An appropriate title: both myself and my neighbor’s house got smashed last week.

First, the house.  I knew the wrecking crew were coming, as I kept seeing them outside my house, while walking my dog, or returning from long runs.  The neighbors had moved out to another property, so I was relying on the crew for information.  My cats like to visit the derelict house, coming home coated in dust and spider-webs, so I had to know when to keep them in.  “Friday”, they said, “Friday”.

Friday came.  “Victorian Demolitions,” my daughter read from the side of the wrecker hunkered down next door.  We watched from our second-story window, mesmerized, as the big yellow claw began to swing, to attack the white timber two-story home.  It was extraordinary to see how quickly a home could be destroyed.  The power in that claw:  I wished I was sitting behind the controls, smash, smash, smashing things.

First went the entrance-way, then the front room.  I was worried about the second story, which seemed destined to fall atop our garage.  But in the end, the claw guided it to fall inwards on itself.  Pink insulation appeared; walls autographed by the young children who had lived there until last week; the shower stall.  The floor came away in a single timber slab.  The spectacle lasted about an hour, at which stage, most of the house was rubble.

That’s when sadness hit me.  That huge pile of smashed boards: it was the broken dreams of the couple who had sold their house with its beautiful garden only two years ago.  Who had planted the flowering plum trees that flamed golden in autumn.  I felt for the trees.  I knew their destiny from the plans.  This morning, I heard the tell-tale sign of a power-saw, and I knew they were gone.  Strange how sad it made me to see those trees lying on the rubbish pile – they already had buds and were ready for spring.  A few remain, which give me hope.

The demolition, in the end, is the creation of a blank page on which to build again. Hopefully, it will pave the way for another family love story, a new home arising from the rubble.  I’m coaching myself to be patient with the change, with the noise, and trucks and building.  It is nothing like New York or Hong Kong, where pile-drivers had to smash into bedrock to lay a foundation.  Hearing the noise of the house being demolished, I said out loud, “Is that all you got?  That’s not so bad.”

Now, me getting smashed.  That’s another story.  I’ve hired my first ever running coach, which feels very odd at age 48.  Shaun Brewster, of Brewsters Running, whose comments on Facebook impressed me every time he wrote.  He had the knowledge, he was a minimalist runner, and he seemed to be able to diagnose things from a distance (he’s also a physio, which adds hugely to his knowledge base).

I met Shaun for the first time on Monday for an assessment and some running coaching.  It was great to have confirmed that my calves are flexible enough for minimalist running, that my form is good.  Sure, I clench my fists and swing across my body, but I can fix that, right? (wonder what the clenched fists are all about, hmmm).  I’ve also learned I had the right idea to increase my speed (leaning forward from the ankles).  Though Shaun warned me that I’d just keep going faster and faster if I kept leaning.  I kind of liked that idea – like Road Runner of something.  Oh, and apparently my left leg is the reason for my face-plants; my right leg swings up a bit higher.  I’ve learned that the niggling pain in my ankle which began from blocking a soccer ball kicked by my son is now, after eight weeks, deemed “chronic” and I’ve got some exercises to fix it.  Besides just running on it, which, strangely, hadn’t fixed it.

I began my first week of training designed by Shaun as well: Hill reps for thirty minutes, followed by a 20 minute moderately paced run.  I never do hill reps.  My attention span, my husband likes to remind me, is that of a gnat.  I get bored even thinking of doing hill reps; I’ve done them once in thirty years of running.  I run hills during long training runs, so I’ve always counted that as my hill training.  Real hill reps was a mental challenge.  Cleverly (not) I squeezed them in tight between lunch, a sick child, and school pickup for my other child.

I chose a hill called Service Street, which I’ve measured at 200 meters.  I ran up and down that thing eleven times.  The first few were great; I was really using the hill-climbing technique I’d been practicing.  By the time I got to five reps, I was getting tired.  The rest passed by in a blur of pain and swearing, and an elevated sense of self-consciousness as I passed the same people again and again (“Nut case,” I’m sure they were thinking).  I was conscientious though; I did all the reps plus the twenty minute run, came home, and wanted to die.  Not for long, just for a bit.  Next time, I won’t squeeze lunch in so close to a hill rep run.  I had to shorten my long run the next day, I was that smashed (smashed, like the house).

I learned something about myself (again) on that long run by the bay the next day.  I don’t like running long and slow.  It makes me want to cry in frustration and boredom and I count every kilometer, willing them away.  For a while in the last few years, I did love long running; I used it to find inner peace there when the noise around me at home was deafening.

But now that noise has calmed, and I have calmed, and there are other things I want to fill myself up with.  Like my piano, like taking our puppy to the dog park to play, like sitting with a cup of tea and observing our garden.  I want more balance, more speed, and a healthier-feeling body.

This knowledge means some changes are in order.  I’m going to focus on health and balance in the coming year, shortening my long runs, choosing events more in line with what I enjoy.  Because its nuts to do anything else.  When I run fast and shorter (by shorter I mean 10 – 15k) I’m elated, I’m dancing, I’m endorphined and joyous.  So that’s where I’m headed.

I suppose in the end I’m a bit like the neighbor’s house.  I have to tear down what I’ve built up for a while (long running) to make room for what I want to do now (short, fast and sharp running).

It makes me smile to picture it, me rising up from the rubble like the Road Runner, and dashing off down the road…