Monday, November 24, 2014
One of the key things that keeps things rolling here at Seven Nation Army HQ is parkrun(and vodka), the whole thing of turning up at 8am on Saturday and running with friends(including those I haven't met yet) over a 5km course has a special feeling that I struggle to describe. This Saturday just gone the magic went up a notch when I finally reached the milestone of 50 parkruns. For somebody who never reached 50 games of footy or any other sporting milestone this was a pretty big thing, I've admired the other parkrunners who have hit their 50 & 100 milestones, I've been encouraged by them,run with them and looked up to them. On Saturday I finally became one of them, somebody who had run 50 parkruns, being a little bit less than the shy and retiring type I'd mentioned my upcoming 50th to a couple of people, namely Dan Baldwin, runner & run director extraordinaire and Ben Harris, organiser of darkruns, extreme trail runner, supplier of eggs and super pacer. Ben wasted no time in offering to pace me to a PB on my 50th, and I wasted even less time accepting. I'd also mentioned my upcoming 50th to the wider park run community and was amazed when I arrived on Saturday at the number of people who had decided to visit Canning River for my big day. I was even more amazed and humbled when Dan started his run briefing, his summary of my park run journey made me so proud(and a little embarrassed), and the pressure was put on when Dan advised all assembled that I was running a 30 minute PB and anyone keen for that should get on the bus. Being so keen for a PB, Ben suggested we should start towards the front, before I know it I've been pushed to the front, the absolute pointy end, and we are off, and off I went like a cork leaving a champagne bottle. I think I had gone about 300 metres before Ben caught me and suggested I should just ease off a bit, possibly 500 metres in and the bus catches up and things settle down, by about 600 metres Ben, like Keanu Reeves in Speed finally has control of the bus, such is Ben's control that he manages to turn off my Garmin using only his elbow, Jedi or what? The mood on the bus is good, as much as I am struggling to talk and breathe there is conversation ebbing and flowing about me, Adrian has brought along some tunes on a reasonably un portable speaker system but he carries it with good cheer and announces every tune like the DJ from your favourite FM station, Didi runs ahead at every chance for photo & video and opportunities and there are reports that the bus has reached 300 people strong but I don't dare turn around to check because running and breathing is my only focus.I have Ben on my left and Andrew Shugg on my right and all I have to do is run,seems so simple. We reach the turtle bridge and Ben tells me to wave at digger the dog as we go over, I've seen digger on 20 odd parkruns but never been this far along, it's comforting to see things that tell you your ahead of the game, digger is a constant at Canning River park run and one day I'll stop and talk to him and his owner about the important job they do. We turn onto the boardwalk and I sneak a look at my watch, I think I'm a little behind time but Ben is still lying seductively in my ear, so I carry on as DJ AK drops another banging tune as we head into Canning Rivers hardest segment, the concrete. Amazingly the hard bits of Canning River appear to be colour coded(or I've completely made this up) but running around the back along the street and around rubbish bin corner on that concrete tends to get a bit tough(or maybe its me) but we press on knowing that a mini challenge awaits us, Canning River's Everest, a rise so small that regular Hill climbers barely note the elevation, but enough to trouble a downhill specialist like myself. At this point I remember that I'm not the only one chasing a PB, I know Amanda Dear shares the same goal of a sub 30 parkrun, I can only hope she is on the bus. We go up the hill, it seems harder than normal but it provides some Pshycological relief when we hit the top, mainly in the form of a bit of downhill action, my favourite way to run. At this point Ben is more important than ever because I'll be honest I want to walk the rest, PB or not. I'm vaguely aware of everyone else around me but I feel a little bit outside of it all, I realise for a brief moment that 30 minutes is gone but nobody has said it's gone so I keep running, we approach the last boardwalk before the bridge and I allow myself a brief look up at the bat boxes in the trees and remember John telling me about them earlier in the day, like a lifetime ago, I come back into the moment when I see Amanda go past me and my oxygen deprived brain does the maths again, maybe sub 30 is still possible, Amanda obviously thinks so, I get onto the bridge and push with everything, I feel like my speed has doubled but who the hell knows, Amanda is disappearing over the bridge and I try and chase, I'm on the bridge and making a huge noise on the checkerplate but my noise is soon replaced by people clapping and cheering, I still want to stop but I figure it really is only a little to go, I cross the line and stop my watch wishing that holding your arms in the air would stop Garmins because let's face it nobody wants to cross the finish line pressing a button, they want to be waving their hands in the air like they just don't care. The next 10 minutes is quite honestly a blur, if I spoke to you and was at all vague I apologise as I really don't know where I was at. I recall Thanking Ben for being a great pacer(If I imagined that then : Thankyou Ben, you are the best)I've seen some great photos since, and it's clear it's me in them but that's all I've got. It turns out that I crossed the line in 30.22, not quite under 30 minutes but a decent sized PB. I also recall Andrew presenting me with a bat cape, this is awesome and as I write it is still around my neck, wearing ot to work tomorrow may present some challenges but I'm willing to face them head on. I love the fact that I PB'd on s milestone event, I also love that a few people cracked a PB by riding the bus, but most of all I loved the atmosphere on the day, maybe because it was all about me for a day or maybe because it was proof that parkrun could take an unfit 41 year old and turn him into a fitter, faster running 42 year old, 30 kgs lighter but filled right up with positive feelings. Most of all I love the fact that next Saturday we will do it all again, supporting everyone who wants to get a bit fitter, go a little faster or even get around to corner x without stopping. The journey continues, onwards to more parkruns, and also to make sure I introduce as many people as I can to this fantastic environment as possible, not forgetting to repay some of the help and encouragement I've had from so many parkrunners. There are so many to thank and so many to help, so let's keep it simple, THANKYOU EVERYBODY. So many people have helped me it's beyond amazing, and I dont wish to diminish anybody's contribution by not naming them. A Seven Nation Army Couldnt hold us back.