My boyfriend (of the eternally complicated status) was signed up for a 5k run recently by his boss, as were all of his workmates. I decided to join him on some training runs, just for the hell of it.
I should explain, my relationship with running up 'til now has always been a 'hate-hate' one - give me a bike, some roller-blades, a boogie board and a beach - ANYTHING but trudging joylessly around an oval with my butt fat jiggling with every tortured step.
I've tried engaging with running a few times in my life, as a means of getting fitter or dealing with stress in my life, but it's never 'taken'. I appreciate the cardio workout, and the fact that it's a no-kit form of exercise, but I never really enjoyed it enough to keep it up.
This time, however, it's been different. Maybe it's to do with returning to Australia, where people are generally much more health-conscious and the weather is more conducive to spending time outdoors. Maybe it was the incentive of training for an official run, with a running partner. I found myself looking forward to doing a lap of the Tan, and I would always feel good afterwards, even when I was feeling lethargic to begin with.
Also, there's something stoic about running which appeals to a stubborn bugger like me. It's harder than any other exercise that I do. It's boring. My pace is steady, so the only variation comes from hills. It requires perserverance: an ability to just keep going.
So the bf's boss heard about me training with him and very kindly offered to sign me up as part of their team. It wasn't long before I received my kit and instructions in the mail - number to pin to my top; timing tag to tie to my laces; complicated instructions about starting points and baggage drops. It was kind of exciting.
On the day, I woke up grumpy after not getting enough sleep, forced down some porridge, grunted at my boyfriend when he arrived at the door, and sulkily followed him on my bike to the event. It was buzzing with people, random stalls and porta-loos just like a music festival, except way more clear-eyed. There were teams of people dressed up in costume, people with t-shirts bearing the faces of the kids they were running for, and lots of mums and bubs. After forcing our way through the crowd to the secure bike stand and checking our bags, we met up with the rest of the team with minutes to spare, and took off in a big, slow, straggly group which gradually dispersed as the 'real' runners took off and left the fun runners and walkers behind. My bf, generally the slower of the two of us in our training runs, took off ahead of me at a steady trot. My competitive streak kicked in and I upped my pace to match his.
At times it was more like an obstacle course than a race, weaving around the crowd and jumping gutters, but I got into a steady rhythm and carried on.
Coming up the 4k mark, I felt a sense of pre-emptive victory and ran a little faster. Very quickly, the finish line was in sight and without even trying, almost as if I was on auto-pilot, my legs went into overdrive. It was an amazing feeling - almost as though I was a machine, and the movement was absolutely effortless. As I crossed the line, just a second behind my running partner, I had to force myself to put on the brakes and slow to a walk. We high-fived and congratulated each other in breathless voices, got ourselves some water and untangled the timing tags from our laces.
So, am I a runner now? My heart says no. It's still boring and hard. But my diary says I've signed up for the 8k Mother's Day Classic.