Things change. Last year my wife, Skye, and I were living in South Yarra, Melbourne, happily car free, enjoying the Botanical gardens and local cafe scene and, of course, the proximity to great places to run. Racing again was far from my concerns, being content to just run for general fitness – actually, running beyond 40 minutes or under 4 minutes per kilometre had no appeal at all!
Free from the commitment that running at a high level can entail and free of any major commitments in general, the choice was made to make a move – away from the city and close to the coast. We moved to Port Macquarie, on the mid-north coast of NSW, at the start of the year and haven’t looked back since. Having travelled a bit with my running in the past I truly believe that Australia has some of the best places in the World to live and Port Macquarie is one of them.
As you may imagine, with its climate and outdoor focus, Port has a healthy sporting culture. Current home of the Australian Ironman Championships, Triathlon is very popular here, with it being a rarity for a person to just focus on running. However, in March this year, Port had its first ‘running festival’ and this is where I took my first tentative steps back into racing. With the option of three different distances I chose the shortest – the 5km – and also decided that if I was going to run I may as well go for the win. 16 minutes was what I thought would do it so that is what I trained for. After hitting that goal I reasoned that I may as well not waste the training I had done and just keep the momentum going – and at the same time enjoy fun runs and places I had never experienced. That is one of the great things I enjoy about running and racing – it gets you travelling and seeing places that you may otherwise not have seen.
By May I was under 15 minutes for 5km on the road and soon after made a last minute decision to race at Gold Coast – in the Marathon. Despite now picking up an injury, Achilles tendonitis – and despite my serious lack of mileage (130km a week was the high point) and preparation, I wanted to give it a go and experience one of the big Marathons in Australia.
tucker Thinking about the different potential outcomes of this race, the only thing that motivated me was a top 3 finish. Also, in relation to running (and much else), I have never liked the word ‘realistic’. With these things in mind, I went with the leaders, in full knowledge they were going for a sub 2.10 time – if I had my ‘day of days’ who knows where I would finish up? Well, after going through 5km in 15.24 and 10km in 31.18 the wheels fell off and, after a while, just finishing became the goal (which I did – although was certainly tempted to stop).
Four weeks later and i’m on the start-line for the Westlink M7 Cities Marathon – my original goal before deciding to compete on the Gold Coast. I had previously run two Marathons in the space of five weeks in 2010, so I knew it was possible to still run ok regardless of the fact I had one week less to recover and wasn’t quite as fit this time around. I also decided to wear my trainers instead of my racing flats – something I had never tried before in a race.
Fairly soon after the start it was clear that it was going to be a race of three – myself, Thomas Kiprotich (A Kenyan based in Hong Kong) and Trent Harlow, a friend and past running companion in Melbourne, who was more than capable of winning the race. The three of us stayed together for more than half the race before I started to put a little bit more pace on. Between 25km to 30km Trent dropped off but I couldn’t shake Thomas off. Finally, Thomas broke away, getting roughly 50 metres on me – thoughts of winning quickly evaporated into the air. Well, things change! With about 5km remaining I retook the lead and, running with the fear of losing, hung on for the win in 2.27. I was definitely much happier than when I ran 10 minutes quicker on the same course in 2008 and missed out on first by a couple of seconds – winning a race or finishing high up in the places has nearly always been a greater priority compared to time.
Since then my hip flexor has been playing up and training has been minimal, which isn’t too much of a concern as I consider all the races I have done so far a bonus. At the moment my running is a hobby, content for it to be around to enhance my enjoyment of life, rather than be dictated by it with a schedule and future goals. That is not to say that this will not change in the future and that having a strict schedule and longer term goals isn’t enjoyable – it certainly can be and has been. However, things change…