This is not a promotional post; this is a heartfelt thank you to Rapid Ascent for setting me on the right trail again.
It was the winter of 2011. I had lived in Melbourne since 2008, moving here from Hong Kong when our children were just two and four. In Hong Kong, I had been an Adventure Racer, an author, a coach, a personal trainer, a BodyPump instructor, and the host of a weekly radio program. In Melbourne, I was a mother. And I was afraid to run on trails alone.
I was bereft. My soul was nourished by the wild places in the world, by the wildernesses where I could be one-hundred-percent myself. In Hong Kong, I could run from my home and three minutes later be on the fifty-kilometre Hong Kong Trail. I would run for hours and see no one, map in hand, water reservoir on my back. In races, I would climb waterfalls, leap into reservoirs, scramble over coastal boulders. In Melbourne, I ran along the bay, and raced on bitumen.
Each weekend, my husband would ask me, “What would you like to do?”
I would reply in my head, “Go to the Dandenongs.”
It was only in my head because one of my children had severe behavioural issues that meant we couldn’t really drive anywhere as a family. We were grounded; my wings were clipped.
I slid into depression. I kept going, as people do, smiled a fake smile, took the children to their activities and playdates but all the while, my soul was drying out. I became irritable. I contemplated escape. Could I book a plane ticket and just leave? But I loved my family. I was blessed with so many good things.
Still, I longed for the thing I could not have: the wild. “Long” is too mild a word; I was starving for the wild, thirsting for the woods, hungry for I knew not what other than flying free down a trail in a deep, dark forest.
One day, in 2011, I saw a flyer. It was advertising a new Trail Series. I think I was probably the first person to sign up. The sponsor back then may have been Salomon but I might be wrong. My memory of those days is hazy. The first trail race – first trail run! – I did in three years was the Studley Park Race in Kew. It was 10.8 km and I completed it in 56:18. I know these details because I record each and every race in my handwritten diaries, which date back many years. I treasure these records, the smily faces I add to race times, the details of my results in age category and gender.
I travelled to this race alone, navigating the roads for the first time by myself. The second race of the series was in the Dandenongs at Silvan Reservoir Park. I got lost on the way there, drove by the start and had to do a fast u-turn to get back there. It was the first time I ran in the Dandenongs. I fell in love.
Every year since, I have signed up for every single race of The Trail Series. I have been there on the steep hills, in the mud, in the fog, in the rain. I have treasured memories of start lines, huddled together with other runners like penguins, bouncing up and down to warm up, listening to music (right here, right now, right here, right now, bursting from the loudspeakers), chatting with people who would become friends.
Following ribbons through the woods, learning each new place and route. Finding that Melbourne had suddenly become wild, had become home.
I wrote of most of the races in this blog, which I began around 2012, and you can find the write-ups in the archives. A delight, each and every race. Each and every memory.
Now, in 2017, my children are nearly teenagers. We have two dogs and two cats, and I have two large boxes full of trail shoes. Dirty, well-used, well-loved trail shoes. My children laugh at me, and wonder that anyone could need so many shoes. I tell them a girl needs shoes. Lots of shoes. And water reservoirs. And tiny packets of GU Gels. And of course, a Garmin. A girl needs a Garmin.
I run alone in the Dandenongs once or twice a month, navigating solo, sometimes joining up with a friend or two for a long run and a two-hour chat about nothing. Wallabies and Kookaburra’s are my friends, and I’ve even shared the trails briefly with a Tiger Snake and an Echidna, though not at the same time. I’ve run in the rain, the hail, the mud, the blazing sun. For 5k and for 50k. On the coasts, and up the mountains. I’ve run right back into who I am. Now, when people ask how I am, I answer, “excellent”, and it is the truth.
All this joy came from the fact that a company called Rapid Ascent decided back in 2011 to put on a trail series.
This is not a promotional blog. This is a great big thank you for setting my life back on the right trail.
I’ll be doing the Medium Series this year. And like many trail runners, I can’t wait to get started.
For more information: The Trail Running Series presented by The North Face