The first was running the City to Bay. For those who don’t live in Adelaide, the City to Bay is an iconic Adelaide run which stretches 12km down Anzac Highway between Adelaide’s CBD and the Glenelg jetty. This run has been on my bucket list for what seems like an eon and after taking up running I’d decided that this year was going to be the year I put a big fat tick next to this item on the list.
Things had been going well training-wise. I’d accomplished several official 10km events in 2014 and by mid-August was regularly punching out 10-11km runs each weekend. Then the wheels fell off. I got busy with writing work, my running buddy caught the flu and to be honest I just stopped. My RunKeeper app resorted to emotional blackmail and started sending me emails about feeling rejected. By the time the City to Bay rolled around it had been just over five weeks since I’d pulled on my running shoes. I could feel Brown Owl, my old Brownie Guide leader, turning in her grave. So much for Be Prepared.
The other event was a speaking engagement I’d been asked to do at a church service. Yep. You read that correctly. It turns out that this week in the church calendar focuses on celebrating creation and the lovely Rev. Christine Gilbert from St Andrews By The Sea at Glenelg had heard my Poetica interview and thought I’d be an interesting person to have speak to her congregation about environmentalism and nature poetry.
So with both these events looming it turns out that the speaking gig had me far more anxious than the thought of running 12km with no training. This translated, in terms of time management, to me putting my efforts into preparing and practicing what I was going to say and the poems I would read rather than hitting the asphalt with my feet. As I was pacing around the living room Saturday night my husband was shaking his head in disbelief that I was worrying about a speaking gig the night before attempting to make my body run non-stop for 12km.
The Big Day dawned. My husband dropped me off saying he was proud of me for even attempting the run in my current condition. I found a place well back amid the throng of Adelaide’s fittest and fastest. This was the biggest crowd I’d ever been in – which is quite a sad thing to admit as an activist – even the anti-war protests of the 1990s didn’t come close to this. There were even costumes – Batman and Boba Fett made appearances and Morris Dancers and cheerleaders entertained us en route.
But to the point – which is that I managed to run the entire distance though sheer force of will and an embarrassing internal litany of positive affirmation. So it turns out that it is indeed possible to force yourself beyond the point of physical exhaustion using the power of your mind. (Now I just need to apply this discovery to completion of my PhD.) That said, a bit a physical preparation and training would actually be a better, wiser and easier way to go.
Then, well before my body was ready, it was time for church. I frocked up (fortunately talking myself out of a big hat) and headed down to Glenelg for the second time that day. I must admit to being extremely nervous. Despite being raised an Anglican it had been a long time since I’d attended a service and combined with having to speak to a congregation the tension was twisting my gut into a knot worthy of a sailor.
Here’s the part of the day that would’ve made my Brown Owl proud – the preparation paid off (with a great deal of help from the wonderful Rev. Christine Gilbert who interviewed me with the grace and style of an ABC professional). The congregation were attentive, made me feel incredibly welcome and while I wasn’t perfect, I wasn’t terrible either. In fact, it was significantly easier than forcing my legs to cover 12 kilometres that they weren’t ready for.
Brown Owl, I hear you. Lesson learned.