Pursuant to my goal of increasing mileage gradually, I decided to sign up for a small 6km fun run as a stepping stone to a slightly more serious 9km cross country race. My hope was that running off road would afford my ankle a more forgiving surface whilst I built up distance.
The Kokanee Fun Run is a very small, family oriented affair intended as a fundraiser. At the same time there was a 3km run, popular with children.
Immediately, a whole hoard of children sprinted off a head of the adults.
I tried to keep up.
They are just little kids.
But I quickly realised this was unsustainable. I slowed to the pace that I knew I could and should be running at to complete the course. By 1km, most of those little speed demons had slowed down and I congratulated myself for finally learning the lesson of the tortoise and the hare, after only 34 years!
Speedy children aside, my run was going well, I fell into a rhythm. I caught myself smiling. A friend even remarked on how well I was running.
I knew he was right, I just didn’t know why. I had taken four months off running and now I found myself running faster than ever before.
Maybe I should be injured every summer?
I passed one last kid. Then we were directed up a set of stairs and off the nicely groomed gravel path and onto a mud trail.
Suddenly I found myself unable to run on the uneven surface. I felt so uncoordinated. The kid came back past me.
I pressed on carefully, marveling at how difficult this had suddenly become, and soon came round for my second lap. I was on my own now, the people around me stopping at 3km.
I considered stopping with them, it was only a fun run after all. But my newfound determination surprised even me, I knew I could do this.
Back along the gravel path, I ran, dreading that upcoming trail. The second time was just as bad as the first, but at least I knew it was coming this time. I just didn’t seem to be able to place my feet firmly, my ankle proving that it was still weak after it’s unexpected vacation.
Finally, the gravel returned and I ran to the finish.
36:06 – about the same pace as I kept on the road, very encouraging, especially considering how much I was struggling on the trail. I felt so tired, how could I go half as far again in just a couple of weeks?
The Larry Nicholas Memorial 9k is part of the Interior Running Association cross-country series.
My memories of the compulsory annual cross country at school are 100% negative – rain, fog and a large muddy field and being forced to (try to) run in the cold. I would never have guessed that one day I would do this voluntarily and even pay for the privilege.
I was far from confident going into this race. I didn’t know how well my ankle would hold up for 9km on the trails that had given me so much trouble only two weeks ago. To this end, my leg sported some rather fancy athletic tape to support the joint, but I was prepared for it to be slow going.
I was also concerned because being part of the IRA series, this event attracts real runners – and by that I mean fast.
I might come last.
After much pleading, Kay laughingly promised to personally hold up the finish line if they attempted to dismantle it before I had crossed (another bad memory from my childhood), even though she assured me she was certain this would not be necessary.
Of course she was right.
Right at the fast I went out too fast
Slow down you idiot!
The course was three laps of undulating trail. I focussed on trying to remain consistent. A lot of people passed me early on and I wasn’t sure how many might still be behind me.
“Just keep running”
I really enjoyed the course, enough terrain to keep it interesting, but not so much as to be too difficult and quite a pretty little trail. Unfortunately every lap felt interminable. Lap two was much the same as lap one, except a little slower – let’s call that smarter. I was breathing hard, but felt good. Suddenly people began passing me again, fast. It took a few moments to realise I was being lapped – and I wasn’t even half way around. The initial disappointment soon gave way to amazement, they were so fast.
“I don’t think I could even keep up with them at a sprint” I marvelled.
As I started the third lap, I was definitely tiring, the pretty little hills were growing into mountains and the muscles in my legs were screaming for me to stop. But somehow I knew I could finish. I walked up the steepest hills near the end and then turned towards the finish.
It was still there!
(and Kay wasn’t holding it)
I finished strong, a smile crossed my face. I’m really starting to enjoy this.
And what was that?
I must have misread that!
It didn’t feel like a particularly good run. Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate what a good run might feel like. I have had so many recent improvements and achievements that I don’t quite know what to expect anymore, but it’s exciting stuff!
Where will the next discovery take me?