Thursday, 27 March 2014

Thanks to a girl called Jess


That was a sigh of relief, not anguish, by the way.

The anguish was earlier in the night.
Bib selfie #obligatorypreraceshot

I'm sitting on my bed, eating and drinking water, very sore, very tired, but needing to wind down before going to sleep, so I thought I'd write up my run report from tonight.


And…………lol.  That's about as far as I got, as the 'very tired' caught up with me and I fell asleep as soon as I started writing this.  Now, Attempt #4 to continue this, a few nights later...

So, that half marathon?

I did it.

But I almost didn't.

Could you tell how bad my mindset was, from my last blog post?

It was shocking.

I've been apprehensive about runs before but this seemed to be something else.  I almost
A 'trying to look fine' selfie for Kirst on my way there.
made myself physically sick on the way there.  I was daydreaming of anything but doing this run.  As I approached the start line I was asking myself what I was doing there and playing mind games galore.

"Why am I here?"

"I should have entered the 10km!"

"Oh, look...those people have green bibs...they're doing the 10km...they are SO lucky...I could have been one of them!"

"I need to start being less bloody determined and more flexible and relax my own set of rules."

"Oh, it's 10min. till the start - stretch!"

"I can't do this..."

“Why do I do this to myself?”
I did not feel great

Around and around the thoughts went.  My only semi comforting thought was the reminder that I feel like this before every run - I always doubt myself, and then I start, and it's ok and I end up conquering it.  I told myself, it's cool, it'll just be like one of those times!  Yeah, I'll be ok...

Well, you know what?  This was one run where that self doubt feeling followed me through
my entire run.

As I ran through the Start banner, I thought maybe I'd relax, and start to feel calm like I've done before.  Surely all of the anxiety and worry would just be in the lead up, and as soon as I start running, I'll be ok?  Surely?  Yes?


Recent loss of self confidence could be to blame here!

Whatever it was, and wherever it came from, it was awful. :(

Really, really bad.

I had zero belief in myself.  None.  And this continued.  I was dreaming up the weirdest potential reasons why I should stop running...the most imaginative excuses I could use...and the best escape plans to get me out of there.  Apart from simply stopping in my tracks and throwing myself on the ground to cry, my main option I considered was just doing the 10km.  The half marathon was basically two 10km laps, plus a little extra.  Yes!  I could just do one lap of the 10km and finish!  No-one would know or care!  The only person this would affect, would be me, and I was in such a world of mental pain at the time, that I didn't really care!

But the problem that kept arising for me, in response to each crazy excuse I came up with,
'You Can Do Anything' + 'It Doesn't Matter' (if I'm last)
was that I did care.  (Damnit!)

I did care!  Otherwise why the hell was I running.

So much of it was riding on this little list I have on Excel.  I made it late 2013...a list of all of my planned runs for 2014.  As much as I told myself that the list is's not, at all.  I'm so overly determined that it's ridiculous.  Of course that list isn't flexible!  If I tell myself I’m going to do something, and furthermore write it in Excel AND PRINT IT, then I do it.

Even when I think I can’t.

And today was one day where I didn't think I could.  As I ran past the 1km, 2km banners, the ‘bad thoughts’ continued.

In my worst moments, I actually wished for things to happen that no-one in their right mind would ever wish for.  I am disappointed to say this.  (Nothing sinister, just injuries, broken equipment etc.) - but that was bad enough.  Who thinks like that??  I've never wished that upon myself before.  I was clutching at straws, desperate for anything that could cause me to be able to stop that wasn’t my own mind…it was like my determination was set in stone – changing that was a no go zone.  But if something else happened that was outside of my
With Bron, before my run
control, well, that would be ok then!

I know it sounds ridiculous.

And I am disappointed in myself.

But, as much as I wished it, nothing out of my control happened…I had to keep running!

I wanted to stop, so much.  I self comforted by continually daring myself to consider dropping to the 10km.

However at one point I got a strand of my hair stuck down my throat, and I struggled to cough it up.  It was actually quite scary, feeling a little choked while running.  I was determined to get rid of that hair; I remember telling myself that if I pull out of this event, I refuse to do it because of a piece of hair!  If I stop running, it will be for something a lot more important than that!

But how could I get out of this?  What could be so important that I will have no choice but to stop?


The silly thing is, with every km that rolled past, the only thing that hurt, was my mind.  My legs, my breathing, all of that was fine and always is.  My body always seizes up later in big events like this, but I always manage to hold it together until the end.  But no matter what,
apart from breathing anxiety, I never get ‘puffed’ or out of breath.  The only thing standing in my way is my mind.

I kept on with the bad mindset through it all, still tempting myself with excuses.  It would be a miracle if I finished this run!

Then, around the 5km or 6km mark, just after the half way point of the first lap, someone appeared by my side.  It was seemingly from out of nowhere.  I hadn’t heard or seen anyone run up to me.  They just appeared.
The storm last year started while I was on the bridge. So far, so good.

It was a girl, and in the meekest, most fragile voice, she said “do you mind if I run with you?”

Umm, excuse me?  Do you even need to ask?  How did she know I needed her?  It was like an angel had appeared!  Someone offering to help me by running alongside me?  I realised though that she was asking me to help her!  Whereas in my eyes, she was a godsend to me.

My heart broke as she explained, while fighting back tears, how her friends had run off ahead and ditched her, mid run.  They had even made a pact to stick together during their half marathon.  She didn’t know why they had left her, but they had.  She could barely explain it to me as she was so hurt – she said she was a mess and didn’t think she could go on.  She was almost broken.

I immediately hugged her (on the side, we were still running!) and exclaimed how I was a mess and I didn’t think could go on!  I said I didn’t have friends who had ditched me, but my mindset was in a pretty shocking place all by itself.

Within 2 seconds we promised each other we wouldn’t leave each others side no matter what, and that we would finish this whole run together.  Neither of us would finish alone because we'd do it side by side.  And we wouldn't let each other give up.

And then we pinkie swore.

While running.

So suddenly I've gone from tempting myself to give up, to suddenly meeting an angel in
My steps from the event alone
running shoes.  Instantly, my fear of coming last vanished.  I didn't care where I came now, because I was no longer by myself.

The next 3-4km went by so quick.  We got to know each other a little and kept running as it grew darker.  My angel had a name, Jess.

Well those few km's may have gone by quick, but that was it.  As we neared the 8-9km mark, I think it dawned on both of us that we still had a fair way to go.  The honeymoon period was over.  It was nice to have a running buddy, but we still had to run for another 10km+!

We kept trudging through. We were starting to get sore all over. (Jess even had a broken bone in her foot!) But it was our minds that were slightly worse off. It was kind of nice having someone who felt the same way. Because it's not like one of us felt comparatively confident and single handedly spurred the other one on. We were both as downhearted as each other!

We both wanted to finish early, at 10km. As we got closer to the finish chute (where 10km'ers were enviously finishing and where the half marathoners would end up after a second lap), you could feel us both pining to finish up. But, as tempted as we were individually, as a team we wouldn't let each other. We had, after all, pinkie promised....

We ran past the finish chute and instead turned around at the 10km turn, which saw us going under the Start banner again, to start our second lap (and a bit).

'Broken' was a pretty spot on description. We were running away from the finish line...that in itself was hard to do when we were already crumbling.

As we ran around the area close to 'base camp', a few of our friends cheered us on: my dear friend Bron, who, by the end of the night had waited for 3 and a half hours after her event finished, just to support me. She was live tracking my race on the internet but was physically there also. My friend from work, Dean, surprised me by calling out. And Jess had
My new name of '1690' ;)
a couple of other friends showing her support too. We adopted each other's friends as our own. Hell, we adopted strangers as well! Anyone who wanted to high 5 us or call out some encouragement, we gladly accepted it. We became known as "Jess and her friend" and "Jess and 1690" (lol Jess had her name on her bib whereas I registered late and only had my bib number).

As we ran further away to do our second lap, the darker it became, the more our bodies ached and the more our minds played up.

I kept wanting to quit but each time I remembered, I had promised Jess that we would do this!  In the pain of the moment, I started wishing I hadn't!  (I don't mean that of course, but I was struggling so much that my mind was going round in circles.  I just wanted to get out of there.) :(  I didn't tell her just how much I wanted to quit because I didn't want to put her off.  At one point she said she just wanted to go home.  I said she could but let's just go via the finish line...

I wasn't Miss Positive and Brave the whole time though.  Oh no.  I complained and I moaned, a lot.  Sometimes you could argue that we probably weren't the best influence on
Total cals burnt
each other lol.  We named the parts of our bodies that hurt.  Haha!  We started playing mind games.  Earlier on, we had decided we just needed to get to the 11km mark, because from there it was just single digit kilometers left and that was easier to handle than double digits.

A couple of times I thought I heard sirens but I think it was my mind playing tricks on me after last year.  It was strange to do the course where I could see, and where the road wasn't flooded with torrential rain slapping me in the face.  In some moments what kept me going was reminding myself that I needed to run, because I could.  I ran a bit for the runner who passed away from the event last year - because he couldn't any more.  And I ran a bit for my Nanna.  Because she couldn't.

As much as I wasn't blinded by rain this year, there were some dark patches and we narrowly missed a few pot holes! And I also *just* missed a TOAD!

I'm obviously not a time fiend, but there was a point in the run where I thought I might actually make a personal best (PB) time!  That spurred me on a lot, but I didn't increase my speed - this was not the race to worry about this.  I just had to concentrate about finishing.

On our first lap, we'd run past some neighbours who had set up a table and were drinking wine and eating cheese, watching the runners go past.  They had the right idea!  On our second lap, they were enjoying a BBQ!  Oh my gosh were we jealous!

Jess spotted a lovely house - I said I wished I was in it right now and she agreed.  We then
Bringing it in - our friends on the left by our sides
concocted a mutual dream of what we wished we were doing at that very moment.  We wanted to be in that house...having had a shower...with our feet in a foot spa...wearing Summer pyjamas...watching Masterchef...and eating KFC.  OH how we wanted this. I don't even watch Masterchef!  But I had never wanted to watch it more…

We kept going.  At around 16km was the turn around point of the second lap.  Finally – we were geographically on our way back to ‘base camp’ (the finish line area).

Sometimes we encouraged each other, sometimes we were silent, sometimes we clapped for other runners.  At one point I played Dr Seuss’s “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” by Burning Man on my iPhone speakers for us both.  There seemed to be so many applicable-to-us lines about 'long wiggled roads', speed, lonely places and going on despite leaking sneakers!  I did not think that through!  I have it on my usual running playlists but I worried during some bits that I maybe shouldn't have played it for Jess, as it may have been too emotional to listen to.

But she was a trouper, and she battled through, broken foot bone (!) and all.  Earlier we'd said that once we get to 18km, we'll be ok.  Well, 18km came and we still struggled.  Every kilometer felt like The Longest Kilometer In The History Of The Universe.

18km was great, yes, but we still had 3km to go...that was sooooo loooong.  We described what we'd do at the finish line and how it would feel.  We visualised it and talked about it a lot.

We knew that we'd feel so much better having done the full thing despite how we felt, rather
We actually made it
than the alternative.

19km...will this never end?  Even 20km was exciting but still felt like a lifetime away from 21.1km.  We kept going and even managed to overtake a couple of runners.

And then, we saw it.  The lit stadium.  My eyes madly darted around to try and spot the finish banner.  For a second I couldn't see it and I thought they may have torn it down already.  But they hadn't.  You know earlier?  When I said I thought I could make a PB time?  Well, I have no idea how I calculated that because it couldn't have been further from the truth.  Nope, I was so far off it.  My first half time was 2:49.  My next three were about 3:00.  I did this one in 3:14!  Adding 14min. to my worst time?  Who does that?? 

But this wasn't an event to worry about time in the slightest - I will delve into this in a future post.

For now, it didn't matter.  All that mattered was that we finished.  Coz we almost didn't.

Our friends ran us in, alongside the chute.  The few dozen people left at the finish site cheered us in.  Jess and I grabbed each others hands and ran under the finish line together.

We had done it.

2 strangers
1 run
1 finish

My body seized up as it usually does when I let it go and my legs gave way like jelly.  My
friend Ben pulled me up and it took me a few seconds to recognise him, I was so much in my own little world!

Bron fetched me my medal, drinks, the hot cross bun and banana they had for finishers, and I lay down, ridiculously sore.

I didn't want to move, and cheered on a couple of finishing runners from my comfortable spot on the ground.

But then I decided I needed to get up.

Because there was one runner left to come in.  He was an older guy, maybe in his 60's, and we had cheered him on through the event.  He was a few km's behind us.  As I lay there, I knew that I didn't want him to come in on his own - no-one should have to do that.  I got saved by Jess and had someone by my side, so I needed to do the same for this guy.

Somehow I limped with Bron for about 500m, going backwards onto the course I had wanted to get off all night, just trying to catch up to him.  He appeared, and Bron and I ran him in, as the people at the finish site lined the chute and we all cheered him on probably more than any runner of that evening.  He even sprinted the last 30m.  Champion.

During the time I had gone to find the last runner, Jess had to leave.  I started joking to myself that she was, in fact, a real angel - because once we had gone through the finish line, we never saw each other again.  I even took 1 selfie of us running and her face was a bit blurry whereas mine was fine!  lol!

But no, a running angel, yes, but Jess is a real person :)  She fortunately left her number with Ben and we've been chatting and now we're Facebook friends :)

It's taken me a few days to write this (it's now Wednesday) and I've had some time to think about it.  As much as this event pained me in every second, and I didn't even feel total euphoria at the end, I think I needed to go through this.  It's actually taught me more than I could have realised - so yes, the greater level of thinking will be in another post.

But on a simple level, what this event taught me was how phenomenal the mind is.

Just 8 weeks ago I ran the same distance and described it as 'easy'.  How can I go from that, to something that I made sound like self imposed torture in such a short amount of time?

My mindset needs a complete overhaul.
Because of a pinkie promise

I truly don't think I could have gotten through that without my angel Jess.  Maybe I would have, like I do everything.  But really, I was so close to pulling out, I think I may have actually, for the first time ever, given up.  Thank you Jess, if you read this, from the bottom of my heart.  I have now, not only a meaningful finishers medal, but a new friend, and a valuable lesson learnt.  This run will remain as significant in my runners memory bank...and the lessons it taught me are going to help me more than I realised on the night.

Sometimes we go through things and we hate it and it hurts and we don't know why (especially when it was our idea in the first place!)

But to get better and to grow, we have to learn our lessons somehow.  No trial is futile.

Jess: on Monday night, I got home from work, had a shower, put on Summer pyjamas, ate KFC and watched My Kitchen Rules.  It wasn't Masterchef and I was too lazy to drag the foot spa out, but it was pretty much the same thing :)  And I toasted us.  Thanks for sticking by my side xx


  1. Congratulations Kate & Jess. So glad you found each other & helped each other out. You bought a tear to my eye with this post.

  2. Kate, what a beautiful story you have written. What an experience...!! Jrss is a dear, dear friend of mine and I can share with you what an absolute angel you were for her too. Thank you for being you and supporting Jess through a terribly tough run...she like you, is a terrific fighter with an incredible & passionate heart and the fact that fate brought you both together as angels for each other to get through a tough one is exceptional....Kate, thank you for your story, Jason x

  3. You write so beautifully Kate, letting the story unfold bit by bit. How incredible for you both to find each other and to be able to battle through what was clearly a very difficult run - for so many reasons. You were both blessed to find each other. Thank goodness Jess said something to you, where most of us would be embarrassed asking a stranger to accompany them, exposing a perceived weakness. I think you are one of the strongest and bravest women I know and I treasure your friendship and advice. xx

  4. Hi Kate. My name us Patricia and Jess is my BFF and I was one of the friends there cheering you on and ran you to the finish line. Fom the very bottom of my heart I thank you for your amazing spirit

  5. What a wonderful wonderful race. Rock stars, both of you.