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Terrigal Trotters gather before a Saturday morning run.

This morning, with the sun not rising until after 7:00am and heavy cloud cover, it was very dark for the 6:00am Terrigal Trotters' "Avoca Steps" run.  The Club Committee, of which I am a member, has been encouraging runners to wear light coloured clothing and carry lights or wear headlamps for safety reasons.  The lights were definitely needed today.

I missed the start by three or four minutes because I was packing up the registration books, and by the time I started running, I might as well have been running solo.  Even with my headlight, which is lightweight but not particularly light, the pitch darkness as I climbed the steep dark Kurrawyba lane nearly brought me undone.  Negotiating some posts, I stood on a pavement edge and nearly went down.  Life number one!

Descending Tramway, a few runners were visible in the far distance under the street lighting, but the bulk of my 100+ club-mates were still way ahead.  I was very conscious of not pushing too hard early since I hadn't had time to warm up and remain worried about unduly stressing my heart, so I focused on running evenly and efficiently, sure I would start to catch people within the next few kilometres.  There is no lighting at all on the grass reserve beneath the trees bordering Avoca Lagoon, but I held my pace, relying on memory as much as my headlight.  Nearing the sandy border of the lagoon, I caught my friend, Wayne, who tried to warn me about a hole he had just tripped on, but was too late.  I felt my toes plant on the edge of a small but deep hole in the darkness and my heel stretch down into the nothingness, while my knee hyper-extended backwards stretching ligaments to breaking point.  It hurt momentarily, and I limped for a few steps, but I escaped serious injury.  Life number two!

The last hill on this morning's Trotters run was the climb
to the Skillion Lookout.

With a sense of good fortune, I continued around the lagoon edge and reached Avoca Drive, a long straight stretch with street-lighting where I picked up the pace and began to reel in some of the stragglers.  I was feeling tired, but maintaining form and regular breathing, when I reached the base of the Avoca Steps.  Again the headlamp proved its worth, delivering just enough light for me to pick out the steps as I tried to keep running.  In a couple of places, my path was hindered by runners who had become walkers, and I called for space to pass as I approached.  This didn't work for the last group near the top of the steps and I tried to go around them on the darkened border of the path.  I misjudged and stumbled to the ground in the gloom, but was again fortunate not to injure more than my pride.  Life number three.

Thereafter, I stayed upright, and although very tired over the last kilometres and struggling up the hills, I continued to catch runners and finished in a reasonable time.  I was happy with the run, and particularly happy that my heartbeat remained regular, despite the challenging hills.  However, I know I was lucky none of my little missteps in the dark resulted in torn muscles or ligaments.  On another day, I might have been looking at three weeks off with a soft-tissue injury or worse.  Part of the problem was that I was taking chances in the darkness to try and catch the field.  But for me, taking some calculated risks and accepting challenges are what life is about.  Sometimes you are lucky, and sometimes you're not.  It's the same with the risk of my heart problems recurring.  I could wrap myself in cotton wool, but that would be no life.