“Running Really Does Get Easier,” Said No Novice Runner Ever

Image of woman running up steps in orange runners.

There’s no doubt in my mind that what this year’s fun run is really about is another narcissistic attempt to deny the physical evidence that my body is as old AF and, well, a bit buggered.

The papers – or “the news” (as my millennial daughter corrected me yesterday morning because she has never read a hard copy newspaper) – continues to be full of stories of New Year’s resolutions that never got out of the starting gate, Dry January fails, and Januhairy – the least challenging resolution for the menopausal/hormonally hirsute amongst us.

Privately, I have made a couple of personal resolutions – that for legal reasons that involve the old man, I can’t share publicly with you yet – but I have made one that I’m happy to talk about.

This May, I will be competing in the 4k Mothers Day Classic Fun Run to support breast cancer research.

Yes, FOUR FUCKING KILOMETRES, and A RUN! The “fun” part, I’m not so sure about.

I did a similarly crazy thing a little over ten years ago when I celebrated my 40th birthday – don’t ask me why I have this tendency to come up with harebrained schemes such as these, although I suspect that wine has something to do with them – when, in the wisdom of what I will now refer to as my youth, I signed up for the London To Brighton bike ride, to prove that I was still young, hot and fit to raise money for The British Heart Foundation.

And evidently, few life lessons were learned from that day of shame. Either that or I have parked them in the dying brain cell department of my brain along with memories of childbirth and whatever I once saw in Johnny Depp.

In my defense, the temperature that day in the UK was (an unheard of) 33 degrees – the precursor to what the intelligent among us now accept as climate change – but added to which, I was also sporting a rather debilitating injury, incurred at training the week before; the result of a nasty brush with gravel. That meant that I had to compete with two stitches to my right elbow and severe PTSD in relation to every getting on a bike again.

To cut a long story short, I was the only competitor to cross the finishing line as the event organizers were planning their retirements – although twelve hours to complete fifty-two miles is apparently a record…of sorts. I was also the only competitor to be slapped around the face by their husband halfway around the course when he feared for my sanity – although, again, in my defense, my bum was really sore.

There’s little doubt in my mind that what this year’s fun run is really just another narcissistic attempt to deny the physical evidence that my body is as old AF and, well, a bit buggered. However, my ambition is not to complete this year’s run in a credible time. No, all I’m really aspiring to do is not look like a complete twat as I cross the line – IF I cross the line – ie. I’m hoping for no sign of poo or wee on my pants, that I haven’t stolen water from the nearest dehydrated child spectator, or taken the bus to raise money for a commendable cause.

I’m also hoping that on this occasion I don’t have to beg a steward to pull me up the last hill in return for sexual favors – something the organizers of the London To Brighton event got very sniffy about.

In case you’re wondering, I don’t know why I don’t organize a coffee morning, eat all the cakes, and be done with it, either. It’s not like I’m one of those stoic people who can put their mind to anything for a shot of very public altruism. Frankly, I couldn’t apply myself to catching a Huntsman spider if the lives of my children depended on it – something you might have picked up on in my last post. I’m not naturally a “charity” type of person – other than my belief that it begins and stays at home, ideally in my bank account.

However, I’m proud to say that I have reached the 2km mark in my training – not an easy feat in the humidity of a Sydney summer – and my only question at this stage of my running journey is when the fuck it gets easier? When will my legs and boobs stop hurting? When will my thighs stop sticking together? Will I ever enjoy it?

At 53, I Think That I Finally Have The Maturity To Embrace Yoga

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You can call me “Madonna” from now on because, since my four-hour yoga retreat on Saturday, I am officially at one with my body, nature and the limitations of my pelvic floor.

Unlike the majority of my mates, I’ve come a little late to the yoga party. I’ve struggled to find my inner or spiritual self, or whatever everyone else seems to get out of it. And fortunately, the excuse of a dodgy lower back – the pain in which is exacerbated by stretching parts of your body that aren’t supposed to be stretched – has given me an excuse. And yoga is also expensive, especially when compared to homemade Freeletics on the beach, that increase your dickhead factor at the same time.

Many of my friends have turned to yoga in later life, for the purposes of body strengthening and to rid themselves of stress. And I must admit that the type of people that do yoga always seem to have an aura of calmness about them that I envy (sort of). They’re a bit like born-again Christians – they just seem like nice people – something I hoped would rub off on me as I set out for Saturday’s session.

I suppose that l felt finally mature enough to “own” my “queefs” as I contorted my body into poses I wouldn’t even attempt in front of the old man after a cask of wine, and to chant without cracking up. And the idea of switching my mind off for a few hours from my to-do list, what I’m cooking for dinner, and what’s next on Netflix, held some appeal.

But FUCK! Yoga is seriously harder than the “Jane Fonda Workout,” when you really try; particularly when you’ve been sold the event as a three-hour sleep-fest by a well-meaning friend and so you’re in the zone for an expensive three-hour nap. My relaxation scale goes from 1. being knocked out on medication, to 10. watching back-to-back episodes of “The Bachelor” on the couch with a bottle of wine, so, no, I don’t call balancing on the balls of my feet – bum three inches off the floor – relaxing. Although I did surprise myself with how wide I can still open my legs – something I shan’t be sharing with the old man.

The Sanskrit mantras sounded like a foreign language – because they are – and I had no real idea to whom or what I was chanting as I Ommed in unison our passionate Canadian yogi, who was on the guitar. But who am I to knock something that frees your mind from the anxieties of life? Indeed, I quite enjoyed working my fingers busily around my beads, ignoring that little voice in my head that kept asking me ‘what the fuck are you doing?’

Be honest, give anyone a neck massage, an eye pack and a warm blanket and most of us will do whatever the fuck is asked of us. And it’s easy to be cynical about things we don’t understand or that take us out of our comfort zone – something I AM a natural at – but when we give them a go, sometimes we surprise ourselves.

Not even the idea of a vegetarian lunch in recompense for two hours of physical purgatory phased me afterward. Admittedly, I’m not certain that I fully relaxed my skin, my organs or my bones (?) during the session, but I did manage to dislodge one of those hard bogeys that really hurt during the nasal breathing.

 

And In Other Sports News…

The YouTube clip below has popped up on my newsfeeds a few times over the last week and refuses to be ignored. Trust me, you need to watch it with the sound on and then I want everyone to practice their tongue trills in front of the mirror – (see video at the bottom of the page for assistance). 

I sent the video over to ‘the girls’ as a suggestion of a retro experience together, but the leotard part of it didn’t go down too well. But watching these women strut their stuff reminded me of year 11 and 12 at school – a new school that I’d moved to for my HSC and originally a single-sex boys school that had recently decided to take in girls to demonstrate to the boys that another sex existed in those year groups. Looking back, the school was definitely still in the teething stage of their new venture.

Being a public school (paying, in the UK), there was inevitably a strong focus on sport. The boys played traditional sports – cricket in summer, rugby and hockey in winter – and the girls played netball and hockey.

Or rather, that was the girls that could catch or whack a ball accurately at their opponent’s calves with a stick. For those girls that weren’t quite as handy with their ball skills – although, there are balls, and then there are balls – there was the option of badminton or Jane Fonda Workout.

It’s strange to look back on those times now – more than thirty years ago – when I used to laugh off my total ineptitude at sport with humor, even though it hurt like hell never to be good enough. Sport is, unfortunately, one of those areas in which you don’t necessarily improve with practice – because God knows, I tried to make a team, ANY TEAM!

81829c25f818f7fb6ed986519133cb9eI have a long list of proud sporting non-achievements I could share with you – such as getting caught on the bus at the end of the annual cross-country run (for charity, no-less), home-goals, running in the wrong direction in Netball – but only one really proud sporting achievement. It was a brief period in my sporting career when I was selected to play for my house rounders team because the girl I was substituting had broken BOTH her legs. I have chosen not to dwell on my secret suspicion that she would still have been selected to play had only one leg been in plaster.

Anyway, in spite of the loser connotations of being assigned to the “Jane Fonda” group with twenty similarly uncoordinated girls, my memories of those afternoons are fond. I can’t remember breaking out in too big a sweat, but I do remember lolling around the school hall, grateful to be out of the cold, waiting for the boys to finish rolling around like pigs in mud so that we could oggle them in their rugby shorts and inhale their Deep Heat. However, we must have learned something, because when my aqua-aerobics instructor shouted out to us to grapevine the other dayit was almost instinctive – I knew exactly what to do.

Any sporting non-achievements you’re particularly proud of?

I Hope I Go Doing Something I Love

beach-1838501_1920Laeticia Brouwer, a seventeen-year-old surfer lost her life to a shark yesterday, and shortly afterwards her devastated parents were forced to give the press their thoughts about her life – presumably, so they’d leave them alone to begin the grieving process.

‘She died doing what she loved,’ is a comment we hear often after these sorts of uncontrollable, unthinkable events; when death is caused by the hand of nature. In fact, what Laeticia was doing, was living. Just like when people get caught up in floods, tsunamis or earthquakes, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unlucky. That shark had no idea that it had latched onto a human and not some salty old man version who had surfed his whole life and probably would have welcomed a death doing what he loved. No, she was a young girl with her whole life ahead of her.

 

What we need to remember is that as a surfer, she would have had an ingrained respect for the ocean. She would have known that she was a guest in the territory of others, even though I struggle with that mindset and have often questioned if it’s some surfer psychobabble they tell themselves to get back in the water after a scare. Since I’ve lived here, however, I honestly believe now that it is actually an unwritten agreement they make with nature for that first-hand privilege of being at one with it.

 

Anyway, what do I know? I struggle to put my toe in the water a millimeter beyond the lifeguards’ flags and according to scientists, I take greater risks with the amount of alcohol I drink every day.

 

Anti-shark protesters are inevitably baying for a cull because we don’t want the rest of the world to know that there are sharks in our oceans, and after two similar deaths in Western Australia last year, those sharks are getting a bit big for their boots. Let’s put to one side the recent increase in the death tolls from ocean rips and road accidents or the increase in youth suicide and domestic violence (leading to death) while we consider those statistics. Let’s forget that there are actually more attacks in the US, (and I’m not alluding to the results of Trump’s shaking finger on the button). Let’s overlook how sharks actually boost our tourism, and how virtually every Australian souvenir is plastered with the smiling, perfect dentistry of the Great White or how our zoos put on shows using their deadliest creatures as the star attraction, to fuel the perverse interest in how we Australians actually manage to leave our homes at all.

 

Part of the reason this story has stuck in the headlines, I believe, is because the victim was a young girl. Since Jaws, death by shark attack is everyone’s worst nightmare and somehow (unreasonably) it feels worse that a girl should have to go through such an ordeal. Such brutality should be reserved for tough young men, not girls, shouldn’t it?

 

Wrong. It made me proud to think that this girl was out there doing what she loved, in spite of the risks. Because she could, and because she chose to. Anyone who has seen the wonderful series, Puberty Blues, based on Kathy Lette’s books, will know that as late as the seventies, it was frowned upon for women to surf in certain cultures. It was seen as a man’s sport and women had to fight their way into the ocean.

 

I hope I go doing something I love, like Laeticia. I hope I go doing something that shows I was embracing my life to the full, and that I wasn’t afraid.