I am a firm believer in coincidences, or as Richard Bach aptly put it, in the notion that "Everyone, every moment in your life, is there because you attracted it to yourself."
A couple of weeks ago, I lent one of my favorite books, "The Boy Who Runs," to a friend. That morning, for no particular reason, I shared with her the once-in-a-lifetime experience of running across Uganda with the book's protagonist, Julius Achon, as part of a fundraiser for The Love Mercy Foundation. It remains one of my fondest memories, right at the intersection of what makes me feel the most alive: running in extraordinary places to support causes I deeply believe in.
Today, my friend mentioned that she had finished (and loved!) the book. It just so happened that I returned home from our training session to discover that it's the fourth anniversary of that glorious experience in Uganda. So, I took a moment to reflect on those few days in Uganda, the incredible country, the meaningful work that Love Mercy does for Uganda, and the remarkable people I had the privilege of meeting, especially Julius.
I deeply admire you, my friend.
check out https://vimeo.com/395307254 if you get the chance!
I often find myself multitasking, juggling multiple tasks and thoughts. I find it hard to sharpen my focus on just one thing at a time and align full attention with full emotional engagement.
When I do, it's quite magical.
Speed work, when done with full attention, is a great example.
There's something magical about immersing myself fully, paying attention to each detail of my movements. My steps, the length of my stride, my cadence, the swinging of my arms, the steadiness of my head, my overall posture, the engagement of my muscles, the sound of my feet landing, my intense breathing... When I zero in and truly listen and witness with emotional connection, it feels as if time stands still or loses its tight grip altogether.
It reminds me of those slow-motion shots of cheetahs in the African savannah, chasing prey at full speed. Or the strongest and most elegant runners, leaning into a bend on the track. I'm not even remotely as graceful or powerful, but in my mind, I could well be, as everything is illuminated.
Of course, we can find this sense of focus and engagement in so many activities – playing music, basketball, racing cars, reading books, painting, and intellectual pursuits.
This state of presence is a wonderful feature, not a bug.
And it's nothing new. Mindfulness, meditation, visualisation, and awareness all strive for the same outcome: presence at its best.
After all the treadmill and road running of the last couple of years, it was great to be back running on trails.
Such a sense of freedom moving in the wilderness, jumping over rocks, picking up speed downhill and working hard up those steep climbs.
Where have I been all this time? I was lost and I found myself again!
Ok, the last two years were not that bad! I ran well, had fun and met wonderful road runners along the way. But it was time to step out my comfort zone, so I joined Lidia at the Tassie Trailfest. In the morning, Lidia ran the half marathon while I ran the marathon (44km actually). In the evening we ran the 16km together.
The Tassie Trail Fest is a weekend long festival of running and runners in the little town of Derbi, Tasmania. With races of various distances from 5km to 44km to an "all-inclusive" Multiday Ultra Madness challenge, it caters for runners of any ability and for those like Lidia and I who take turns in running and babysitting duties (although this time we had Lidia's mum over to help!).
It is small and casual event, very well organised by a charismatic race director, Johnno who takes time to meet and great everyone. Johnno has put a lot of attention in all those little details that make of a race an experience to remember and I will definitely be back to tackle for the Multiday challenge!
And the trail is simply fantastic!
Two days of rain before race day - getting nervous!
I hear you... I am soft! I got so used to running in a controlled environment, I was nervous not knowing what the weather could throw at me, what the trail would be like, how much incline and technical the run would be. My intention was to just have some fun, so with no pressure of performance, I could reframe that feeling into something more uplifting: excitement! If anything, this was going to be a different way to get two runs in a day as my last effort before the 24h in Canberra.
The field for the marathon was pretty small and aside the eventual winner of the race, who was obviously on a mission for setting a record time, everyone was pretty chilled. A couple of kilometres in the race, up the first set of never ending switchbacks, I found myself naturally progressing to 2nd place which I maintained till the end. Not because I was fast, because the field was small! And I felt surprisingly good.
The first half of the race was a constant climb up. I remained relaxed and kept a comfortable pace, moving forward with intent and perseverance also on the steeper sections I could have as well walked. I carried only my handheld water bottle and very little nutrition with me, which would have been plenty for a flat road race but not enough for the effort required on this profile.
Mostly single trail on the bike track, there were little opportunities for taking the wrong path or getting lost. Unless like me, you second guess yourself when I didn’t spot marks for a while. About 30 km in, instead of listening to my gut feelings telling me I was on the right trail, I succumbed to the doubts, stopped, got my phone out to try to work out where I was and if I should carry on or go back! With no reception, I stood there, unsure on what to do next.. I started calling out “is there anyone behind? hello?!”. As I was ready to start running back, a female runner appeared charging up from behind a bent, surprised to see me just standing there! She assured me we were on the right track. I turned around and I took off feeling such a rookie!
The next rookie mistake was just around the corner as, shortly after I ran out of nutrition and water with 8km to go, and the temperature getting warmer. Luckily, the last part was downhill and I kept moving maintaining a high spirit enjoying the serenity of the surroundings. The GPS on my Garmin also went bananas losing a few kms so, so I had no idea how far I still had to go. I thought I should be able to cover the distance in about 4 hours 20 minutes so I was counting down time from that ball park number. Which ended up being pretty accurate as I crossed the finish line in 4:21. I went straight for the aid station.
Lidia and I spent the afternoon back at the apartment with the kids, before heading back to Derbi for the 7:30pm start of the 16km evening run. The moon was out, it was warm and windless evening, just perfect for our date night! A couple of kilometres in, we found our position and ran with no-one directly in front or behind, which made the whole run even more magical. We ran together and chatted the whole way, one of the best nights we had together in a very long time.
The finish line was inside the Town Hall, a rock band was playing and could be heard from kilometres away. Such a great way to finish the run, with other runners already celebrating with pizza and beer, and dancing on stiff legs.
A great weekend in every way.
The thing I took away is that while I believe training specifically for the event or challenge ahead is of fundamental importance, I have been too specific lately. It is good to take a break. Go back to basics and look for the fun in just running because we can.
My gear & nutrition
- OC Tshirt (of course), Salomon compression shorts, Injinji socks, Hoka One One Speed Instinct trail shoes
- 1x CurraNZ capsule 2 hours before start, 3x powder carbs & electrolyte in 600ml handheld Ultra Direction bottle, 1x gel, 1x AtOneFoods power bar