Friday, 29 April 2016

I did it! (Or did I...?)

Ahhhh, public holidays...  An oasis of family time in a sea of workdays and to-do lists, right?  And, if you plan it right, the perfect excuse for a run!

On Wednesday, or Freedom Day down here in S.A., we headed to the nearby farming town of Jacobsdal for their annual Family Day.  Our agenda was simple: Fun, quality time with the kids, a proper dose of proper farm sosaties, and a 10 km trail run for either Will or myself.  In the end Will rock-paper-scissor'ed his way into babysitting duties, so I got a chance to run - wahoo! 

Pre-race with the kidlets.

Our mission was successful on all levels: K and J Bear played their way to a very welcome very early bedtime for us all, Will went for gold with the sosaties, and I had the run of the year.  It was perfect.  

Our little Picasso.  [The fizzy drink is the childminder's - not Miss K's.  Just for the record.]

J the jumping bean!

Will going for gold...

My run was out of this world: Gravel roads, Camel Thorn trees and running friends...  Pure perfection!  Oh, and then there was the small little detail of my finish time...  47:59!!  Yup, a sub-50 minute 10 km after 5.5 years of trying.  But, before you get too excited (you are excited, right?), there's a catch: The route measured short.  Womp, womp.  Had I known it at that moment, I would have continued running right past the finish line until my Garmin clocked 10 km, but I only saw my time after stopping and grabbing something to drink.  Major womp.  Which leaves me with a bit of a moral dilemma...  

So far I've done three (supposedly) 10 km races this year, but the thing is that none of them measured exactly 10 km.  The first two races both measured long, but I still took their finish times as official 10 km times and waited for an "official" race time below 50 minutes as proof of a sub-50 minute 10 km.  And now I have that, but, as the route measured short (by almost 700 m), it still doesn't feel right.

So my question is this: What times are used as PBs?  Official race times, even when the course measures long/short according to your own measuring device?  Or is the correct thing to do to take your time at the exact spot where your own, personal measuring device clocks 10?  Or do you keep running a gazillion races until you finally complete one that measures 10 km on the dot (I'm obviously not talking about .02 this way or that - I'm talking about a few hundred metres, which makes a significant difference when chasing a PB of a few seconds)?  (Just a note: The three races listed above took place in three different towns/cities and two different provinces, so it's not necessarily a question of only local races measuring 'incorrectly' and simply trying one in another town.)  My gut feel is to go with the time on your own timing device at the point where it clocks 10, which means that I've already achieved my long-standing goal of a sub-50 minute 10 km in February this year without even realising it... (see table).  Wahoo?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this - please chime in and make my day?  Or not?  But, whatever the consensus, a bonus day of family time with a run among the Camel Thorn trees thrown in remains a pretty sweet thing, don't you think?

Happy weekend!

Friday, 22 April 2016

Five secrets to running happy

There was a time in my life when I hated running.  I was in Grade 11 and our entire family, great-grandma, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins included, spent a December holiday in Henties Bay, Namibia.  My dad was in the shape of his life: Fit, strong and up for a 05:00 a.m. run on most days.  I, on the other hand, was a mess.  I was suffering the consequences of my choices making my boarding school debut at the ripe age of 17 - and dealing with the adjustment through emotional eating.  It wasn't pretty.  That didn't stop me, however, from chiming in when the cousins made the call to join my dad on one of his 05:00 a.m. jaunts...  And, you've guessed it: Getting up at 05:00 a.m. was where the fun (?) ended.  My dad, double the age of most of us, literally ran circles around us - I remember huffing like a steam train and detesting every minute. 

Fun(ner) times with my dad.

How then can it be that now, twenty-odd years later, running is my happy place?  What has changed?  I'll let you in on a few secrets:

1.  Only compete against yourself

That run in Henties would have been so much more pleasant had I gone at my own pace.  But no, we all tried to catch my dad like huffing, headless chickens (speaking only for myself here...  Perhaps the other cousins had fun...?).  I'm not quite sure how we anticipated the outcome to be anything but torture?

Sure, for a chosen few awesome professionals beating other athletes is a job.  But, for the rest of us, our biggest opponents remain ourselves.      

2.  Find your happy distance

... and forget about everyone else.  South Africans tend to have a Comrades mentality: Haven't done it yet?  Ag, shame, you must be a fun runner then.  Nonsense.  If 5 kays, 10 kays or half-marathons fuel your passion - do them.  And enjoy them.  If marathons and ultras make you smile - awesome.  The trick is to find your happy distance and then obliterate it.        

3.  Keep going

In three decades of on-and-off running, I've never heard anyone say "hey, that first run was awesome!".  Not once.  First runs suck.  For everyone.  As do second and third ones.  The secret is to keep going - because reaching that point where torture turns to joy is a sweet, sweet thing.      

4.  Select your surface 

Tar sucks the life right out of me.  Sure, if it's the only practical surface available for a run, it's ten times better than no run.  But put me on a gravel road and I flourish; just thinking about it makes me smile.  Point is: Experimenting with different running surfaces and finding my favourite one has taken my running enjoyment to a whole new level.

Happiness!  [Photo by Corne Pretorius.]

Find yours. 

5.    Do your thing

Perhaps the most important lesson is this: Stop chasing the guy in the blue trunks/your buddy's parkrun PB/your clubmate's Comrades dream.  Do your thing.  Because that, for me, is where true running happiness lies. 

Thanks to the ladies from Eat Pray Run DCYou Signed up for What? and Mar on the Run for the opportunity to share these points as part of their Friday Five link-up!

Have a terrific weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Finish Lines

The older I get, the more I realise that finish lines are not for the faint-hearted.  And I'm not talking about crossing one yourself - although that's a pretty remarkable thing as well.  I'm talking about spectating at a finish line - and somehow morphing into a bawling bystander as you get to witness glimpses of the journeys of fellow runners; moments that often speak a thousand words.

This weekend I had the privilege of participating in the inaugural OR Tambo 10 k race in central South Africa - currently one of the highest paying races in the country.  And although my race experience was a positive one, it's those moments spectating at the finish line after crossing it myself that keep lingering in my head.

I witnessed the smiles of triumph of previously disadvantaged wheelchair athletes after covering 10 km in ordinary, wonky-wheeled wheelchairs - no high-tech, modified sports machines - over uneven, pothole-ridden terrain that had me hopping around and gasping for air as an able-bodied athlete.  

I witnessed twin sisters in their fourties crossing the finish line of their very first race hand-in-hand - no doubt a highlight after a lifetime of shared memories.

Privileged to have shared in this memory!  [Photo by Hermien Lamprecht.]

I witnessed blind runners finishing with their guides - sure-footed and smiling - reminding me to count and re-count my blessings.

I witnessed a 36-week pregnant mama and her husband conquering the distance together.  As it should be.

And I witnessed a dad and his son walking a victory lap hand-in-hand - looking at each other with smiles that said "we did it!".

As for myself, I ended up not reaching my goal of a sub-50 minute 10 km...  And find myself doubting whether I have it in me to fight that mental battle once again - it's exhausting.  We'll see.

My race splits.

And as disappointing as not reaching a race goal may be, I'm delighted to discover, with age, a love for running and spectating simply for the joy of it...  And I think I like it.