My Romance With Running

Stories about running, as if you haven't heard enough from me already


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You’ll never be any good

The fun part of racing is the race. But what happens when you find yourself alone in the field? It stops being a race against the competition and becomes a battle with yourself.

It’s just a few minutes in to the event and you’ve slipped to a place in the field on your own, unable to keep up with anyone ahead as they speed away, racing hard with each other and leaving you in solitude.

Plodding away alone at the back, with nobody to chase and race, you start wondering what the point is, you wonder why you’re here, and that negative little voice starts to get louder and louder. This is pointless, what are you going to prove? You’re going to get lapped if you don’t hurry up!

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#ForeverAlone Photo by James Kuegler

I’ve had races that were physically tough, and mentally tough when I couldn’t hold the pace. But this one was a race that I almost talked myself out of finishing.

You don’t deserve to be here, you’re only here by default, because nobody else wanted to come. You’re embarrassing yourself, you’re not even close to being in the same league as these women, and you’ll never, ever be as good as them. This isn’t even a race for you! Tell me again, why are you here?

Why the fuck can’t you keep up? Because they have been running for longer than you. Because they train harder than you. Because they want it more than you. Because they have more talent. Because they are smart.

My loneliness was killing me

The loneliness of the solo race was killing me

Hey, you’re thinking like a loser, winners don’t have this attitude! Do you really think anyone else running or watching gives a shit about how fast you run? Do you think by not believing in yourself that you will get very far? Would that bad attitude have got you to the start line? For fucks sake, just get going. Don’t be a bitch, don’t think about pulling out. Leave your ego in the mud over there and keep running.

Keep moving your legs, keep pumping your arms, and think about why you’re here.

You’re here because you love running, because you love what it gives back to you. You’re here because you love the feeling of getting fitter and faster. You’re here because even though you knew you would be a lot slower than the ‘good’ runners, you still wanted to give it a go, to challenge yourself. You love the training, you love those free flowing hills, the ease at which you fly down the other side after grinding all the way up. You love that feeling, and that feeling didn’t come without a lot of hard work.

You’ve earned your right to be here, you’ve proved that you have potential. You should feel proud, you’re up against people that are a lot faster and stronger than you, and one day you might be running at their pace. Even if you aren’t going to pass anyone on course unless they pass out or break their leg, you’ve passed a lot of obstacles on your way to getting here. Tell yourself, you’re here because you love it.

I. Love. It. So. Much.

I. Love. It. So. Much.

Mindset in your training, and in your racing is important. It’s the difference between you having a good time or a bad time. It’s the difference between you failing and going home, or failing then getting back up again to do it tomorrow.

It helps to try and look at things from someone else’s perspective. I’ve never finished a race and thought, ‘Ha! Look at all those idiots running slower than I am, why did they bother to show up?’ Nobody thinks like that, but somehow you’re worried that they do!

When you’re having an rough patch in the middle of a race, a bit of positive self talk and a few encouraging words from friends can really turn things around. I’m always grateful for people who come to watch races, if you’re a spectator you’ve probably turned someone’s day around just by saying a few words.

Lap one Bye friends! Catch you later in the race!

Lap 1.5 Not fucking likely, buh bye.

Lap two Three laps to go. Not quite half way, just get to the end of the lap and you can pull out.

Lap three About 500m in the cheer squad of Wellington runners is on the strait and they are cheering for you. Come on Amanda, give us a grin! Are you laughing or crying? Go go go!

Crying. Definitely crying.

Crying. Definitely crying.

Lap four Paul is on the bend with his camera, click click click Great work Amanda!

Lap five The final lap. James is near the muddy straight, warming up for his own race, ‘Good job Amanda, push it ’till the end’

Your team mates are at the finish line ‘Nice one! I think we got a team medal!’

Your adoring family are waiting in the stands ‘We saw you do this massive snot rocket as you came past the grandstand. You’re disgusting. Great run.’

I wish I had something profound to write at this point but I don’t, so I will cheat by finishing with something somebody else wrote. After my race I got this email, I didn’t realise anyone knew how felt, thank you Paul Sharp.

Like you, I ran in the NZ XC champs yesterday. I watched the first 15 minutes of the Senior Women’s 10K and saw you complete two laps before we headed to the airport. Never easy, I thought, running solo in a race. But one man’s poison is another woman’s meat, and your My Romance with Running blog speaks of a human being and a runner with guts, resilience and spirit, and suggests that you simply just got on with it. You’re a star.


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Wellington Road Champs

The course is crap! It sucks! Hilly, out and back out and back, just a 2km loop. IN WAINUI! They have like, NO decent cafes in Wainui.

The Wellington Road running champs are held on a back road in the back of the back of nowhere every year in mid-August. This is an Athletics NZ race between the local clubs, and unlike Round The Bays or the Wellington Marathon this 10km race is small but it is fierce and the competition is a lot tougher.

Having just spent a month on holiday, then a few weeks just not training properly I had low expectations for this race. I bought myself a very large donut from Flight Coffee on my way out to Wainui and  I promised myself that if I came in the top five that I could eat the donut. It was almost the size of my hand, iced with chocolate on one side and icing on the other. It smelled good, it looked good, and I needed to earn it.

I warmed up for the race, realised I’d forgotten my timing chip among other things so rectified that and jogged over to the start line, putting myself next to Michelle Van Looy who had hickies all over her back, it was her anniversary she explained (It was needling :P).

The race started and Nicole Mitchell went off to run a solo race while seven or eight of us formed a little pod of 40-41 minute dolphins and chased and paced and ‘eeeeahahahehed’ each other up and down the course. The first kilometre is slightly uphill, then you go back down, so it’s a good 15 seconds difference in each lap for most people.

Photo bought to you by Sharon Wray, legs bought to you by Scottish Harriers

Photo bought to you by Sharon Wray, legs bought to you by Scottish Harriers

It’s a great course in that you can see exactly what place you are and wave at the leading ladies as you try not to get lapped by them. You can see who is strong on the up and down hill sections and bank this to use in the final lap. It’s also great for spectators who yell little bits of advice as you come past ‘Stay on them, speed up, don’t let her go’.

The dolphins started to drift apart around 6km in and I, being a social dolphin, stayed with the little pack because there is safety in numbers and I always worry about blowing up and not being able to finish. 1500m from the end I thought to myself, ‘This is a race Amanda, why are you being conservative, just race it!’ So I ran a little bit harder, managed to get ahead of the pod and move up four or so placings, I locked eyes on Lindsay who is the least donut-looking person I know but in that moment she became the target, the goal, the delicious baked good with two kinds of glazed icing rolling down the road in front of me. I managed to come in to finish in 5th place by only one second. The donut was mine.

Andrea thinks I’m a donut too

I improved my time ever so slightly from my last 10km race and ran 40.49 so panted and stumbled around the finish line telling anyone who would listen, limping slightly, and grinning about the baking I was going to eat. Full results are here!

Ayesha and Me

We stayed on to watch the men’s race, but they ran too fast for me to know what was going on or who was who except at the end when I thought Nick Horspool was smiling cheerfully as he went down the finishing chute to take the win. When I look back at the photos it was a bit of an Anthony Hopkins in the Shining smile rather than a happy smile. This tells me that we all do look super atheltic and awesome and happy when we run (in real life) and it’s just the photos that make everyone look murderous.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Donut
  • 14 second PB!
  • Battle scar
  • I BEAT CARL
  • Going to nationals this weekend

    How will I colour coordinate stained Nikes? 😭

    *If I had come sixth I would have still eaten the donut but would have salted it with my tears before consuming.


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NZ Half Marathon Championships

The night before a race is like the night before catching a flight to go on that holiday that you’ve been saving for months for. You’re afraid that you’ll sleep in and miss it, so your body wakes up every hour. You get stressed out that you’ll be too tired from not sleeping and not enjoy it as much, or that your glands are sore, your achilles is getting niggly, or that you’re going to be like that poor guy who shat himself during the marathon. Yes, that will be you. All of the above and MORE will happen to you, so panic now!

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Start line of the 2014 NZ Half Marathon Champs

The night before the race- Amanda the avid Rugby fan, like all other patriotic New Zealander’s watched the All Black’s test match. Coconut water in one hand, vege sausage rolls in the other, I sat facing the screen, resting my limbs and feigning interest in the wads of muscle hitting each other at speed while I imagined tomorrow’s run. My pre-race plan is to eat as if it’s your last meal, cram as much in as possible. Don’t eat Haribo Gummi bears or large quantities of raw fruit, just eat your normal dinner but a in a portion size equal to your bodyweight at 18months old (Consult your Plunket book for an accurate measure).

Morning of the race– Wake up an hour before your alarm goes off after your third dream about missing the start line or arriving there naked. Eat breakfast, for me this is porridge with chia seeds and all this other fancy organic stuff that I think I need but have no idea what benefits it actually gives me.

While the porridge is porridgeinating I make a plunger full of coffee. This part of my race prep is critical. Half way in to your coffee (Which you alternate with mouthfuls of porridge and bits of a sudoku) the time will come. It’s always just as your porridge is the perfect temperature, just as you’re cracking the hard part of the sudoku, the coffee starts to move. From this point you have exactly 45 seconds in which to down spoon, get to the bathroom, and pull down your pyjama pants.

Getting all your business done well before the start gun goes off is essential so that you have peace of mind while running in your yellow pants. If you aren’t a coffee person then perhaps go the other way and have an immodium if you’re worried.

I was really confident going in to this race. I hadn’t raced a half marathon since running this exact event a year ago, and that still stands as the worst race I’ve ever run. I learned many valuable lessons in last year’s half marathon. I went out too fast, I was coming off an injury and had done one 7km run in the month leading up to the event, I wore the wrong clothes in the wrong order, and perhaps the biggest and most painful lesson was that I didn’t cut my toenails before the race. Bloody hell, it hurt.

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Post-race in 2013, bleeding toes, could barely walk!

This year my friend Chan offered to pace me. He wasn’t too fussed about getting the best possible time, and for me this run was about getting the little things right and pacing myself. What I think Chan actually wanted was a posse to run with to bear witness to his popularity. Me and another man who was dressed a little like Papa Smurf were Chan’s bridesmaids as he paraded around the bays, us tucked behind him as he gracefully put one foot in front of the other, waving, and smiling for the cameras, ‘Hi Chan!’ ‘Nice running Chandima’, Gooooo Chan!’.

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We planned to run the first half at 4.15mins/km and stick with the the 90min group. We went out a bit faster than than that and just focused on keeping a steady rhythm. There was a bit of wind as we headed out and we tactfully tucked in behind people so that they took the brunt of it. As we came to Cog Park an escaped lunatic dressed in a skeleton onesie leapt up and down and yelled ‘Go Broughty!’, Laura Shields you are amazing!

I had some Powerade at the 8km aid station then we continued to the half way point, it was pretty easy and we chatted about… RUNNING, would you believe. The crazy men that can run under 70 minutes were already flying back past us here and looking really determined. We continued to look as photogenic as ever in our bridal procession.

 

Me, Chan and Papa Smurf just past 8km's. Photo by Yuliya Bozhko

Me, Chan and Papa Smurf just past 8km’s. Photo by Yuliya Bozhko

The second half of the course after the tun around is always the best part! You know you’re over half way, and you get to see everyone on your way back and yell and wave at them because they are so happy to see that you have 7km’s to go and they have 14 🙂 I felt a bit tired here so had some raspberry Cliff Gel which stuck all over my fingers.

One more Powerade to wash this down, and a cup of water which I shoved my hand in to to get rid of raspberry residue and we were in to the final 5kms. For the first time in my life, the last 5km felt like a breeze. We saw another female up ahead and worked on passing her. We were easily holding 4min/kms with the tail wind and started to pass a few people. It’s such a great feeling to be doing negative splits, going faster in your second half being only a few km’s from the finish line.

I passed a guy running the marathon that I had seen doing the Tarawera, he always magically appears in that point of the race when you’re trying to find anything you have left to get you over the line as quickly as possible. ‘How are you doing?’ ‘Really good!’ Running up the final ramp I weaved through the 10km walkers and could see the giant digital clock in sight. 1.27.15 it said. I was stoked, better get across that line within the next 45 seconds so I can claim 1.27! I’m good at the sprint finish, I have a secret weapon for such intense moments, a giant vein on the right side of my temple. It comes out at key moments in my life, and only when cameras are involved.

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My final finish time was 1.27.55, with a mat time of 1.27.48. That’s a 7minute PB on last year’s run!

What I loved about this race was seeing people I’ve met through my club, through the gym and those familiar faces you see on your regular runs, all out there giving it a go. I’m a lot more in tune with my body now than I was a year ago. I know how hard I can push myself, I know when I’m too tired, too thirsty, and if it’s my legs or my lungs that are fatigued.

Full results are here! Getting under 90 minutes with this race also means I get an Athletics New Zealand ranking, which is pretty cool. I look forward to chasing a faster time later this year and perhaps getting closer to 26.

WINNER! The prize was an expired Powerade, I was elated!

WINNER! The prize was an expired Powerade, I was elated!

What I did right!

  • I competitively ate the night before the race so that I had enough energy for the race
  • I cut my toenails
  • Even though it was cold, I wore a singlet, you always warm up after 10minutes
  • I worked with someone, this is great for staying on track and sticking to your plan. Having that person say ‘Come on you can do this, it’s not as hard as Tarawera’ is a real help!

How I can improve for next time

  • I ran the Rimutaka rail trail a week before this, all 34kms of it. It was fun, but my legs were still feeling it a week later. I should stick to the program. But there was a waterfall! Stick to the program.
  • Match my yellows better, it’s all or nothing here, sunshine yellow and Scottish Gold was a bit risky, next time we’ll go for black shorts and perhaps a crop top to keep my chest from hitting my chin.
  • Try harder! I need to lose my fear of blowing up and not having the energy to cross the line, I think If I can manage 3.50min/kms at the end I could have given a little more effort earlier on

P.S This race doubled as the NZ Half Marathon Championships. I came 13th female overall, and 8th in the Championship. The Scottish Senior women also took out the team competition.