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.
I like to think one reason for my last six months of almost uninterrupted running is that I have been giving myself longer to recover from hard runs and trying to mix trail running with road running. (Of course, it might all be luck!).
Last Sunday, I ran the annual Terrigal Trotters' Girrakool to Patonga 25km trail run through Brisbane Water National Park. It's a course that has everything - views, waterfalls, rock ledges, mountains, fern-filled valleys, caves, single-track and fire-trail - and is very popular with club members and me. If you are fit, it is very runnable, and in parts, exhilarating.
Usually on trail runs these days, I'm careful not to run technical track too quickly or descend too hard for fear of jarring my lower back and/or damaging my right heel, not to mention the other obvious risks such as falling or crashing into a tree. However, with some trail races planned over the next three months, I wanted to run hard, and gave myself permission to take some risks. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, particularly on the descents, where landing decisions are made in mid-air, the trees and rocks whistle by, and the adrenalin pumps. Apart from some minor missteps, I survived without incident and recorded what for me was a fast time.
Reaching the bottom of the last descent at Patonga beach.
Since Sunday, my body has been stiff and sore, particularly when rising in the morning. My legs feel lethargic and my training times have been slow. But all of this was expected and I have been telling myself that by Saturday, when I hope to run a reasonable time in the Trotters' monthly time trial, I will have loosened sufficiently to be competitive. After this morning's 10km plod, I'm not so sure, but I need to have faith in my plan and approach.
Having run long on the trail last weekend, I intended to run long on the road this weekend to give my ankles and heel a rest. However, I have just learned that friends are planning a long trail run through Bouddi National Park, one of my favourites, on Sunday morning. It's a big temptation to join them, and I would probably survive unscathed, but I know that I would be wiser to stick with the road run and my longer term strategy. We'll see!