Vending machines give out heat! Who knew? Shivering alone on the train platform at 7:10 am on a Sunday morning (my iPhone says it is 5 degrees), I discover this wondrous fact. I huddle in close.
I am not usually out so early. I watch the sliver of moon aligned with two brilliant stars, delighted by this unexpected bounty.
Twenty minutes until the train to the city. It is Run Melbourne day.As I wait, the sky lightens, and people begin to gather on the platform. Some have the tell-tale pacing chip attached to their shoes that identifies them as Run Melbourne runners. We’re all similarly attired, though some of us push baby strollers, and others giggle with friends. Today, I am alone, my family planning to join me after the race.
The train, when it arrives – exactly on time, what delight! – is warm. I don’t remove any layers though – I’m soaking up the heat to save for later. The train fills rapidly with other runners. I note them as they enter. Among this crowd, I feel at home, with our Garmin watches and heart-rate monitors, our 2XU running tights, and technical windbreakers.
For me, this is the siren song, this racing. It is the one thing that will make me set the alarm for 6 or 5 or in one case 3 am. Racing. Running amongst a crowd of strangers. Finding new, inspiring places that I’d never otherwise get to see.
But this is my fourth time doing Run Melbourne. I’ve seen the scenery, run the course. For this particular race, it is something else that keeps drawing me back.
My first time was in 2009. I’d been in Melbourne for just over a year, and in that year, I had lost a bit of myself. I was busy parenting my two young children, learning how to cook, learning how to live a suburban lifestyle for the first time. I’d last raced in a Sprint Adventure Race in Hong Kong, in 2007, on Lamma Island. That race felt a lifetime away. In 2009, my half-hour trip to Melbourne alone was an epic journey.
I don’t recall the race much. What I do recall is the finish area at Federation Square. Having just completed the race, I was on a runner’s high, and was relishing the fact that I’d finally carved out some time for myself. The band was playing, and I was wandering around, soaking up the atmosphere, not really listening. Then they began playing this song called End of the Line, by The Travelling Wilburys. It began like this: “Well, it’s all right, riding around in the breeze, well, it’s all right, if you live the life you please…”
And so on. I stood very still and listened. My vision blurred. For the first time in a very long time, it suddenly was all right.
In 2010, I remember Faulkner Park as a highlight, the green, the live music, being astounded that the race took me to this lovely park I’d never imagined I’d get to run in.
2011? I ran it for my daughter. She was five then, and asked me to get her the medal they give out at the end of the race. She wore it all through brunch, proudly displaying it to neighbouring tables.
This year? I wasn’t sure why this year. Perhaps it was the music. The crowds. The feeling of homecoming.
It turned out to be the 2nd kilometre. You see, I’d been training solely on trails, preparing for the Salomon Trail Series. On trails, speed takes a back seat to not tripping over.
In Run Melbourne, to be on the road again was an awakening. I’d been practicing forefoot and barefoot running, so was already dancing light on my feet. As I ran, loving the chance to simply run as fast as I could, I noticed the 2nd kilometre was slightly, oh, ever-so-slightly, cambered downhill. Suddenly, I was back in Hong Kong, flying down Old Peak Road, where I’d learned downhill running. I felt the road beneath me: nothing hurt. I just let loose. My legs flew over and over, dancing on air. I couldn’t run fast enough; I felt airborne. At the end of that kilometre, my watched beeped the lap time: 4:13. Far too fast for me on a 10k course, but the delight was worth it.
Run Melbourne: the crowds; the music; the feeling of being one with 10,000 other runners, all come for the same feeling.
Each year, this race gives me a new reason to return.
This year, it was the 2nd kilometre.