On Sunday I joined a bunch of Op Movers in St Kilda to run in the Breast Cancer Network Australia Sussan Fun Run. This half marathon was to be my third, all of which have been run this year.
To say I was feeling ordinary would be a massive understatement as I had been unwell during the week and unable to eat much at all leading up to the run. I was determined to do it as I really wanted to catch up with the Operation Move crew and especially see some newbie runners complete their first events. I told myself that if I felt faint or unwell I’d stop, and as they say a “dead last is better than Did Not Finish, and Did Not Finish trumps Did Not Start”. I was mentally preparing myself for my first ever DNF.
I set off at a slower than usual pace, but one that was comfortable. At 8km in my quads were already talking to me. They had previously spoken to me at about 34km so this was quite a surprise. I decided to walk for a bit, had some Gu chomps, went to the loo, considered dropping out at the 10k mark (as it was 2 laps) but decided to go on even if it was my slowest half time ever.
I distracted myself by reading the tributes some women were wearing, and thinking about people who were undergoing treatment for all types of cancer whilst I was running this race. I started to feel a tad morose and decided that it was time for some Bon Jovi.
I started walk/running and telling myself to run for a minute or two minutes and walk for one or two minutes. I quickly got sick of looking at my watch so I started planning my runs and walks based on land marks; a tree, a traffic light, a drink station. There were quite a few of us doing the same at this stage – we’d pass each other and then catch up.
At about 13k I started speaking to another runner. Her name was Sharyn. We walked together for a while and then I suggested we run to the next traffic light. We did. She’d run 3 Melbourne Marathons, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and was determined to run the race for a work colleague whose wife was having chemotherapy for breast cancer. After my whinging about having gastro the days before the run and lots of other chitchat and more walking and running, Sharyn told me that she’d recently been diagnosed with an arthritis in her back and had told that she shouldn’t run that day, or ever from now on. I asked her how much pain she was in and she said ‘a bit’. She later told me that this would be her last run.
We kept up the walking and the running and we discussed how much better the last part of the race was, compared to how we thought it was going to turn out. I had that feeling that you get when you know you are exactly where you are supposed to be.
We got to the 20k-ish mark and I asked Sharyn if she thought she could run in from there. We decided to run in from the next landmark, I can’t think what it was exactly now. We took off slowly at first and had to dodge a lot of 5km walkers, but we picked up speed and finished the race strong hand in hand with big grins on our faces. We gave each other a big hug and she joined her work colleague and his wife and I went to find my crew.
I am beginning to see how some people run 20, 30, 40 and more half marathons and marathons. They are all so different in so many ways.
Sometimes a fun run isn’t about fun and it isn’t even about running. It’s about connection, humanity and showing up.