I’m hurt! Not emotionally, physically. Although, if I were hurt emotionally, the person responsible for that hurt would know who he is and he would know what he had done!
But I’m not emotionally hurt, I’m physically hurt. And I’m hurt from what was otherwise a reasonably forgettable 21km race. I learned two very important lessons today. I learned something I already knew and I learned something about last week’s race that I needed both last week’s race and this week’s race to teach me.
Lesson #1: They’re not joking when they advise you to slowly and gradually run in a new pair of shoes. I got a new pair of running shoes a few weeks ago. I’ve run about 6km in the shoes and today I donned said new shoes for a 21km run. Not wise. But more about that later.
Lesson #2: Don’t help others! What a dreadful lesson! Let me explain. Last week, I helped two or three or eight ladies through the second half of a marathon. At times, I knew I could have gone so much faster, but I stayed with them. Admittedly, when I was at a low point, they were there to….well, I suppose, keep me company. But I think I missed qualifying for Comrades because I helped them. I think I could have qualified on that route, but I didn’t because I felt guilty and I felt afraid. Guilty for leaving them when they might have needed me and afraid because I thought I’d need them to repay the favour when I hit a low point, which they did. The reason I come to the stark realisation today that I shouldn’t help others, or let me qualify that, help others at the expense of achieving my own goals, can be found in how I came to be in Boksburg on a freezing Sunday morning on my oldest brother’s birthday. Happy birthday Graham.
I had seen this race on the calendar and had decided to give it a go. I’ve got a few marathons under my feet now so 21s are a pleasant distance for me. Mike, coming back from injury and illness, was going to do back-to-back 21s this weekend, the second of which was going to be this, the Birchwood Hotel something or other, the name of which escapes me now because Vodacom’s hideous excuse for signal at my house is not allowing me to go onto the Internet. So I don’t know what I ran today. I just know it was in Boksburg where there are no trees and too much pollution. I told Mike I’d run with him today. I’ve been getting faster and faster while Mike has been injured and sick and so I’ve been faster than him in the last few races we’ve run. But a nice easy run with Mike to support him on this mammoth task of back-to-back 21s was a decent gesture and would make for a pleasant run this birthday Sunday.
And so I found myself shivering at the start of a 21km race at 7am in Boksburg. Mike and I were chatting to some of Mike’s friends (lots of “G” names, which always confuse me – Greg, Geoff, Grant, Craig, Graham, Gavin, Garth….) and so we set off in a jovial mood. I was taking small steps so as not to go far ahead of Mike and when he walked, I was able to keep going at a similar pace to him. What a pleasant run. Mike is incredibly friendly and I think he is so partly to goof off or to have an excuse to walk. He talks to everyone and specifically seeks out those that are walking or running slowly so that he can amble alongside them. I think he is able to run much faster than he does….but this is not a school report on Mike and his ability. I hardly worked up a sweat or even a discernible heart rate. I was really going slowly, but it was very pleasant. I’ve been so obsessed with getting better and better and getting to Comrades, that I’ve never really just done as little as possible, but here I was, purposefully underachieving. All for a good cause. (I know Chrissie has spent one year doing the same for me. Thank you Chrissie. I now realise how frustrating this must have been for you, albeit very pleasant.) At 9kms I got grumpy which I always do at 9kms. At 13kms I wanted to give up which I always do at 13kms and at 15kms I started to limp. I think the new shoes, combined with the smaller steps I had been taking to keep up with Mike were too much for my fragile frame and at about 15km I needed a hip replacement. The reality, however was that my gluteus medius and right hamstring were the cause of my troubles and I began to limp. Mike also started complaining about a paining hamstring and we took a lamppost approach to a few kms.
Then Mike started to do time calculations. He had been doing them periodically throughout the race and I had just nodded silently, knowing that, if he wanted to go faster, I could go faster. At this point though, he started talking about doing 2:45, which I could have done if we had been running at a decent pace from the beginning of the race, but now, with an injury and a limp, I wasn’t sure I could suddenly start hurrying. Mike usually finishes very strongly and I was aware that, at some point, he may get bored and want to go faster. But I was hurt and I want to run Wally Hayward in 10 day’s time so I didn’t want to do any serious damage. And then, to add insult to injury, literally, a car shot a rock off the road. It flew past Mike’s leg and straight into my ankle. If I wasn’t limping before, I most certainly was now. I stopped and rubbed my ankle. You know how near the end of a race, you can’t bend down because your quads and hamstrings just don’t wanna? Not me, I had been having such an easy race, that I just stopped, bent down and rubbed my ankle. But my glute and hamstring were aching. And now my ankle was throbbing. My compadre didn’t notice and he ran ahead. He suddenly had a goal. He started out with a total underachiever goal of less than 3 hours. Suddenly, close to the finish, and realising that he had kept a good pace throughout the race (no thanks to me, of course), he made a goal to beat 2:45. So he ran ahead, leaving me limping behind him. He’d turn around occasionally to give me a thumbs up which I thought meant “Are you still able to move forward?”, but which he later explained, meant “Would you like me to slow down so you can catch up?” I kept nodding because I was still not coming last and not dead yet so “Yes, I am able to move forward.” Not “No, please slow down.” I caught him occasionally, because he was doing lampposts while I was able to run the whole time even if it was slowly and with a limp. Eventually, however, his strong finish and desperate need to beat 2h45, had him speeding ahead. Mike did indeed finish in 2:44 and I finished three minutes later in 2:47.
And so there were my two lessons:
- #1: Run in a new pair of shoes properly and
- #2: Don’t help people at the expense of your goals (even if you make up those goals as you go along). I feel depressed now.
I must admit, the post race massage,
the Springs Boys’ Marching Band,
and the fabulously friendly people along the way
made the race a total hit with me.
The aeroplanes coming in to land as we ran underneath them also made for tons of squeals of excitement.
I will definitely be back for this race next year. Hopefully they’ll have medals and t-shirts for everyone next time and hopefully Boksburg would have planted some trees by then.
There were many people running today that had run Loskop in the pouring rain yesterday. You’re idiots! Well done. Aha! Birchwood Cross the Line. That was the name of the race.
Yours in the love of running……
Thank you Shaun Horsepower for the amazing photos!