I was standing in the supermarket when it caught my eye – a brochure for the Samoa Island Run. ‘Walk, jog, or run your way to fitness and health’. It was full of photos -people who had successfully ‘walked, jogged and run’ their way to fitness and seemingly eternal happiness. Looking at their sweaty, smiling faces – I decided right there that I wanted to be one of them. I wanted to run in a 10k funrun. I grabbed a signup sheet and firmly put it in my pocket. This was it – the beginning of a new me…
Anyone who knows anything at all about me, would know how fanciful – or should I say – how ridiculous that notion really was. I have not and never have been a runner of any kind, shape or form. I have always hated sports. I was the girl who cut PE class to hide out in the library ( rather than the other way around.). Exercise just wasn’t my thing.
Things started getting desperate though, once I became a mother. I sat and breastfed one baby after another. Not much exercise required there! Indeed the only ingredients needed for effective breastfeeding appeared to be eating, resting and then lots more eating. I slowly but surely ate my way from a size 10 to a size 20. I must say I did enjoy every delicious minute of it, but once my babies didn’t need me anymore, I started seeing parts of my body I had never noticed - like hips and the way fat kind of hangs off the edge of your legs when you sit down, or that roll of flat tyre that bulges over your waistline. I started waking up to the fact that there was a whole lot more of me then there used to be…and now all of me was going to run in a 10k ? Hmmm…
12 weeks to race day
My husband decides he wants to be a runner (again) too. Unlike me though, he has a glorious history of athleticism behind him. He hasn’t run in 13 years so he assures me we are both in the same beginners boat.(Yeah right.)We make a start to our ‘middle age’ running careers at the Pesega track early on a soft misty morning. Its 5:30am, the moonlit sky is dancing with stars and its actually rather romantic to be a couple alone on a vast green field. I set off at an enthusiastic run but have to stop after only half a lap with what feels like an acute asthma attack. It quickly becomes obvious that his idea of a beginner is leagues away from mine. On his first day back after a decade or so he can run 6 laps to my half. Gamely I struggle to keep moving – I trot along for a few paces then walk and after an hour I get to 6 laps. Its time to go home and stuff myself with breakfast. I deserve it.
9 weeks to race day.
Its two months away and I can jog two laps without stopping. Then I alternate jogging and walking until I’ve done 8 laps. The sweat rolls off me in waves and the air is filled with my torturous breathing. The husband jogs circles around me of course and does at least 12 laps to equal my pitiful 8. I am in awe of the woman who effortlessly jogs six laps every morning without skipping a beat…and then strolls home looking like she went window shopping at the mall. I don’t get it. I’m younger and have fewer children than her but I can’t even grasp the possibility that I could ever jog 6 laps. I’m a loser. There’s no other explanation that comes to my sweat drenched brain as I chug and chuff my wobbly self around the track, each step more laborious than the next. Who’s dumb idea was this 10k thing anyway?
8 weeks to race day
Running is now a habit. We are waking at 5:45am, five days a week. We start by warming up with a brisk walk together. Without my glasses I can’t see much beyond my face so its comforting to feel his presence next to me. ( Lessens the chance of axe murderers creeping up behind my short sighted self…) There are dark blurry shapes of other joggers up ahead. We greet each other. Strangers in a fellowship of early morning running. The sun starts to burn the dark sky, and we can smell breakfasts cooking. We start the day together – alone – without any kids interruptions. In the car we chat about the day’s plans and compare our progress. I think I like this running thing.
I can jog 4 laps now without stopping. If I wasn’t so wasted when I was finished I would have felt on top of the world. I can do 4 laps I cheer silently…as the cool blonde lopes her way breezily past me. It kills – but I can do it! I am now doing 12 laps altogether, running 4 and then alternating with walking for the remainder. It takes me 41 minutes. The 10k is looking a bit more possible.
6 weeks to race day
We decide to get serious. “Food and running go hand in hand. If you don’t eat right, then you cant run right.” According to the experts, the following must now become staples of our diet – pasta, salmon, lite milk, fruits and vegies, steak, rye bread, shrimps… Oh how lovely, we need to take out an extra mortgage to afford to eat like this. By the third night, the children are complaining about the endless mounds of pasta – “but darlings, this is a different kind of pasta from last night! This one is green see?…: the bread ‘has too many seeds in it muuuuum!” and “how come we don’t eat dessert anymore?!” ( My thoughts exactly, as I chomp down murderously on another serving of cabbage.)
But no, we must persist. And if we are supposed to be eating healthy and loving it, then so can the children. No more McDonalds…no more baking 3 kinds of cookies… luscious peach crumbles or chocolate cakes. Out goes the Coco Pops and in comes the Weet Bix. Our new regime does have its benefits, among them being I have lost 10 pounds. The husband buys us the finest steak and crab, cooking them to perfection.
( Him cooking is a minor miracle in itself.) Eating and shopping has become a joint venture, a couple activity. We talk about what we are going to buy and how we should cook it. Its like the early married days – when we were poor students and every purchase was discussed and planned. I recommend every couple train for a 10k together.
5 weeks to race day
I run on the road for the first time. I’m scared. The sun is up, everyone is out and every eye will be on me…Im sure of it. I cant figure out what to wear. People will drive by and they’ll look at me huffing and puffing and they’ll laugh.( I’m thirty one years old and completely regressing to primary school mentality here!) What if I trip over in front of the Lighthouse where all the Happy Hour drinkers are? What if everyone recognizes me for what I am? An imposter, a cream bun, a nose in a book kind of girl who is masquerading as a runner? I don’t know if I can do this.
The family drop me off and go for ice cream. I start jogging to meet them about a mile away. He promises me that running on the road will be easier. Don’t worry he tells me – you’ll love it. Ha. I think I would prefer a double scoop of rum and raisin.
It’s a lovely sunny afternoon and a sea breeze blows in off the harbour. There’s masses of people on the sea wall – walking, playing rugby, sitting under trees…nobody and I mean nobody is running. Babies in strollers look at me funny as I pound past. Dogs look curiously at my flapping shorts and hopefully are not interested in my scrawny legs. Funnily enough, the fact that I’m the only one running – gives me a boost of confidence. Eat my dust walkers and sitters – Im running. I pass big ladies in tights and floppy t-shirts and I feel youthful and trim…heh, heh…never mind that its been 5 minutes now and I know I shall have to stop running soon in case I die. Yes! He was right. It is more fun to run on the road. There’s more to see. You’re going places. You don’t count every second and every raspy breath. There’s so much to see that you end up going further than you thought you would. As I run along the wall, the wind in my hair, waves crashing against the rock – I am filled with a sense of exhiliration. This is really me. I am a 31 year old creampuff, the mother of four children, and I am a runner.
1 week to race day
Today I try to run the whole course. The husband rides along side me on his bike to fend off dogs. I run 5 miles without stopping – that’s 20 laps around the track. Its surreal. I get to Aggies and I start to cry because Im so happy. I see the end and decide to speed up. Ignoring his warnings I accelerate coming off the bridge. My legs are powering themselves and I feel an incredible high as I sprint the last 50 metres. I slow to a stop and then it hits me. A wave of nausea and dizziness. The world spins, the sea roars in my ears and I start to throw up. Panic grips me cold and tight. I cant breathe, I cant move, I am choking on vomit. I feel like Im going to die. People drive by and think – there is another drunkie throwing up on the sea wall! The husband walks me slowly up and down, trying to calm me. He tells me I overdid it ( no kidding) and I am dehydrated. Learn from my mistakes all potential beginners – never speed up at the end of a long run and always make sure you drink lots of water!. Okay, so I messed up at the end…but I know now that I’m ready for the 10K!
Its arrived. I have new clothes for the occasion. (If I’m going to come last – then at least Im going to look good!) I have barely slept I am so nervous. The starting line is crowded with people of all ages and sizes. The race starts and Im away. I try to pace myself. The husband keeps reminding me to slow down. The slower you run – the further you can go. People cheer us on. I get to Millenia and I realize that this is actually fun. I didn’t need to be nervous. I’m afraid to push myself today though so at the 4 mile mark I slow down to walk. I get to Mulinuu and speed up to a run again. An eternity later I pull into sight of the finish line and the MC booms out my name and number. My family is waiting to cheer me on and to take photos of my sweaty self as I cross the line. I did it. I am proof that yes – a creampuff CAN run a 10k. And you know what’s even more unbelievable? I want to run it again and at a much faster time.
I invite all you other “creampuff” girls out there to join me!