A couple of weeks ago, I completed my last race for the running season – one that is winding down as the temperature in Australia is heating up.
It was a half-marathon around the sporting complex which hosted the Year 2000 Sydney Olympics, with runners crossing the finish line inside the main stadium. And I was determined to cross that finish line, after the spectacular failure to reach the end in my last race.
As usual though, the desire to run a good race did not interfere with my habit of people-watching during the event. And it was a smorgasboard on that day, with the splendid spring weather bringing out some wonderful characters to gawk at.
To begin with, there was the short, skinny guy whose afro was anything but. He had a running style which mimicked Pepe le Pew, the Warner Bros French skunk, bouncing up and down with little care in the world. Despite the appearance, however, he was deceptively fast – so much so that I tried to overtake him a couple of times but all to no avail. When he eventually surged away from me at the 4km mark, I clocked him at 4.02 mins/km on my Garmin – not bad for someone whose afro would have been a genuine drag on the aerodynamics.
Soon, as I invariably do during races, I found a very attractive woman to run next to. She gave me a nod, I gave her one back and we started chit-chatting about our pace and what we were aiming for in terms of time. It turns out that our PBs were very similar and it occurred to me that she may be a very pleasant companion for the remaining 15km of the half-marathon, even if it means I may be a couple minutes short of my goal.
That was until she decided at one point to use her left thumb to press close her left nostril and blow out an impressive quantity of snot from her right one. That was the end of that! Call me superficial, but seeing a beautiful woman do something that’s usually reserved for a caveman like myself was just too much to stomach. A minute or so later, I wished her luck and gradually strode ahead of her.
At the 12km mark, I was joined by an intimating gang of runners who were all proudly wearing the Sydney Striders singlets. For those who are not familiar with the running scene here, Sydney Striders is a well-known road-running club whose members almost always run in packs. To me, they resemble the Gambino crew of the New York underworld kind but, instead of guns and suits, they strut around with gels and singlets.
Anyway, there I was, amidst this illustrious company, refusing to let them overtake me. Then, all of a sudden, one of the lead runners in the pack (I guess he was the Capo of the crew) yelled out “It’s time to pick up the pace, fellas!” And, with that, they left me in their dust, clutching at their tailwind and wondering why they didn’t wanna play with me. Perhaps one day I will try to get the Consigliere of the club to help me arrange a ‘sit-down’ with the Don of Sydney Striders. That way, I can find out what rituals I must perform to be ‘made’. Maybe I need to whack a couple of sub-90 min half-marathons to be accepted? I don’t know.
Just after the 16km mark, there was a water station where volunteers lined up with cups in hand, ready for the runners to snatch them as they run by.
“Water?“, I inquired.
“Yes!“, a little girl no more than 7 or years old finally replied.
So I grabbed the cup on the run from her and immediately poured it on top of my head for some cooling down. Unfortunately, when the liquid dribbled down to my lips, I realised that it wasn’t water that I just showered on myself, but Gatorade. I had no choice but to turn quickly back to the station so as to wash off the uncomfortable stickiness. To her credit, the little girl who mistakenly gave me the wrong beverage was already waiting for me, holding a large plastic jug of water with a sheepish look on her face. She dumped the whole content on the top of my head and must have apologised 5 or 6 times.
Ordinarily, I would have given someone who just made me a running Gatorade advertisement a serious piece of my mind. But the little sweet girl was so cute and so remorseful, I just gave her a wink and a high-five – a gesture that seemed to immediately put her at ease, judging by her radiant smile.
I eventually finished the half-marathon in 94 minutes. While it was far from being a PB, I was very pleased with the effort. It felt like true redemption after the fiasco of the last outing – one that was, funnily enough, partly caused by excessive consumption of Gatorade. This time, instead of drinking it during the race, I wore it. Perhaps that made all the difference.
So that brings the curtain down on another running season. Many highlights, many lowlights and certainly never a dull moment. I will, of course, continue to jog for relaxation purposes whenever the weather permits in the scorching heat that is the Australian summer. But with opportunities to run and think likely to be few and far in between, I may struggle to keep up the consistency of this little journal.
Then again, it may not be a bad thing for the Jogging Dad to have a little off-season when it comes to blogging, especially with the silly Christmas season just around the corner.
Keep on pounding.