the slow end of the field felt part of the event with lots of other runners in view for much of the time.

For me there was also the pleasure of running with another freaky-footwear enthusiast for the very first time - doubly nice because it was my inspiration in all things barefoot, Sharene (on the right in the photo above).

However the real highlight of the day, the thing that made it so much fun, was the unbelievable spectator support along the course. From my experience of the Sydney Marathon last year, I had formed the idea that unless one was running in a mega-event such as London, Paris or Boston, a marathon involved a long run through a void of mostly empty streets. This certainly wasn't the case in Canberra where the run was enlivened by the claps, cheers, jokes and banter of the spectators and wonderful race volunteers, not to mention some surreal performance artists. Then there was the overwhelming noise, colour and movement of the CoolRunning cheer squad - guaranteed to lift the spirits and put a spring in the step.

I ran the the event in my favourite pair of thin-soled huaraches and they were comfy for the whole distance. As usual there were lots of comments and question from people who doubted that my feet would survive without being battered and bruised by the run. It seems that the "new" wisdom that expensive, cushioned running shoes are not actually required for running is a little slow to catch on here.

This photo of my (sensitive and delicate) feet the day after the race proves, I hope, that my soles were none the worse.

As for my own marathon run: it was both easier and harder than I had expected. It was easier in that with the scenery, sideline support and good company of other runners along the way, the time seemed to pass very quickly. It was harder due to hitting the dreaded wall at around 32km which made for nausea, heavy legs and quite a few walking breaks.

The last stretch of the run was magic. Firstly, my gorgeous partner Annie and kids were there to meet me about 2km from the finish. Then, 1km further on, a much appreciated final boost from the CoolRunning cheer squad, and my running friend Emjay calling out "your going to finish this one". After that, a last corner, and a short run to the finish line, which I crossed with a time of 4 hours, 50-something or other minutes, slightly stunned and bemused but happy.

The Answer is 42

As Douglas Adams told us, 42 is the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything, although the actual question is still a little hazy. Can it be mere coincidence that the marathon distance is 42 (and a bit) kilometres ?

Ermmmm.... yes.

But still, I like thinking of the marathon as being to running what 42 is to the Universe, namely an answer begging a question from those who attempt it. And that question is: What am I doing this for ?

My entry in the Sydney Marathon last year became a fund raising effort for the Black Dog Institute and, I suppose, a way to become comfortable with being open about living with depression.

My answer for why I wanted to attempt another marathon only started to become clear to me towards the end of my training for Canberra. It has to do with travelling somewhere new, physically and emotionally. For me, depression is, more than anything, an overwhelming desire to retreat into oneself, to hide away from everyone and everything. In contrast, running takes you outside, encourages you to set out for points beyond the borders of the comfortable and the known. For me, reaching the finish line of the Canberra Marathon was proof to myself that I could do that.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Second first marathon attempt

Four more sleeps to go and then it will be time for my second attempt to run 42.195 km (plus a bit more) in the 2009 Canberra Marathon / 50 Km Ultra-marathon. My first attempt was the 2008 Sydney marathon where my finish was, ahem, unexpectedly premature.

This time around my plan had been setting my sights on completing the 50km ultra-marathon, scoring a marathon finish along the way. Whether I'll have the stamina or the stomach to do the extra 7.805 km after reaching the marathon finish line for the first time remains to be seen. But I've been trying to visualize myself breezing effortlessly across the line as I set out for the extra bit and a glorious double finish. Positive waves... positive waves...

I'll be running in the sparsely contested, circus gear and sandals category, opting for my favourite pair of Vibram cherry huaraches. But for most of my training runs in preparation for Canberra over the last few months I've worn my FiveFingers Classics which were kindly supplied by Max and Sally, local FiveFingers pioneers here in Sydney. The more I ran in them, the more I grew to like them. In fact, I've now run far enough that they've recently become more authentically barefoot then they used to be with the soles finally giving out. So, sadly, it's time to retire them - though of course there's the fun of choosing the next pair to look forward to !