Saturday, July 10, 2010

Some highlights of the year so far

Although I've had the pleasure of taking part in some great running events this year I've been far too slack to blog about them individually. So here are a few of the highlights...

April: Not the Canberra Marathon

The 2010 Canberra Marathon was cancelled due to an unresolved legal dispute over the ownership of the event. This was disappointing for those of us who had been looking forward to it, but not nearly so much as it was for CoolRunning Australia member LindyK who had was using the event as a fund-raiser for Parkinson's disease support. Lindy is both a former elite marathoner and a Parkinson's disease sufferer, and the date of the marathon, April 11, was World Parkinson's Day. Lindy and her sister Heather had been planning to walk the 50km ultra-marathon course.

Enter some other CoolRunning members, particularly SuperSam1979 and ChrisG, with a very simple idea: let's run it anyway ! And thanks to the wonderful collective enthusiasm of about 30 runners, plus their families and friends, together with a very professional course measuring and marking effort by Chris, that's just what we did.

My own plan to take part in the run was scuppered by an ill-timed dose of flu. Instead I spent the day helping on the fruit, snacks and drinks table which the runners and walkers passed every 5km, thanks to the ingenious course design, along with others including Chris himself who couldn't run due to injury. This was easily one of the most enjoyable, friendly and meaningful events I've ever been part of and it more than made up for missing out on the official marathon. Lindy's determination and cheerfulness were inspiring. It was also a great pleasure to meet the other runners, some of whom were preparing for the Comrades marathon in South Africa. All in all, a very special day.

The event got some nice coverage in the Canberra Times with one article featuring some of those involved and another with a lovely photo of Lindy and Heather on the course.

May: Two runs at Lake Gillawarna

Beatty Reserve is a parkland setting with a great network of hard and soft paths. It's a terrific place to run and May provided two opportunities on successive weekends: the Sri Chinmoy Mirambeena 16km and the Heart of the Lake 10km. Both events were blessed with perfect conditions: cool and still with lovely winter sunshine.

I love all of the Sri Chinmoy events but I think this is my favourite of their Sydney series, both for its beautiful setting and also for the smaller, more informal atmosphere compared to the larger events at Centennial Park and other venues. The 16km course sticks to the hard paths and involves two out-and-back legs with several short but testing hills. I remember walking a couple of these when I first did the event in 2007, so it's satisfying to be able to run them now, albeit slowly and with enough leg pain and puffing to ensure I remained firmly "in the moment". The post-race pancakes were very welcome !

The Heart of the Lake course takes in some of the soft paths in the park as well as another selection of testing hills, including one particular leg-torturer that seems to get ever steeper as you puff and struggle to the top. The Westies, as usual, went out of their way to provide a great race-day atmosphere and plenty of friendly encouragement. After taking a couple of kilometres to warm up I settled into a rhythm and had one of those lovely runs where all of my bits actually seemed to be working together. As a result I finished quite a bit sooner than I was expecting, feeling all in but happy.

July: Shoalhaven King of the Mountain

In preparation for the M7 Cities Marathon at the end of July I planned to do a 32km training run early in the month. Lo and behold, I discovered this wonderful event not too far from Sydney, with what sounded like a lovely farm and bushland course that was just the right length. So much nicer than grinding out a long run in the local suburbs on my own. The only hitch I could see was the bit about 'mountain'...

As it turned out, this was one of the nicest runs I've ever done. Actually, run-walk would be more accurate because running up the mountain, or even some of the lower foothills, was beyond me. The race field was small (about 130) and very friendly with lots of chats when breathing allowed. I really enjoyed catching up with my running friend Sonia, who I hadn't seen for ages, and meeting CoolRunners Tim and Mani (doing the run in his FiveFingers) for the first time.

The aid stations were fantastic: each one providing plenty of encouragement and fine humour along with the drinks and fruit. The aid station at the top of the biggest climb, Mt Scanzi, even offered a shot of Bundaberg rum as a reward for reaching the summit ! Not only did it deaden the pain, it warmed my insides very nicely on the subsequent cool, shady downhill section. Approaching the finish at the Kangaroo Valley showground, runners were greeted by a bagpiper, apparently another long standing tradition of the race and not one that I've struck at any other event. After that it was just a short run across the showground to the finish line where, best of all, my family were there to greet me.

I wore my huaraches for the run and they attracted a lot of comments and even a photo request from a lady at one of the aid stations - I guess they were the weirdest thing she'd seen for a long time. I'm happy to report that they were comfy the whole way on the gravel roads and my feet were in fine nick at the end.

Many thanks to the Nowra Athletics Club and everyone involved in putting on such a terrific event.

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