The Sydney Morning Herald half-marathon is only three weeks away. This morning’s 18K run did very little to make me think I’ll be shattering any personal records in three weeks, but I think I have a chance at a decent showing. Right now I’m focusing on finishing each distance rather than speed, given that this is just the first race of six on the calendar.
I’ve been doing my weekly long run at 9:30 AM each Saturday morning, and mostly heading into the city, across into Darling Harbour, or across the Sydney Harbour bridge and back. On this morning’s run I did not get a single running to say hello back to me or even acknowledge that another runner existed – no head nodding, not even a half-smile or grimace. In talking with an Australian over Easter break, we contrasted who we thought were friendlier, Americans or Australians. He mentioned that on a flight in the states, lots of people were talking to the other people in their row, while in Australia the plane is largely silent. True. I’d counter with the fact that I can approach anyone in Sydney for help and they are likely to try to provide directions, assistance, etc, even on a business day. Now, both of us are testing friendliness in foreign countries where we have an accent that gets noticed, so maybe that’s why we find each other’s home country more friendly than our own. But in running, Australians are dull. Around town lake in Austin I’d get a “hi” or “hello”, not just back but often in advance. In Boston around the Charles River, not so much – but my “hello” would at least get acknowledged with a curse word or a hand gesture. So maybe Austin, Texas is just a friendlier place to run than anywhere else.
I just finished I’m Here to Win, the autobiography of Chris McCormack, an Aussie who won the Ironman World Championship in 2010 (and once before that as well). Macca (anyone with a McC last name in Australia is automatically nicknamed Macca) focuses on the mental part of triathlon and distance events, and I thought a lot about where my mind goes when I’m running. It’s usually some combination of:
- Dog-like distraction by whatever is visible in front of me and interesting (Squirrel!)
- Noticing that I can no longer breathe
- Noticing that my quads near my knee are hurting
- Realizing that more deodorant was probably required
- Checking my GPS watch to see if I am going fast enough to actually register movement
- Checking out my reflection in all the windows I run by.
I think what I have is a complete lack of focus, or blur, to my running. I don’t run fast enough to be a blur to others, I am just a blur to myself.
So, for the Sydney 1/2 in three weeks, what’s my goal? I’d love to repeat my 1:50 from November but that may not happen. There’s a piece of me that says I should give it a shot just to see what’s possible, push myself, endure the pain, then disappear to San Francisco for a couple of weeks of work and recovery. I think I should aim for a 1:45 and just see when the wheels come off, much like I did in November (the answer then was right about the 16K mark, I may get my answer much earlier in a few weeks).
Regardless, my uncomplicated 2-D world (work, running) has been a huge source of happiness for me over the last three weeks. Ignorance is indeed bliss.