Twilight

As you know, I’m a sucker for a race. The invisible power of a crowd. You can’t see it but you can feel it. Pushing you beyond your limits. There have been a few races I’ve had my eyes on, but due to not having a set schedule for treatment, I haven’t been able to plan in advance. Twilight Running Festival was one of them. As last week progressed it was clear surgery wasn’t going to happen before Sunday 23rd. Twilight Running Festival was happening Sunday 23rd. This actually suits my personality. Impulsive Rochelle. I jumped straight onto the website. Registrations were available for 3 distances: 5km, 10km and 21km. 5km I know I can do. 10km is the unknown. Thinking back, I can’t actually remember the last time I ran 10km. My Nike running app shows a few 8km runs. I’ve done one 15km, nothing in between. Also, that was all pre-treatment. Was my body up for it now? The decision lingered. A) Stay in my comfort zone? B) Conquer the unknown? Lock in B, Eddy.

Of course, if you know me, you’ll also know I like to convince friends to join in my crazy antics. Ask my friend, Nash. He thoroughly enjoyed the Duathlon in the snow and Tough Mudder in the hail and rain. He swore he would never let me convince him to compete in any other event, ever. My Twilight target: Vanessa. She too hasn’t run the distance in a very long time. Of course she would be up for the challenge. The text messages started followed by some Facebook peer-pressure. Success came on Saturday. I now had a 10km buddy.

To add to the challenge the race was being held in the afternoon, at ‘twilight’. I have never run in the afternoon or evening before. I’m a morning runner. Roll out of bed, into the shoes and out the door. Apart from being an extremely hot day with temperatures forecast to still be 31 deg, I was looking forward to the foreign running conditions.

We arrived at 4pm for a 5pm start. Lucky for us, we had a ready-made support crew and cheer squad. A group of friends from Ipswich were there supporting runners in the 5km and 21km distance. They now had two more to support in the 10km.

With 10 minutes to go we maneuvered to the start line. There were a lot of very eager runners and the start line was already overflowing. We squeezed our way through about midway and found a gap in the crowd.

Now, preparation has never been my strong point. Clearly. So why would the minutes prior to a 10km race be any different…. With a minute to go I tested my shoes and realised one was slightly looser than the other. Was this going to annoy me? Most definitely! The starting gun sounded and we set off – walking – towards the start. I decided it’s now or never to fix the shoe so made a quick exit to the side. I had already double knotted my laces so it felt like forever to fix the problem. Amateur! Sorted and ready to go I saw Vanessa had sidelined herself so we could start together. Your time is only registered when you cross the start line so I wasn’t losing time by making the adjustments now.

Finally, we were off. The crowd surrounding us was setting a good pace. A comfortable pace… I reminded myself this wasn’t my usual 5km distance. I would have to back off otherwise I would run out of steam. My Nike Run app was going to be my saving grace today. It was going to keep me in check. Soon enough I heard my first km split. 5:40. Probably a little too fast, 6 min/km was more achievable for the whole distance. Pre-treatment it would have been a slow pace. But for now, it was comfortable.

It was such a stunning course. Starting on the grounds of UQ St Lucia, over a bridge, past the cemetery and along the river. I reminded myself to take in the surroundings and enjoy every step. The km’s ticked over and before I knew it I was nearing 5km. I was already halfway! And I still felt good. By now the runners had reached the turn-around point and heading back towards us. I started to lose focus, I started drifting away with the fairies. I was too focused on trying to find friends in the crowd to cheer them on that I forgot I was in a race myself.  When I started to feel dizzy from looking to my right instead of straight ahead, I snapped back to the present. I was having too much fun.

6km came and went, 7km came and went. The km’s were rolling behind me. Then I reached 8km. I felt the struggle in my legs and breath. The pace was slowing; Nike Run was informing me of this. It was hardest km. 9km was in reach and the symbol of the nearing finish line, but it wasn’t close enough. And there was a hill. With a few final strides I made it up the hill and was back on the bridge nearing the final km. I was feeling good again. The sun had set and the final stretch was lined with supporters. Was I supposed to be having so much fun after running for nearly an hour? I thought by now I would have been regretting my decision. I wasn’t. I neared the corner and saw our cheer squad. With all their support and motivation they gave me the final push to sprint towards the finish. Then there were none. No more km. Job done.

I made my way to join our crew and learned that Vanessa had crossed not long after me – awesome running by Vanessa, also. It was now time to support the 21km-ers.

As I was watching runners push to the end I wondered what their story was. What were they overcoming in this race? What had they overcome to get to this race? Was this also their first 10km? Was this just a warm-up for something bigger to come? Even in our group we all had a story.

Achievement comes in all shapes and sizes. With running it is usually determined by times. You can be the fastest or slowest in the race, but there is no doubt in my mind that everyone has overcome challenges to get to the end. Even I was inspired watching other runners. We cheered, we laughed… we talked shop. Most importantly, we created memories.

I am beyond excited to now know I can run 10km. The challenge was set and achieved. The next one: 21km. That one I will definitely train for! Surgery will force me to be patient and start from scratch again…but I look forward to what’s to come.

Thanks Vanessa for joining me in the run. Thanks to the support crew for the cheers and congratulations. Well done to everyone else who ran. Hopefully everyone has recovered and is feeling good today.

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So close to the finish line and having so much fun. I think I startled the other runners.

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The whole crew: 5km-ers, 10km-ers and 21km-ers. United at the end.

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Vanessa and I

988832_10151961340537201_1891848612_nMy fastest (and first ever) 10km recorded.

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