In a bubble..yay
Reflections from the P plater
7 Principles behind my perfect experience
- Professionalism – I was coached by a seasoned expert, Joe Ward, who had even made the Australian team by the time my marathon training had finished!
- Process and partnership -I understood and surrendered to the process in partnership with my trusted coach.
- Preparation, patience, perseverance, and positivity- attributes of all distance runners and indeed of achievement in a broader context. There are no short cuts. Perseverance comes naturally to me but patience certainly doesn’t. I have a strong mind. Another P is the mono-diet of mashed potatoes 48 hours before the event!
- Power of prayer -I prayed, gave thanks, and had been sure to enlist “prayer cover”.
- Places – I had always wanted to run a marathon in a place where I had an emotional connection. London or Sydney were my picks. I had the opportunity to plot my route which started on the iconic Harbour Bridge (by my church) and then wended its way around the stunning Northern Beaches (and even right past my home there) to finish just beyond the Oceanides statue (which has personal meaning) at my swimming playground of Shelly Beach.
- PEOPLE – above all, I was well and truly blessed by sharing my journey with so many gorgeous and generous souls and derived meaning by raising money for premature babies. Let’s hear it for “Girl Power!”
- Playful participation and perfection – I chose to see my run as an extended playtime where I had stepped off the sidelines to embrace a challenge and to participate fully in the game of life. It was a celebration of friendships. Completion rather than a set time was my goal.
These Ps culminated in a PERFECT day.
I have savoured writing the run report below – enjoy with a cuppa.
Marathon Day – 1st August 2020
I had a restless night but was fully prepared for this and remembered the advice not to worry as I was still resting my body. I decided that I would turn it to my advantage. Joe had told me to eat a mono-diet of mashed potatoes and to drink lots of electrolytes for 48 hours ahead of the run. I’d almost finished my 2kg bag of potatoes (for reference, that’s a lot) but had a little left. What a slow-release opportunity I thought as I had a few mouthfuls at 2am and 4am!
I was feeling 90% excited and 10% nervous. I had complete faith in Coach Joe Ward’s marathon training programme which I had followed to the letter. Afterall, he has oodles of experience and is now on the Australian team. I felt fully prepared and raring to go. I was reminded of exam days when I had everything stuffed in my head and wanted to find freedom by releasing the information on to the page.
The excitement came from the fact that I was on the cusp of fulfilling a long-held dream. Furthermore, this had already morphed beyond a physical and mental challenge into something much broader and deeper. It was a celebration of my journey from London to Sydney and the sense of belonging I have after five years here. Like marathon training, patience is required as it takes time to build friendships. I had joined MBRC as a social runner and while it took time to forge relationships these have blossomed over time. I love the banter and camaraderie and the running is ok too ?
Coach Joe Ward says that it takes a village to raise a runner. Precisely. During my training programme, I had the pleasure of being accompanied on all of my Saturday long slow training runs by Jane and Nic. These runs deepened our friendship. We had ever longer conversations plus the essential post-run coffees. I drew immense pleasure from their offer to run the first 17km (oops I tricked them into 21km) with me. How amazing to be with my Saturday training buddies. Kathryn, Paula, and Veronika also pounded the pavements in support of my training and provided great company. I had every reason to feel excited as the offers of support I received were beyond my wildest dreams – Ainslie, Bev, Heather, Kathryn, Kirst, Lee, Lou, Michele, Nick, Paula, Raels, Robyn, Suzie and Veronika all jumped on board and Lainey was with me in spirit but had FOMO as she was away. Beyond surprising, I call it divine, when I was having a coffee with the girls shortly before my run and one of them volunteered to take care of logistics. Imagine receiving this offer and replying: “thank you very much, that’s incredibly kind….what’s your name?”. The kindness of strangers is so special and I feel blessed to have met my Angel (aka Deanna Waters the tri logistics expert). She had all the fuel stops worked out to perfection and had even conveyed my co-running rules (positive chat and don’t ask how far I’ve been or if my knee hurts – bossy me).
I had planned my route carefully. I had initially intended to finish at the Opera House but revised this when Michelle wisely recommended that I reverse the route and finish close to home. Then, on one of my recce runs, I discovered just how many steps there are from the Opera House to the Harbour Bridge. I certainly wasn’t looking for more elevation and decided to start on the Harbour Bridge itself. This felt fitting as it’s iconic, is just by Church by the Bridge which I belong to, and the start would coincide with sunrise, adding to the beauty. It was exciting and reassuring that I had run all parts of my “foot-picked” route, virtually all of which is stunning.
Making the run bigger than me was important. I had opted to support the charity Running for Premature Babies. This has family significance and I knew that club member, Dan, and Helen had twins Finn and Asher, the surviving twin. The generosity of donors was wonderful. I knew that this would power my legs.
Turning to the 10% nervousness. A first marathon is always going to be a bit daunting. The longest training run is 32km and there’s a little mind play associated with the missing 10km. I drew confidence from the fact that my legs had felt fine over 32km and time had whizzed by thanks to the great company. I had felt a little light-headed afterwards though. I knew therefore that I needed to supplement Tailwind with some bulky food. My new Cliff Bar, marmite (scraped from a jar from the UK) sandwiches and bananas regime was untested. The advice not to change anything on race day couldn’t be adhered to. I also had a slightly strange concern. My training programme seemed to have been unduly smooth and I hadn’t been truly tested. Apart from a couple of early and pre-emptive trips to see Kieran about my foot and then stubbing my toe on the beach (ouch) I had been injury-free and able to take all the training in my stride. In the dark recess of my mind lurked the unfounded fear that shingles which had prevented me from running in Queenstown might return.
All of these thoughts must have receded as I fell asleep before getting up at 5am. I had a relaxing bath, ate my crumpets with honey, had yet more electrolytes, FaceTimed my father in the UK, tried but missed my sister, Helen, and put on a CD of Compline from the Abbey I go to as retreatant. This was very centring and I knew that my church friends and sister, Sarah, were praying for me. I felt unexpectedly calm and confident. I drew strength from the fact that I know that I am never alone. In my back pocket I was carrying a tiny sprig of rosemary for remembrance (for my mother and premature babies in particular), an orange Rowntrees’ fruit gum (my mother’s favourite – Sarah had located some big packets here...yay), Psalm 19:1 which encapsulates many training runs (“The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship”) and a couple of Panadol Extra ?
Nic, Jane, and V arrived, and just as Deanna pulled up Helen FaceTimed to wish me good luck. Off we whisked to Kirribilli. The morning was crisp, and the sky was gorgeous. Time for a quick photo in front of the Opera House, then after meeting Ross from church, another photo on the bridge, I looked at the glorious sunrise, said Psalm 19:1, pressed my Garmin 'go' button and the carnival began.
The bridge run was fantastic – flat and in such an iconic location against the backdrop of sunrise. It doesn’t get much better than that. I drank in the Opera House, the ferry, still water, and the sky. We ran at a comfortable pace and I felt huge reassurance from the presence of Jane and Nic as the pace in our training runs had been incredibly consistent. Ross and V added to the delight. 'Favourites' was my theme - what is your favourite meal, holiday, book,or…? I spent 7km on the bridge on purpose – I wanted this view by my church while acknowledging that seven is a spiritual number. I thought of Sarah and her Seven Sacred Pauses book. I have since learnt that the number seven is associated with completeness and perfection (both physical and spiritual). How fitting.
The next time I looked at my watch (19km in) we had met Deanna for a fuel stop at Stanton Road, had made my first reference to a podcast to live up to my reputation (adversity isn’t enough to gain resilience it has to be transformed by meaning-making), been boosted by seeing Robyn and Deanna at The Spit and had run past my unit in Fairlight. Back on home territory on a glorious day, we marvelled at the luck of living here. As we rounded Ashburner Road we had the heart-warming sight of Helen, Dan, and precious baby Asher.
It was time for the baton to be handed over. I knew that I would have some company but the next dream team convoy stationed at MLSC was a battalion. Suzie proffered me refreshments, Nick carried my water, and then it was up and away to greet all that Darley Road has to offer. Essentially this is a grinding gradient but one which we have conquered many times before – slow and steady is the way. Soon we (Lee, Lou, Kathryn, Michele, Michelle, Nick, Raels, and I ) were at the top and the entertainment began. A car was parked strategically with a Keep Calm Carry on Running message on it, then one roared past with a lady (sic) who will remain nameless leaning out of the window displaying a sign encouraging me to cavort. This was again encouraged by a Scottish lady (sic) who again shall remain nameless and other body parts got a mention too. Shameless, I say. Meanwhile, I was running serenely in pursuit of further education courtesy of Raels as quiz-mistress. What's the longest word in the English language with only one vowel? It’s STRENGTH. What a powerful question posed just at the right time. If you’ve ever been wondering, the collective noun for owls is a parliament, frogs an army, and my local favourites, for stingrays it's a fever and it's a prickle of echidnas.
I knew that my sister, Sarah, and her husband Rod would be at North Head. I was certainly looking forward to seeing them! We had discussed this in the military planning phase and agreed that it would be too emotional seeing each other sooner. Sarah was armed with the perfectly ripe bananas I had requested. I felt 'spoilt rotten' as we say in my family to have so many people pandering to my every fuel want and cheering me along.
The sky was bright blue. I spotted a lovely New Holland Honeyeater silhouetted against the sky. This prompted a guessing game. What interest do Michelle and I share? Answer – ornithology. On we went, doubling back to the North Head roundabout, to the lookout again and then the reward of a downhill swoop. I love downhill. Joe was waiting on the corner of Darley Road. I suspect that he was wondering where I’d got to since I’d added in a little bit extra distance at North Head as I thought that psychologically it would be good to have 30km under my belt before the last segment. A quick loo stop and 2 Panadol Extras later we were cruising along the Steyne towards Queenscliff. Joe told me to soak it all in. He had very kindly offered to run all 42km but I knew that the most valuable time would be the last leg when I could rely on his pacing, conversation, and experience to drag me along if necessary. In the event, I felt amazingly strong having been carried along by the carnival atmosphere and mind-boggling support. On reaching the steep Queensie steps I walked, as planned. Joe kindly volunteered that this was the right thing to do. Arriving at Freshie we were greeted by the best mobile support mob who made their presence well and truly known. On to Curly Joe and I went, turning back at the car park barrier, as planned on the training runs. The waves were rolling in gently and all felt well with the world (and my legs). Arriving back at Freshie I spotted that my nephew, Will, had joined the support crew – he had texted me on Friday telling me that all that mattered was what was between my ears – young folk know a thing or two. Ainslie and Heather popped up and off we set for the homeward stretch.
The Curly run is my favourite. The very best bit is when all the climbing has been done and Manly beach below beckons. I felt a surge of excitement and was encouraged by Joe to make a push along the Steyne. Try stopping me I thought. Martin from the swim club provided encouragement and a bicycle escort. My pace quickened in the absence of any complaining body parts and there we were at MLSC in a flash - my last 2.5km were my fastest. Now was the time to dodge the pedestrians and race off to Shelly. I’d earlier shown Joe my watch but told him that I didn’t want to know my distance. Neither of us was sold on pulling up at 41.1k. He joked that he’d just make me run uphill to finish. Having surrendered fully to his advice for weeks I had a lapse, or I like to think of it as intuition, when I decided to double back a bit at the Oceanides statue. This has special meaning for my sister, Sarah, and me. Guess what? As I turned, I was greeted by Sarah scampering along from the Bower. As photographer-in-chief she had the task of getting ahead of me. I wasn’t going to slow down for anyone. I chuckled as I told Joe that the sight of Sarah running would go down in the family annals.
WOW – I was greeted at the finish line by the best support crew ever including baby Asher. I barely looked at my watch – 4hrs 45m 30 secs 42.57km for the record. Flowers, a card, champagne, music, hugs (please don’t arrest me), laughter, smiles – pure joy, jubilation, and gratitude engulfed me.
Heartfelt thanks to the many people who co-created my special experience and generously donated to Running for Premature Babies. I’ll treasure memories of my running journey with and in a truly outstanding village.
Thank you to my Sponsors
Manly Beach Running Club
Helen, Dan, Asher & Finn Xxx
Coles Super Market
Lainey De Jager