A runner is someone who runs.
Apparently, I run, and that makes me a runner.
I’ve had some uncomfortable labels stuck to me in the past, but this is right up there in the uncomfortable stakes.
Well, partly because my sister Debbie is a runner, and when Debbie does something I tend to shy away from it.
Deb has always run. As a teenager I have a clear memory of Dad teaching her to run … and of the one time I decided to give it a go.
I came away with one … no, two … clear realisations.
1). I wasn’t a runner.
2). I needed to start wearing a bra.
So I left the running to Deb, and for the next 40-odd years was more than happy as a non-runner.
The other part of the reason is, of course, that a runner is someone who runs. And I don’t run. Not really. I shuffle perhaps, but I’m not serious.
Except … it seems that now I am.
In May this year I was challenged by my personal trainer to run a 7km Sri Chinmoy race. He sent me a text: ‘Hey Sharon. How about your weekly challenge be the Sri Chinmoy this Sunday? Let me know how you go.’
Without any thought, I signed up, turned up, and … well … ran.
I got 200 metres into the run and as every other runner ran past me I thought to myself ‘this is ridiculous. Why am I doing this?’ Fair question, but for some perverse reason I kept running, despite a very big part of my brain telling me to stop and just go home: ‘Look, you’re near the car. Just walk casually over to it, get in, and drive slowly away. No one will notice.’
But I didn’t. I kept running … although if you’ve seen me run I doubt you’d describe it as ‘running’. Plodding might be a better description.
I told myself I’d run, or rather run/walk, to the 5km mark (I’d done a few 5km fun runs before and knew I could make that distance), and from there I’d walk.
In October 2017 I’d run the 5.7km run as part of the Melbourne Marathon and my trainer at the time (Josh) had run that with me. He’d heard how nervous I was before the run, and despite already having run the 10km race earlier that day, he came to find me at the start line to run with me. Every time I stopped to walk, he’d tell me ‘don’t stop running. Just run more slowly.’
I have to admit to not listening to him. There were times when my breathing simply wouldn’t allow me to run any further. So I walked, and told myself that my running and walking speeds weren’t terribly different anyway. I finished that run/walk and said I’d never do another one.
But here I was, on a decidedly chilly morning in June, keeping left as every other person in the race ran past me, plodding along the banks of the Yarra hearing Josh in my head saying ‘don’t walk, just run more slowly’. I made it to the 5km mark, had a drink at the drinks station, threw my cup near the bin, and started walking the last 2 kms. Then Josh popped back into my head, so I started running again.
And as I got closer to the finish line I started to gather a bit more pace – this was exciting. People were cheering me on, someone called my name, Tim was there at the the finish line … I crossed it and stayed upright. I’d just finished a 7km run!
I felt so proud of myself for finishing … particularly for finishing by running rather than walking.
So proud, in fact that I signed up to run the 5km Run Melbourne – which I’d done in 2014 and again in 2016 – held in late July each year. I had a time to beat from 2016 – I was starting to feel a sizzle of competition. And of anxiety. What if I didn’t beat it? What if I ran more slowly?
In the end I figured that the world wouldn’t end, so just did what I could.
I beat my 2016 time by 6 minutes! That means I shaved off more than a minute per kilometre!
I felt so proud of myself for beating my previous time and setting a new PB for myself that I signed up to run the 5km De Castella run. It’s held in late August and is very (very) hilly. I had run it in 2017 and so had some inkling about how tough it was.
I was invited to go on some training runs and so at 7am in the 4C cold I met up with a group of others at the start of the course on two Sunday mornings in late July about a month out from the run.
I hadn’t ever trained before or prepared in any kind of way, but I had a time to beat. I’d done the run the year before, so not only had that time to beat, but had the Run Melbourne 5km time to beat.
Not only did I do two training runs with the group, I also did my first Park Run. I was in Canberra one weekend and thought that a 5km run around the lake at Belconnen would help my training. It was great!
I also graduated from Saturday Walk Club to Saturday Run Club – something I said I’d never do – and on my first morning at Run Club ran an 8km tempo run with Courtney, one of the trainers at the personal training studio I go to.
I was in training … I was actually getting serious about this running thing!
I’d get up early on Tuesdays morning and run for 5, 6 or 8 kms depending on how much time I had. I ran more and walked less each time. I was assured I didn’t need to run a PB each time, but I could feel myself getting faster and stronger.
In late August I completed the De Castella run. Rob De Castella ran past and I heard him telling his running companion to run more slowly rather than walk when she got tired. My time for the De Castella was a personal best for any 5km run I’d done. That was really quite amazing given how tough the course is.
I got brave and signed up for the 10km run as part of the Melbourne Marathon. The longest distance I’d run to that point was 8.5km.
The Melbourne Marathon was set for Sunday, October 14. My training was going well, Tom my new trainer put together a plan for me and I was sticking to it. I ran two-three mornings a week, did leg strengthening exercises, bought snazzy running pants … I went the whole hog.
But the pain in my lower leg wasn’t going away and so I went to see Rob, my physio. He told me to stop running for a week as I had an over-use injury. So I cycled instead – two 18km rides where I had to push myself – or in Rob’s words ‘smash it’ – to help build my leg strength. I did calf raises every time I went up the stairs, my usual strength training, and cardio to increase my fitness.
I went back to see Rob a week later and he said I could run for 1km and if it felt okay I could run for another km … I was back!
We went to Tasmania on AFL Grand Final Eve, and the next morning was glorious. Cold, it has to be said, but no wind, clear blue sky, perfect! The path around the Tamar River was fabulous, and I felt so good I decided to run into the Gorge. At the 3km mark I turned around and ran back to the hotel. I felt fabulous when I finished. My leg didn’t hurt, I finished strong, and kilometre #6 was my fastest … I felt great.
I was confident about the 10km run. I still had two weeks to go and things were looking up.
That night, on the plane on the way home to Melbourne, I became very ill and ended up in hospital for six days. On Day 4 after my discharge I still couldn’t walk more than 500 metres without needing a nap. A week after my release I could manage 2kms, but it simply wasn’t enough. My body just wasn’t going to cope with running 10kms, or even 5 for that matter, and so my plan of running my first ever 10km event had to be put on hold.
I’ve been told there are plenty of other runs … and that I’ll be back into running in no time.
Do you know what?
I can’t wait!
You know why?
Because I’m a runner!