The 2022 SMH Half Marathon navel gazing continues. A week after crossing the finish line, I’ve made another personal realisation that’s worth sharing, if you’ll indulge me.
I first ran this race in 2019, coincidentally, the last time it took place as a ‘live’ event. I was fairly seasoned runner at that point, by no means an expert (hey, I’m still by no means an expert) but it wasn’t my first half marathon. It wasn’t even my fifth I don’t think. Anyway, I should have known what I was doing. But I didn’t, and I had a disastrous race. The reasons aren’t really clear any more, but knowing me I suspect I didn’t train hard enough, didn;t eat well, and I remember that the day was very hot. I bonked at about the 16km mark, which is nowhere near as much fun as it sounds, and I walked it in, barely staying ahead of the sweepers.
When I crossed the finish line, I had to find an empty concrete bench and I just sat there, blank as a slate, staring at the grass in front of me for around half an hour and vagueing out. It took ages to find the strength to walk back to the station and I felt headachey and nauseous from the effort. What’s more, it was a solitary day. I knew no one on the race, spoke to no one for the duration, and travelled home on my own. That wasn’t a problem, as an introvert I actually quite like it, but it was in stark contrast to the story I’m about to tell you.
2022 was about a different experience as its possible to get. To start with, I travelled in in a pack. Wayne and I met up with around 20 friends, clients and fellow runners on the train and met up with more at the start line. There were hugs, high fives, nervous laughter, poo stories, trading painkillers, race advice and lots of questions. On the road, I bumped into plenty more. Colleagues from the race community, friends from North Shore Run Club and lots of cheers from the amazing ladies who were also wearing Running Mums Australia merch. I was tapped on the shoulder as they inevitably overtook me, we paused for selfies and stretches and quick bytes of conversation. It was such a sense of fun, of community, of tribe. It felt like a 21.1km party, including dance breaks as I boogied with the band on the side of the road.
To be honest there wasn’t a hell of a lot of difference between my 2019 time and my 2022 time. But the experience was night and day. Instead of crashing at the finish line, I discovered I had the energy for conversation and celebration with Wayne and others, before doubling back out on to the course to check on the few that I knew were still out there. And the thrill of rejoining them and approaching the finish line for a second time, knowing all my clients had made it and were home safely.
The clock is simply not an accurate reporter of a race. Metrics are just one measurable, and perhaps the least important in my view. When I look at one race against the other, I see a runner vs a coach. I see solitude vs community, I see pain vs fun. This run was a coming together of training, relationships, muscle memory, a change in attitude and more. The triumph wasn’t my own run, which was middling at best, but the success of almost a hundred friends, colleagues, acquaintances, clients and family, many of whom were crossing the finish line for the first time. I felt fit. I felt seen. I felt like I belonged. I felt like I was needed. I felt like I had more to give. It was amazing.
Running is a masterful teacher. It teaches patience, grit, solitude, connection, breathing, pain, pride and humility. It has taught me to be alone, but even harder in my case, how to be together. I am constantly amazed at the path it has taken me on, and the people it has brought into my life. Thank you one and all. I was one thing, and now I am another. I am because we are.