Several Days Before
At Tasmanian Masters Athletics I feel a bit insecure and overwhelmed. I hear some people are talking about the Point to Pinnacle race. If I do the race then I will belong. I will be part of the local community by participating in one of the local community events. I check out the website and it is advertised as the world’s toughest half marathon.
How much do I need to train? I normally run on the Domain. I’ll keep doing that. It’s hilly, close and pleasant. And pretty similar to the actual route.
I go to the local running shop to pick up my number.
They display splash jackets which temp me. The forecast is for rain. Do I need one? I buy one. It is very light and well made. The equipment available is much better than in my previous life.
The display gels. The packaging is impressive. Do I need food during the race? Do I need glucose? Will I collapse due to lack of available glucose? I buy a couple. What harm could they do if packaged so well?
And the other thing to do is check out the route. We drive and look. It is incredible hilly. Nothing but up. I don’t think I will make all this uphill. I could run and then walk the final bit.
The Day Before
Today the weather looks good. The forecast foretells wild, wet and inclement weather for tomorrow. I believe the forecast not what I see out my window. The website warns of the course changing. That will affect what I wear. Which is what? I don’t know. I lay out my clothes. Every possibility.
I am asked what my goal is.
My goal is to proudly run across the finish line. To run most of the way. Not to finish and talk about my muscles and joints. Not to feel faint or dizzy. Not to collapse. Not to trip or fall or stumble. To run past the ambulance.
Sunday (The Day)
I look at the bedside clock. It says 4:30. Too early. I close my eyes. I am not sleepy. I lie quietly for an hour. I listen to the rain. Sounds very peaceful.
How do I feel? Good. No dizziness. No faintness. I get up and check the internet. The course is changed. Due to rain and wind we will run half way up and then down. What does this mean? To me it means accept what is happening. I now know the course. I don’t know what clothes to wear?
How can I dress safely? I chose long pants and overpants. And a couple of shirts underneath a splash jacket. And a cap under the jacket. I feel safe. I will be warm. How cares where I finish. It’s not my aim to win or run a good time. It’s not my aim to look good. My goal is to finish safely. No matter what.
We arrive at the start. Nobody is dressed as me. I don’t care. I’m not defiant or embarrassed. Where is the best place to wait for the start? I aim for the very back of the group.
We depart as a group shuffling up the road through the drizzle. I thought I was in the last group but some people run past me. I settle down into a group shuffling up the road. I now think about my first landmark. The Skyline Service Station 4 kays up the road. Everything feels good. I don’t know any runners. There is little talk. The light rain continues. I adjust my hat. The water has seeped through. What does that mean?
We arrive at my first landmark. And pass it quickly. I check my watch. Watch is working. Time is okay. How can I get this hat better fitting? It feels wet.
We plod on until runners appear on the other side of the road. They are going down as we go up. We cheer the first few; then stop looking at them. They become a blur. I concentrate on the runners around me going my way. We are in this together.
We go higher and wetter and the half way point suddenly appears. That was easy. I could go on and up. I can now speed up. Push myself as I go downhill. Drizzle has now become rain. When did that happen? The road has streams of water which I try and avoid. The chamfer near the side is also to avoid. This puddle. Should I avoid it or run through it. The same question keeps arising.
The road bisects the bush. It’s the same road as uphill. Uphill I was plodding looking at my next step; the next corner; checking my watch. Downhill I am now trying to run fast. To dodge puddles. What is the best way around these walkers? I must try and pass as many people as possible. Including that lady wearing black leotards. She’s next.
Now down to the houses. I am getting faster. It’s getting easier. Everybody is getting faster. The rain continues. I adjust my cap again. I try every position. The water has seeped through. I see a guy eating a glucose gel. That’s what I have forgotten. I fiddle and find my gel. Feels good. I don’t feel sick or nauseous or light headed. I can think of nothing but which path to take?
And the finish line. It’s wet, gloomy and anti-climactic. A man drapes a medal over my neck. I look at him. He doesn’t understand how much this means to me. Twelve months ago my only physical activity was walking to the hospital toilet. I didn’t know the way and I had to rest by leaning on the other beds. And nobody gave me a medal when I finished. And now I have run 21 kays and I feel fantastic.
But I still have the same problem. I need to go to the toilet. Where is it?
I am now a runner. Not an invalid. I remember a few days ago. At the supermarket a man greeted me and talked about running and the race. He didn’t talk about my health. His chat cheered me and is fondly remembered.
Today, due to the course change, it may not have been the world’s toughest half marathon. But the past twelve months have been the world’s toughest and that twelve months is finished. Now I have a medal which tells everybody I have finished a really tough twelve months.