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Who's up and who's down

Down - walking dejectedly away from the
finish of the 1982 Montreal Marathon
(46th, 2:29, "possibly my worst
performance ever") where I struggled
with an Achilles problem and the effects
of anti-inflammatories
I didn't get time to warm up much this morning for the Terrigal Trotters Flat (mis-named) 10km Time Trial, so started slowly and nursed my sore Achilles and knee through the early kilometres.  Consistent with the feeling I've had this week that I have somehow "bottomed out" in my running, I felt I was moving better and running more strongly than for the past month or so.  Nevertheless, I lack race fitness and stamina, flagged on the hills and found the last half hard.  My time of 44:52 was about what I had expected, though I had feared it might be worse as I slowed during the second half.
The monthly Time Trial is always a good bench-marking event, though you can't get too excited about who you beat and who beats you.  This is because nobody is at their peak or nadir all of the time.  There were runners in front of me this morning who I might have hoped to beat if fit.  At other times, when I was running well, they would have had the same thoughts about me.  Running and fitness is cyclical, maybe because of illness or injury, or maybe because of work or family commitments.  For some runners, staleness becomes an issue, training and racing become chores, and they seem to lose their "mojo" for a period of time.

Down - dealing with a serious lower
back injury in the early 1980s that
 cost a lot of running time
At a race like today's it is possible to identify people at all stages of the cycle.  You feel pleased for those on the upswing or at their peak, and sad for those whose performances are sub-par for some reason.  Within Trotters, it's great to see some people running very well at the moment who have struggled for the past year or longer.  They are loving that sense of capability and potential that comes with race fitness and are relishing the opportunity to compete in events denied to them in the last couple of years.  I feel very happy for them, but also want to tell them not to overdo it and to savour this period when everything is going well.

Up - running well and centre picture in the first
Melbourne Marathon in 1978 (2nd, 2:23)
Then there are others struggling to keep running with injuries or illness, or maybe just resigned to walking until they feel better.  At this stage it's easy for them to feel depressed and dispirited.  Every runner knows (and most non-runners don't) the frustration that accompanies the inability to run regularly for whatever reason.  Continuing to associate, socially, with those who are running regularly can make the pain even more exquisite, though those same people are also best equipped to empathise.  I feel sad for those who are struggling, but also want to tell them that their time at the top of the cycle will come again if they have patience, that they should use their downtime wisely, and that, believe it or not, there are more important things in life than running.