Two long years ago I was slumped forwards, hands on knees, gasping for breath and grinning wildly. I’d just run an 18:11 parkrun, dropped 1km from the line after a ding-dong duel that had been on almost from the start. Only two months before that, I’d run the inaugural Main Beach parkrun and an 18:XX time had seemed impossible. As I sucked in another almightly, yet insufficient, lungful of air, I tentatively wondered whether a 17:XX could be achievable.

As happens, the trajectory of results was interrupted – first by injury and then by life. The sub-18 idea waned and was soon left forgotten like an old suit gathering dust in the back of the closet. Attempts to return to parkrun were thwarted by injuries and by the busy weekend schedule of a family with four young children. It seemed my brief but bright dance with parkrun was over.

But the very nature of parkrun doesn’t lend itself to being so easily forgotten. A community-focused event that gathers lovers of fresh air and exercise together, to share tales and rivalries and soak up the happy positive energy of like-minded individuals, leaves a hook in your soul that reels you back in. As I grew bored of swimming, cycling and triathlon, I found myself rearranging my schedule to accommodate a Saturday morning 7am start – parkrun.

Two months ago I found myself standing under the tall pine trees at Main Beach, surrounded by a colourful crowd of chattering and fidgeting people – parkrunners. I was back. And as my parkrun adventure revived, so did the sub-18 idea. It became a target. My 2013 goal. Break the 18 minute barrier.

Six times I’ve battered myself against the 18 minute barrier. I got close, then I got further away. I was hopeful, then I was frustrated. Only two weeks ago I decided it was destroying my run fitness and I needed to forget it for a while. I started running to and from parkrun – 7km+ each way – clearly not the best way to smoke your parkrun PB! But, finally, I cracked it. A 17:53 at Varsity Lakes last week was a “pinch me, am I awake?” moment. And now a 17:50 at Main Beach has confirmed it: I’ve knocked the bugger off!

Main Beach parkrun results

What followed was a couple of days of elation. I told people who were interested. I told people who weren’t interested! I analysed, I hypothesised, and I generally felt quite chuffed. And then… well… I didn’t really know quite what to do anymore.

The sub-18 was my 2013 Goal. I suppose I’d imagined it would take right up until the end of 2013 to achieve the goal – but clearly I hadn’t really thought about that at all. Now there’s still a month and a half left of 2013 and I seem to be foundering somewhat – I’ve lost my drive to train. The post-goal blues?

So I’ve decided to take it easy this week. Give the body a chance to recover, and the mind a chance to latch onto something.

I keep thinking about running long. I’ve built my long run up to 2.5 hours. I still want to get it to 3 hours before Xmas. And maybe to 30km+ (if I can stomach 3 hours on the road!). The last three weekends I’ve totalled 40, 44, and 47km. This week I hit 100km for the first time ever. I’m finding it noticeably easier (and nicer!) to run for 90 mins. Running’s starting to feel like it did when I was a kid – effortless! I know that the other part of the equation is a healthy diet – I think it’s only a matter of time before I succumb.

One trail run which keeps calling to me is a round-trip on the 21km section of the Hinterland Great Walk, from Binna Burra to O’Reilly’s, along the caldera of the enormous Tweed Volcano. I figure it’ll be 2.5 hours each way, with a stop for a snack at O’Reilly’s. The distance is just far enough that I’m not game to tackle it on my own… yet. But it’s going to happen soon. Before Xmas I reckon.

Walking on the Hinterland Great Walk
Walking the Hinterland Great Walk with the kids. Look at that delicious trail!

But for now, it’s feet up, job done. Bugger – knocked off!

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