New Oceans

I set out to run 13 km this morning, using my Garmin watch to get the exact distance to the halfway point.  What I didn’t realise was where that would take me.

I’ve run this trail dozens of times, but not so far, and not from this starting point.  It was a cold day, one of the first I’ve left my orange long-sleeved top on.  But after the first two kilometres, I was warm and content.  The Coastal Trail requires attention, criss-crossed as it is with tree roots, studded with small ankle-twisting rocks.  There are a few minor downhills that allow me to dance, reminding me of Hong Kong trails but on a smaller scale.

I run and run, racing my fears, my worries, outdistancing them in a pair of Asics and a jog-bra.  I am happiest when the trail requires one-hundred percent attention, when getting caught up in the rumblings of my own mind would mean a face-plant.  I’ve done that before, lulled by an easier section to relax my vigilance, suddenly tripping and slamming face-first into the dirt.  Nothing makes me wake up like this, reminds me to focus on the now, and not on when the car insurance is due.

Today, when the watch beeps just five kilometres, I realise I’ve hit the end of the trail I know, and keep running.  It is a mini-adventure now.  Moments later my lovely track ends, and I am funneled onto the concrete bike track that runs beside the busy road.  Despair. But surely it can’t continue like this.  I have faith, keep running.  Two hundred metres on, there is a gap in the fence, a set of steps down.  I follow them, dancing downwards.

At the bottom, I arrive at the beach, look around, and see a sign that reads Rickets Point Marine Sanctuary.  No way!  I’ve driven here, cycled here, but never ever thought I could run here, run this far.  The waves break on the beach, white foam and joy, for me and one single walker with a brown dog.  I continue on until I hit my 6.5 km turnaround, and spin on the spot to sprint back down the beach.

I’ve just dedicated the rest of this run to adventure, to new trails, to new sights.  I don’t climb back up to my usual trail.  Instead, I run along beaches I’ve only seen from cliff tops, thick sand shifting away beneath me.  A coastal rock section recalls the terrain of the Lorne Adventure Race, and I move carefully in my thin running shoes.  When my son was five, we walked this rocky section, looking for and finding dinosaur skeletons in the rocks.  I smile at the memory.  I’ve never taken the time to run these rocks before.

The sand is thicker on the next beach, testing my endurance as I hit the ten kilometre mark.  I spot a steep uphill, leading back to my tree-lined track and dash up it, calves aching.  Compared to the sand, the dirt track feels easy now, and I increase my pace.  My eyes are drawn to the peace of the harbour, as always.  I let a familiar phrase run through my mind, from a poster I bought shortly after moving to Australia:  You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.

Today, the new ocean has been just a few footsteps further along the trail.

How often this is true.

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