“Running is so easy for you,” she growled…

I burst out laughing.

Isn’t it interesting how other people perceive us and what we do?

Last Monday, I’d run into a mom at school who told me I was the inspiration behind her running a half-marathon that coming Sunday.  I was chuffed that I had inspired her, so when I saw her again later in the week, I made sure to wish her a good race.  This time, though, she seemed a little bit angry.  “Running is so easy for you,” she growled.  “That’s all I could think of during my last run – how come it’s so easy for Patricia, and so hard for me.”  She looked like she’d like to hit me.

It’s not easy, I told her.  In fact, it is really quite hard.

So in case I’ve given anyone here the wrong impression…

Friday morning at 6 am the alarm went off.  I was tired from teaching BodyPump twice within 24 hours, combined with a quick 10k run and a slower 5k run with my son later that same day.  I dragged my sorry bottom out of bed, got dressed, had a quick breakfast, and kissed the kids and my husband goodbye.  Then I drove an hour out to the Dandenongs (with my water reservoir, GU gels, and salt tablets; with my eskie with recovery drinks, and my change of clothes for the drive home).  The sun was just rising, and for half of the drive that big orange ball shone right into my eyes, so I had to squint to see the road.

I arrived at the trail at 7:30, planning on a 33k run.  Luckily, I ran into a friend who helped me through the first 5k, and even more luckily, he was running a marathon that Sunday so he was happy to run slowly, instead of breaking me with his gazelle pace up the hills.  He peeled off at 5k, and I continued on.

The hills were steep, and my legs were heavy.  I was running a loop of the Roller Coaster Course up at Mount Dandenong, as below, but starting around number 11 on the map below:

RollerCoasterOverviewMap

but that loop wouldn’t add up to my required distance.  I continued on up Edgar Track, steeper than steep (I have never managed to run it the whole way); then a detour for 1k down Camelia Track and back (my car called out to me in the distance, come this way, run back to me – I ignored it and ran back the way I came); up Singleton Terrace and Old Mountain Road, my calves screaming and my hamstrings crying out for salt (I gave both a salt tablet and a glug of water); then along Trig Track, my nemesis, single track, studded with rocks, slightly angled downhill, with plenty of logs to hide sleeping snakes, dogs barking, me scared of my own shadow); up the steepest of hills lined with slippery gravel and my feet sliding out from under me; onto Kyeema Track with joy, ease, noting the smog today from Burke’s Lookout, hiding the city from view; then down down down on Zig Zag and Channel 10 track, flying flying.

Oh, and then my mistake.  I’d also run into a friend of my runner friend, who said, “I’ve just been running Dalcite Track.”  The way he said it sounded much like a challenge, like, that is one hard track, look how fit I am. And he was.  Very.  In fact, he’d recently won a tough trail race.  So it was a red flag to a bull when I happened to see the sign for Dalcite Track, as I ran downhill.  A quick tap on the brakes, I slid to a stop, and turned up the track uphill.  It couldn’t be too far; I knew this trail connected back the way I’d come.  And I needed some extra distance to make up my 33k.  And I was bored of running in circles; I wanted to explore.

Off I went.  I knew it was dumb; the trail started up, but then quickly began to descend.  I knew where it was going, and yet, still I ran down it.  I kept thinking, I should turn back, it’s really going down, but I wanted to see how it ended.  Kind of a like a horror movie.  Well, it ended just where I thought it did, at the bottom.  I had to turn around and backtrack, or run the circuit I’d already run once.  It was just as steep as I feared, as I gave up all thought of running and power-hiked my way back up to Channel 10 track.

Ah, back downhill.  But not too far, as I’d planned to explore Dandenong Creek Track for a few extra kilometres. It was beautiful, but not flat, with lots of leaf litter and branches down from a recent storm.  I crossed the creek with oohs and ahhs, continued on until the track was decimated by muddy truck ruts (I’d forced a way through here a few weeks back) but today, I turned around.  I had gone about 22k by then.  I was tired, hungry.  The run had run out of my legs, and I found myself taking a walk break – I never take walk breaks on the flat, but I’d been going about four hours by now.  The track ended and I turned back downhill, with joy.

Flew down, listening for beeps on my Garmin as the distance melted away.  I was still 3k short.  So it was up Dodds Track (pain upon pain), Range Road, Stables Track, and then I pushed the boundaries again, continuing along Old Coach Road, trying to find the entrance to One Tree Hill that I’d only found once.  At the end of this track was a single man with a ute.  I examined him for threat as the distance closed between us: alone (bad); no dog (bad); over 40 (good); camera (good).  I decided he was okay, said hello, and ran on, noting he worked for the Council (good).  However, when I ran back down the same road, he was driving and didn’t slow and nearly ran me off the road even though I was standing far to the side (revised opinion, bad – I shouted some key words at him as he drove off).

So it was back to familiar ground, down Stables Track, across the road to Banksia Track (the horrible final hill), and then finally down Ridge Track.  At the end, my watch read 30.8 km that had taken me 4:45 to cover (such were the hills).  It took two days to recover.

So…back to my original thought:  do I make it look easy?

It is by no means easy – it is hard, requires a great deal of commitment, and often means I have to force myself not to turn back when I really would like to.  To get out of bed when I’d really rather sleep an extra hour.  To leave my kids and run off into the woods, when they are so cute and cuddly and sleepy early in the morning.

But there are so many good bits, parts that makes it all worthwhile: the sweet scent of eucalypt in the early morning air; the five wallabies I saw bounding through the woods; the kookaburra who swooped me, laughing; the trees whose foliage I know as well as old friends; the various types of mud I carry with me; the rainbow lorrikeets singing in groups; the sulfur-crested cockatoos making absolute bedlam of the silence; and the feeling of absolute joy when I have done what I set out to do.

If I have made it look easy, believe me, it is not.  It is worth it, though, in every sense of the word.

Because, in the end, it was not meant to be easy.  It was meant to be life-changing.

English: The skyscrapers of Melbourne City app...

English: The skyscrapers of Melbourne City appear distant and small when seen from SkyHigh on Mount Dandenong. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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