Cue 'Chariots of Fire'.... Running the last stretch to the end of the weekly BBAC Club TrialLast November I pulled alongside a guy paddling his V10 back into Gunammatta Bay from the Hacking, as I was heading out for a run along the coast. He was struggling a bit into the tide and told me it was his last hit out before the Royal Challenge, a 21km paddle split between a 21km trail run along the picturesque Lady Carrington Drive in the Royal National Park.
He asked me if I'd be interested and straight away I shot back, 'nah I'm a paddler, never been a runner'. Turns out the tired dude was Steve, the race organiser, so I offered some prizes in the way of sponsorship, as we're always happy to get behind events with a paddling element supporting such a worthy cause (the KIDS Foundation).
I went home and thought about my reflex answer, and while it's true even in my days playing rugby I was far more likely to run over someone than around them, I figured it was a bit of a cop-out to decide that 'I don't do that'! You know the story, Dragons don't dance, knights don't knit, witches don't play hopscotch etc etc....
So, for the first half of this year I've been slowly toughening up my 'undercarriage', running as little as 2-3km to begin with, trying to acclimate my hips, quads and joints to the joys of high impact, repetitive strain running. Running types I've spoken to have all said I'll be aerobically fit enough &, to my likely detriment, mentally tough enough to finish a half marathon along a bush track, but I'll probably hurt myself in the process unless I build very slowly. All the warnings about knees, Achilles tendons, hip flexors, even hammies have been heeded.
My kids run down at Brighton Beach Athletics Club each winter Sunday morning, and last season I simply turned up with my coffee and watched. This year I've joined the club and have started the program which will see me hopefully doing the 12km trials by September. Seven weeks in & I am now completing a weekly 6km time trial with the club.
I'm off the near front mark in the handicap race, and yesterday for the first triumphantly gunned down the runner in front of me at the 4km mark, only realising when we got back to the finish (with him coming hard at me again) that he was about 70! It's humbling to be the guy who is clearly identified as the beginner, and equally humbling to be quietly offered sound advice about breathing, running style, programs for building strength etc from the other club runners at the post race warm down.
One of the things Rob always impresses on me is to try to remember what it's like to start out at something, because you're a better instructor for it. So far I'm not having to try too hard when it comes to running.
I enjoy being outside my comfort zone and trying on new physical and mental challenges to an end. The goal is always what motivates me, but the spin offs are staying healthy and fit. Give me a paddle event or trip to work towards, and in a month I can be fit and ready to go. This running caper will take a lot more commitment and has already be a harder road to hoe, just great.
If anyone else is thinking about taking on the Royal Challenge, details of the race can be found on their excellent website HERE. For paddlers not so keen on committing to such a bloody big run through the bush, I have about half a dozen very competitive club runners who are interested in doing the run leg, in the teams event with a paddler. The race is on November 23, so all those Hawkesbury paddlers should still be on top of their game for a shorter challenge. I'm secretly waiting for a paddling mate to step up & have a crack as well, that will be all the motivation I need to get really serious about it all!
Expedition Kayaks are once again sponsors of the event.