Does it not get boring doing the same few races year after year?
After a couple of seasons doing harriers races, I did start to question whether or not they were still fun, if I should be looking further afield, doing something more exciting, running in beautiful locations or aiming for big overseas events with huge crowds, amazing busy atmospheres and shiny race medals.
For me the harrier’s races serve as a reference point, I remember the previous years and how my performances improved, or didn’t. How I nailed the water jump, or panicked and fell in. The races are a tradition in the running community, some have been held for the past thirty years, others for over 90.
Running the same race is a chance to see how far you’ve come, how your training has progressed, if you’ve gained some speed or perhaps made the ‘A’ team!
I look forward to the harriers races, I get to see my mates and the many colourful personalities and friendly faces of the running community, all gathered to celebrate the sport we love. We come together to run, to encourage each other to push hard, to yell a warning as a competitor sneaks up, and snort with satisfaction when someone inevitably takes a dive into the Milo-brown pond that is the water jump.
The Shaw Baton relay is the first inter-club race of the season. There is always an epic bake sale put on by Olympic Harriers, stinky tents full of half naked runners, sheep, plenty of sheep shit, long Port-a-loo lines and, Rees Buck’s banter on the microphone, whats not to like?
This year being back on the same patch of sheep poo-speckled grass with many of the same people brought back lots of memories of previous races, especially one.
2015 wasn’t the first time I had been in the ‘A’ team at Shaw Baton but I was so incredibly nervous about the day. I always get nervous (sometimes very) before a race, but I was especially anxious about this one.
I don’t remember many specifics from the day other than running around at the changeover, taking times for my team and chatting to people. I do remember how I felt. I was happy, I was enjoying time with my friends, I was excited and I was having fun. I was proud of my run, getting the 8th fastest lap time, and I was really stoked that my team won our grade by a full minute!
My team had finished and I was still running around, talking with friends in the crowd, discussing the jumps, comparing times, congratulating the ‘other’ teams who might wear different singlets but we all run together anyway. I hadn’t done a cool down yet and was roaming around finding friends to join me on a half-assed jog around the paddock.
I remember quite clearly the joy I felt that day, because I remember the moment that it was gone.
I could spot from a distance, moving through the crowd with clenched hands, and the darkest look on their face, my ride home. The happy girl, proud of her race became tense and worried.
What have you been fucking around at? I’ve been looking for you. There is no cellphone service here, but I bet you knew that didn’t you? Hurry up and get to the car.
I left. I wasn’t there for the prize giving when my name was called. I didn’t get to stand up and collect my little wooden baton with the silver plaque on it. I had somewhere else that I needed to be. This pointless race that I had done, around a stupid paddock to win a stupid stick, had ruined someone else’s day.
The ride home was in silence. I really wanted to celebrate but that would have to wait until another day, some things are more important.
This year when I finished my relay lap I felt proud of my race again. I knew we weren’t in contention for that ‘stupid stick’ with the plaque this year, but that didn’t matter. I got to have my cool down run this time and went up Battle Hill, exploring a new path, up high with views back down over the course. Tiny runners in yellow, green, black and blue moved as little dots through the grass below. I took my time and stayed up the hill a while for some time to myself, even though someone was waiting for me.
How was your run? What time did you do? Awesome, is that good (for you) hah! Is the ankle ok? Do you want a sausage, I’ve got $20! Let’s go and watch the men’s race, it starts in ten minutes.
I took my time chatting to friends. I went to the bake sale table not twice but THRICE and ate brownies, scones, cupcakes and fudge because running 2km really takes it out of you!
I sat in the long damp grass near the water and cheered for the men as they raced and splashed their way over the same course I had run an hour earlier.
Nothing was so important that I had to wait until a time that suited everyone to talk about how my run had played out. Nothing was so important, that I couldn’t celebrate with my friends. Other than the pre-race nerves, nothing made me anxious or tense, I felt happy, content and relaxed, as I should.
If I look at my times for this race, not much has changed over the past five years. I might be a tiny bit faster. My ankles are still strapped for every race, and every year my facials get a little more aggressive and murderous.
I’m happy to be running the same race on the same course every year because it gives me an opportunity to reflect and see that it’s not just seconds, minutes, or miles that can show me how far I’ve come.