Not sure I will be doing 70 km for 70 years, so enjoy this post.
In October last year I turned 60 and set the goal of running 60 km for my 60th year. With Covid and life I could not find the time and the motivation to do the run. Last weekend on the spur of the moment I went for a run.
On Friday night I saw some posts about the Six foot Track race which was being held the next day. I last did the race in 2005 and 2007 and no longer would be able to qualify nor finish under the cut off. I noted it was the last fine day for a number of days and I had a camp for three days and know I would not get any runs in. So, I decided to wake up naturally in the next morning and head out the door for a Virtual Six Foot Track.
My run around Sydney has two rules where each leg has to be more than 42 km and the course has to touch on the course of any of the previous courses. I naturally woke up and was on the road by 10:05 am. I was organic in my approach to this run. On the back of little much preparation and minimal gear I packed into my Salomon pack, two bottles of water and a carry bottle, two boiled potatoes and a few Nutri-grain bars, some cash and a spray jacket.
0-10 km 10:05-11:37 am
I had mapped out a course in my mind and wanting to get some easy km into my legs before the slower trails, I headed by road to Westleigh. I went past the station up the Esplanade, left into Duffy’s Road and right out along Quarter Sessions Road. This course was actually the 10 km look of my cycle course and it was a different experience running it. On one such I had a moment to pause where Cliff Young had passed me in the Westleigh half marathon in the 1990s. Although I had ridden the section hundreds of times it was the first time, I had run it I decades and the memories came flooding back.
While on this section of the run I was working through how the day could plan out. I thought I would do 10 km social media posts letting people know about the Virtual Six Foot Track run I was doing and perhaps someone might see me on the course. I was hoping my first photo would be on a nice bush trail, but it was a suburban street in Westleigh. Taking the photo also meant I would walk or stop to write, compose and send the posts, giving me a bit of a break.
10-20km 11:37 -1:25 pm
Within a km I was in the bush heading back to Pennant Hills and welcomed the coolness of the bush after the heat of the road. I crossed Zig Zag Creek and turned right to track the creek along the walking trail to Jungo Jungo. I was not on my 6km trail run course. After a 1.2 km I hit the fire trail crossed back over the creek to the northern side and started the climb into Cherrybrook. The time was passing quickly along this section of the course. I was just at peace with my own mind and the environment because I had decided to run the course with no podcasts or music.
It soon got hotter and all my clothes were soaked. I have been working on the clothes I wear because in the past with these long runs I have been wet the whole time because the clothes had not dried properly during the run. This time I had purchased and had experimented with some outdoor shorts and briefs from Wild Earth. The test would be if they would dry over time. I came out of the bush at the fire station at Cherry brook and after speaking to a hot looking mountain bike rider about my age gazing in a trance at a map I popped into the service station to buy a vanilla coke. It was a treat because I normally only buy diet products so real sugar was going to be a great, and I suspected most needed.
I had now broken my running into walking the hills and jogging the downhill and flat sections along the roads to Purchase Road Cherrybrook as it made its way to New Line Road. I knew I was coming up to the first real steep climb while I was in the run walk mode. As I headed down the hill, I could hear a siren behind me, and the traffic was backed up in both directions and I wondered how the ambulance was going to get through. I started to give the drivers on both side of the road the sign to move over as I suspected they could not hear the approaching sirens.
As I was cresting the hill Ian called me to see how I was going. He joined me o the manly run a few years ago. We finished up the call and I had the trickiest part of the course from a traffic perspective. The downhill to the Hastings Road turn corner had no foot path and I had to run into the oncoming traffic with very little verge. Right at the lights was 20 km and I stood on the medium strip and too the 20km selfie.
20-30 km 1:25- 3:12 pm
The bush track adjacent to the road up the hill to the McDonalds Dural was rough and overgrown and not easy to post while on the move. Also, it was hot and found the hill hard, so I welcomed the break to get the social media posts organised while I sat on a rock. I only had a km to go to the service station where I was going to have a feed.
At the service station opposite Quarry Road, my next leg, I purchased a sandwich and a 1.25 litre coke and smiled when he tried to upsell me three for $8 – it was good deal but not practical for the run. I collapsed with my back to the gas bottle as I could not find any grass sitting looking at Quarry road and planning how I would approach it. The sandwiches seemed a bit too much but thought I needed to food to keep going. After transferring the coke to smaller bottles, while having a cup of tea, I was soon on way. As I set off, I was going to be out here for 7- 8 hours for 45 km, which is the Six foot Track distance, I was contemplating doing the whole 60 km which I had planned to do in October 2020.
Any way that would sort itself out I thought to myself – one step at a time I headed out. Now I changed the way I was approaching my running. Given I now had undulations and downhill I settled into my Day 2 training routine of running 400m of each km and walking the next 600m. for about 4 km I ran past Pacific Hills Christian School on the left, the Dural Tennis Courts on the right and a couple on trail bikes trying to do wheelies on the road.
I was now on what I thought would be familiar territory – the Quarry Road trail where I had done a lot of training for my Six Foot Track races in 2005 and 2007. It looked different now. There were gates blocking the traditional path and a more formalised track at the Trig Station by-passing the rifle range.
I hit 30 km on the Dural side before the decent into Berowra River Valley in about two hours and was immediately daunted at the time of 5 hours and another more than 5 hours to get to 60km.
30-40 km 3:12- 5:41pm
I pushed the thoughts to the back of my mind and trotted briefly down the hill , stopped and sat on a stump to do my 30 km social media post and eat one of the cooked potatoes. I took a moment to observe a fast runner on the course thinking about the days when I could run like that. With the social media post done, and in an attempt to make up time, I ran all the way to the river because I knew I would not be able to run the uphill on the other side.
I closed my eyes for I reached the top exhausted but was looking forward to the grass at the end of the trail to lie down on. Since last hear the house on the right had taken off the tap so I could not get any water. After a while enjoying the soft grass and warmth of the sun and be stirred by a mountain biker touching the gate for his out and back ride. We chatted for a while as we both rested and soon, we were both on our way.
At this stage it was too early to head back towards to Pennant Hills if I was going to go get to 60 km. I had thought I could go through Bobbin Head and around but was not sure how much sunlight I needed to do this. So, I decided to run towards Turramurra via Hornsby and Edgeworth David Drive where I looked at the houses opposite Waitara Oval wondering which of the houses, I was passing on the left was the family home of a friend of mine. I got up the hill near the shops and that friend Graeme actually called me to see where I was. He was on a run and checking in if I was in his area.
I soon reached the shops on Eastern Road Turramurra at 40 km and was able to combine at the same time an ice coffee, banana and the 40 km social media post. I was still 5 km from the end of the Virtual Six Foot Track and had passed the cut off tine in this section of the course. In the real race I would have been pulled off the course – at least now I could keep running.
40-50km 5:41-7:35 pm
This section was to be mainly uphill and I did not feel running along the Pacific Highway. It was more peaceful for me to track along the back streets reaching the marathon as I crossed the railway between Turramurra and Warrawee. If each km section had hills at the beginning, I noted the distance and made up the 400 m running per km in other sections of the km.
Now and then as I got tired, and needed a seat, I gave up on the run for that km and started again at the next km. After a small section of running along the Pacific Highway I headed down Fox Valley Road, turning right at the SAN Hospital to go through the bush coming out on Pennant Hills road Normanhurst. I had to sit on a stump again as I climbed out of the creek.
I knew that when I was at Penno Road I was 4 km from home but 14 km from 60km. Psychologically, I did not want to get to Pennant Hills too early. In decided to turn right and run back towards Hornsby. Now for the first time I felt like I was struggling: the balls of my feet were hurting more than usually; I wanted a cuppa as I passed McDonalds but did not have the energy to stop and start and my stomach was playing up – maybe the iced coffee. Strange because I thought three hours earlier the sandwich would be causing me grief.
Between Hornsby and Normanhurst, I made 50km just as it was getting dark. As I did the social media post – I was getting faster as I fatigued more – I noted I was 6 km from home and needed a 4 km detour without crossing over any of the course form 10 hours earlier.
50-60km 7:45- 9:26pm
As I reached Normanhurst Station my plan was to run along the railway line along Penno Road and then through to West Pennant Hills and back to Penno for 60 km. Passing Penno Station and coming back was doing my head in. I realised I could cross over the railway line doing the rat run to Duffy’s Road then back to Penno Road added another km. Once on Duffy Road I knew it was flat and downhill for the next km and I ran a 7 minute km past McDonalds at Thornleigh.
The next km took me to the Toyota dealership and managed 1 400m run non the downhill section. At this stage I knew I had to do a loop to get to 60 km. I went down Boundary road, Bellamy Street, Stevens Street past the station and up Trebor to Weemala, my street, and passed my house at 59 km. By now I was worried my watch and phone would runout of battery and I was making mental notes of km markers in case I had to run a bit extra to assure I passed 60 km if my devices ran out of battery.
I did a loop and a half of a small block in front of my house and walked into the front years and home exhausted.
It hurt the pad of my left foot metatarsal area of my foot pretty much from the beginning, but this is something I have been contending with for a while now.
It flared up after 6 weeks of barefoot beach running. I actually found it easier to run slowly than walk but in the hills. I just had to walk because understandably the hills were pushing my heart rate too high.
Other than that, I had no stiffness or soreness at all. My weight when I finished was 76 kg down from my normal 78kg.
I remembered at about 47 km I had not been to the toilet at all. I forced myself to go just to be sure I could but did not need to go. There were signs of some dehydration in my urine colour, but I judged it was nothing to worry about. Actually, it was nice being able to run without worry about where I had to find a toilet. I had kept the fluids up all day with plenty of water and 2 litres of coke.
This is the first time I did not take any salt tablets and except for a brief moment near 30 km I never felt like I would throw up which had happened a few ties on these runs in the past.
In relation to food, I think the two potatoes with some salt hit the spot. I had been reading in in ultra-running books that fat burning id the key but a little bit of carbo on the run accelerates the fat urning and it would be fair to say I did not feel week on energy. There was a small period of time when I felt like a sleep at around 10 km and it was after I had a Nutri-grain bar – it was like a post sugar sleep. So, I made a mental note of this effect.
I really was quite exhausted immediately after the run. When I spoke, I could not get words out. It was like I had been at a #parraeels game and cheered for 8 minutes, however, it was almost 12 hours of speaking to no ne and it was the first time I was required to speak. Jenny had gone to the shop to buy me some food, but I could not eat anything. After a swim I went the bed with the fan blasting as I was very hot. After about an hour jenny went to bed I got up and I had some yogurt, ice cream a schooner of diet coke and a piece of chicken.
I spent Sunday on the lounge just slowing reloading with food I felt like. I was conscious I was going on a three day camp on the south coast and I wanted to make sure I was not ravenous on the camp and walks.
That’s a wrap for marathon distance Number 44
Pace per km:
6 km in the 7 minute km range
5 km in the 8 minute km range
20 km on the 9 minute per km range
12 km in the 10 minutes per km range
11 km between 11-15 minutes per km range
3 km in the 16-20 km per min range – must have had three stumps to sit on.
3 km in the 22-24 minutes per km range – some food longer than usual social media posts and a lie down.
Average Pace 9.56 minutes per km
Average speed 6 km per hour
Moving time: 9:55:50
Average Heart Rate: 131 bpm
Cadence: 110 steps per minute
Stride length: 0.85 m
Elevation gain 2049 m – Six Foot Track is about 1500m
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My running did not always lend itself to modesty, though it should have. The better I got at running, especially at the start as I got faster, my modesty evaporated.
I was at my peak of fast running over short distances up to 12 km in 1986. I was not that good in reality just now and then sneaking under 4 minutes a km up 10km, but I felt like a real athlete. I knew the base I had come from within two years and was proud of the progress
I did not have an ounce of modesty and was very confident in my running which cut across to my life in. So much so that I did not see any issues in what I said and did.
On reflection this lack of modesty, and more so not even recognising the need for modesty, did have negative impacts on my life and running.
Lesson learnt and I would do things so differently now.
All through my life I have struggled with the concept of excellence. Many years ago, I came across the quote:
“Don’t let perfect get in the way of better.”
I believe everyone has something that they can be excellent at but the trick for me was working the journey to find this excellence.
I need patience when it comes to excellence in my running.
I have found a sweet spot. I am comfortable that 6 km running is my special niche. It took me a while to get here but if I have anything, I could claim to be good at it is #6kmrunning
As for excellence I am still looking.
All my running embraces an appreciation of the places in which I run.
When Standing Bear was moved off his land in the 1880s in USA, he said the following:
“ If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.”
Running has always been for me about the place I am running in and the experiences of these places. When I think of my running I initially think of where I have run, where I am running and where I will be running the future.
Whether it is Bowral, St Ives, Berowra, Galston, Avoca, Main Beach and for the past twenty years Pennant Hills, running in each of these places evoke memories, experiences and associated emotions.
I am drawn to arid landscapes like Tibooburra. I was last there in 1982 and remember fondly the people I travelled with, the locals, the footprints of explorers like Charles Sturt, who endured like and ultra-runner. I just want to go back and run the dry saltpan between the sand dunes of Sturt National Park on the way to Cameron’s Corner – one day.
Sense of place: knowing oneself – Standing Bull was onto something.
My first history university essay question was :
“History is nothing more the justification of the winning side by scholarly means.”
I started running in 1984 and I do view my running in the past through rose coloured glasses but don’t necessarily justify successes or otherwise by any means.
I have kept records and I am glad I did.
In 1984 I started what I called the pubbook where at the end of the week while having beers to wrap up the week and prepare for the weekend. I would write about all sorts of things including running and in fact other people would write in the Pubbooks as well. I have a dozen of these books and then went to different forms of digital pub pools such as blogs, word documents and now social media posts.
I had a brief period of disillusion and tossed out some detailed running logs in the 1990s and tossed a lot of records. Thankfully I do now have a pretty good supply of my own primary sources documenting my past experiences of running. Fortunately, the memory is still pretty good, but the logs are useful to check dates, times and events.
The pub book was one of the best things I did while having a beer in a pub in Bowral in 1984.
I spend a moment of each day projecting forward to where and when my run will be for the day.
Runs are locked in the week ahead factoring in life to determine which days I can run, then when I can run on these days. This is part of a monthly road map of getting to at least 100 km per month and if I reach 100 km early, I give myself a taper towards the end of the month, providing my body a rest not for a race.
It is extremely rare for me to run in the morning except when training for the Host City Marathon in 2000. Typically, I run in the evening either just prior to a late meal or after dinner on a weekday.
I cannot imagine my future without running but I do imagine my future with a changed nature of running – a lot slower, more walking and shuffling but there will always be one step after the other.
In 1986 I had to travel from Bowral to Parramatta for a tax audit. I rarely do anything wrong and when it comes to tax don’t deduct anything.
I was nervous and annoyed because I thought the tax person I had would deal with the situation. I had some time to spare and went into Dymocks and popped into the New Age area of the bookshop which was a trend in the 1980s. I was flicking through a good book on Buddhism by Christian Humphries and stopped on then chapter on Buddhism for Westerners. It was here I came specifically across Zen Buddhism and the importance of living in the here and now.
There are only a handful of runs in over 20 000km of running where I have been in the moment and conscious of this moment. Often my mind is in the past and the future, but I have to let go to be in the present.
I often don’t know I am in the present until after it has passed. I run on the road against the traffic and I can sense the traffic but don’t think about it. I used to be able to bound down single bush tracks leaping between rocks and not thinking and as soon as I started thinking about what I was doing I risk the chance of a fall.
Sometimes I try and consciously be present to the moment to the sound of semi-trailers on Pennant Hills Road, the rhythm of people running next to me in races or the sound of the silence on a bush run – until I realise, I am lost and then panic sinks in.
That trip to Parramatta changed the philosophical direction of my life and running.
The by-line in my pub book and social media is:
Running and Life: Life and Running
The biggest compromise in my Life on the Run is the relationship between running and life.
In the early years, particularly the 1980s, it was all about running and a bit of life, in the latter years, including now, it is as about running being part of life but an important part of life.
There is a tension associated with running as I have had have competing social, personal, family, professional and running priorities.
I have been known to skip social events, leave them early, being uncooperative in the organisation of functions, missed my mother’s 80th birthday, and resentful of social events, including my 25th birthday because I had to miss a triathlon.
I have to live with these decisions.
The only pressure I feel in running is making sure I get the time to go for my run. If I miss runs even for a for a short period of time, I am irritable and not pleasant to be with – nor I would want to be with myself as well.
The stress running comes from not being able to run.
Initially, it was stress over not accepting I was slowing down, then it was accepting walking was ok, I got stress over running not reducing weight and now it is hoping I don’t get and injury that will prevent me from permanently running.
I accept there will be a time when I won’t be able to run – then I will substitute another stress.