Aged nineteen, on 22 August 1970, I ran my first marathon in 2:44, followed five weeks later with a 2:41. I was hooked, and in the 43 years since, have run more than 50 marathons. In my 20s I ran a 2:19, in my 30s another 2:19, and in my 40s a 2:38. As I slowed, the love affair began to wane and I only ran two in my 50s, the best of which was a 3:04. Now in my 60s, with an ageing body and chronic injuries, I plan to deploy all of my experience in pursuit of one last sub-3 marathon.
It's been hard not to be a little despondent today. This morning, while I was struggling around the Trotters 16km Matcham Valley course at not much better than 6 minutes per kilometre, the Six Foot Track 45km race was starting from near Katoomba in the fabulous Blue Mountains with many friends in the field.
Just three months ago "Six Foot" had loomed large in my training plans. Apart from being a very challenging course in a beautiful environment, it's popularity with runners from all over Australia make it a benchmark race to see how good you really are. I would have loved to run it in my heyday when my marathon speed combined with trail-running experience (in training) and strength on hills would have made me a podium contender. But that's easy to say now. Thirty years ago, there were few trail races and they were seen as something of a novelty event. Marathons were everything to me, and I would never have targeted and trained for a specific trail race. Even now, it's rare to find Australia's best marathon runners contesting trail races. The reality is that, even if Six Foot had been a big race thirty years ago (it was just starting out), I probably wouldn't have run it anyway.
Six Foot Track.
Nowadays, my attitude to trail racing is different. And three months ago, I was hoping to get a podium finish in the 60+ age group today, and maybe threaten the age group record. I have come close in the past. But it wasn't to be. Health issues intervened and I must consider myself lucky to have been running anywhere today. Nevertheless, I'm envious of my friends who are running and can't help wishing, as I write this, that I was making that helter skelter descent on the scary single track to the buzzing finish at Jenolan Caves, with legs begging for mercy and the prospect of a good time and post-race glow just minutes away. Running just doesn't get any better than that, and it makes me sad to think I may never experience it again.