Team Inspiration: how to run an ultramarathon

Okay, so I’m sometimes impulsive.  Life will go along smoothly for years and years, I’ll have coffee at the same restaurant each day, ride to the gym the same way, sit in the same spot in our living room.  Then, all of a sudden, I must have change.

This time it began with my hair.  For the last few years, I’ve worn it long, lanky, hanging below my shoulders.  Low-maintenance.  I’d tell Paul, my hairdresser, the main thing was it had to be able to be tied up in a ponytail, so it didn’t annoy me when I ran.

But one day, Paul convinced me to have it layered.  He’d told me to use hairclips, but my daughter found my hairclips, and they vanished.  Those bits of hair that didn’t fit the ponytail hung out as I lifted weights, they stuck out like wings, making me feel unkempt and unattractive.  For three years, I fought with that style, hating it.  Was it coincidence that those three years lined up with the three years we’d been back in Australia, after leaving Hong Kong?  The three years where I lost my way a bit, wearing jeans with a hole in the knee, and too many layers because I didn’t know where to buy warm clothes?

Well, one day, I said, enough.  I visited Paul, and said, “Please, cut my hair short.” “How short are we talking?” he said.  “The last time you said that you screamed when you felt my cold scissors on the back of your neck.”  “Short.  Short as you can,” I said.  The hair fell away, snip, snip, snip.  It covered the floor around the chair.  I was surprised there was so much of it.  When it was gone, I smiled.  I felt like I’d got away with something slightly forbidden.  At school pickup, friends looked astonished.  “You look like another woman,” they said.  And that was kind of the point.

So when I posted the message on Facebook, it wasn’t really a surprise.  Not to me.  After all, I knew about the haircut, the new phone, the blog I’d begun.  The idea had been simmering there for a while, as I stealthily increased my long run from ten kilometres, to eleven, up and up, until eventually I’d run sixteen.  I didn’t want to declare anything aloud.  Perhaps I was afraid I’d jinx my new-found ability to run far, injury-free. 

But that day, the Facebook-post day, I noticed someone had posted a message looking for team mates for an ultramarathon.  The Surfcoast Ultramarathon to be held on 22 September, 2012 in Anglesea, to be precise.  It was a whopping one-hundred-kilometre behemoth, a monster, a dream, visual candy combined with a physical test.  Before I knew I really meant it, I’d typed up the message on my Facebook page: I’m looking for three other team mates to complete a relay team for the Surfcoast Ultramarathon.  Then I hit “Post”.

It didn’t take long.  Thirty seconds for Scott Knabel to raise his hand; Ben Clark joined us a few minutes later.  A fourth team mate, Dan Johnston, was offered for sacrifice, whoops, I mean for the race, when we met up at the Salomon Trail Series race in Silvan Reservoir a few days later.  I stood there that day, and Scott said, strongly, “That’s it then, we’re in, we have a team, right?”  I croaked out a “Yes” I didn’t quite believe, an evasive yes, an Aquarian yes (we are notoriously bad at commitment).  But it was a Yes, and once I said it, it was so.

We’ve decided to call ourselves Team Inspiration.  Other team names (Three Guys and a Girl; Whose Idea Was This?) were floated, but Team Inspiration captured what we were setting out to do.  None of us had run this far.  We wanted others to learn that they could too.

So, no more quietly increasing my kilometres.  I enlisted the aid of Julian Spence, one of the event ambassadors, sending an email and asking how I could possibly go from 16 to 21 kilometers in just a few short weeks.  His reply was detailed and reassuring; he thought I could do it, that my weight training would help me.  Eighteen kilometres one week, twenty the next, he suggested.  I nearly fell off my chair.  But because he believed I could do it, I did it.

Today, I completed my first twenty kilometre run ever.  My body didn’t think it could do it; neither did my brain.  And yet, here I sit after the run, still able to move, some aches but nothing broken.  Inside my head, I repeat this: I’ve just run twenty kilometres.  I plot where I could run to now – from Hampton to Melbourne, yes, tick, I could do that.  Completely astounding.

Change?  I hate change.  But then all of a sudden, I thirst for it; I must have it.  I must move countries, cut all my hair off, start running enormous distances, populate my head and home and heart with new terrain, unforseen and unexpected.

The next three weeks, I will explore places I’ve not yet been, say hello to a self that has been dormant for a while.

Because the time has come.  The time to be awake, aware, alive.  The time to once again live life like I once did, singing Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” at the top of my lungs running down a single-track, grinning ear to ear.

Team Inspiration it is!

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15 thoughts on “Team Inspiration: how to run an ultramarathon

  1. WOOOOOOOO go Team Inspiration! I was looking for team mates in a leap of faith and craziness but it didn’t turn out for me. I’ve been reading your blog since forever and look forward to see how you guys will fare! The course looks to be absolutely beautiful (:

  2. Pingback: What is “The Global Run” and Ultramarathon With a Mission | Kalongkong Hiker

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