Is ‘Fun Run’ an oxymoron?

Written by

Andrew Millar


September 19, 2011

You do these silly things from time to time… to impress others… to challenge yourself… to be part of something big…

Whatever the reason, I agreed to take part in the City Bay Fun Run this year.

Serious stuff. It is not the kind of thing you do on the spur of the moment. Sunday morning… wake-up, yawn, scratch and say, ‘Forget breakfast, I’m running to Glenelg’. You have to train a little first.

Training I divided into two distinct phases. Firstly I ran around the block last Wednesday evening. I did it in the dark so as not to scare the neighbour’s domestic animals. The second part of my intense preparation was watching people run around on TV. Though they were chasing an odd shaped ball, they were running never the less.

Ok. To be completely honest, I have been going to the gym each week, but the furthest I’ve ever run in there was a 1000 meters on a treadmill. The City Bay is 12 kilometres, so not that long after the start, I’d be in unexplored territory.

So training program completed I headed, with family and daughter’s friend, to the start, along with 34,000 others.

In an honest effort to make things clear to my fellow runners I modified my entry number card. I’d added the word ‘walk’ so it now read ‘City Bay 12 Kilometre Fun Run/Walk’. And just to be completely realistic, I crossed out the word ‘Fun’.

The organisers had learnt from experience that you just can’t fire a gun and let such a crowd go all at once. The result is complete chaos. So everyone is colour coded to start at separate intervals. We were due to hit the torture trail at 8:26. Some 26 minutes after the bony, slightly hungry looking elite runners left. We stopped to watch one of our Premiers set them free and then we made our way to the back of the pack.

We split our team into two; walkers and runners and we runners pushed off into the crowd to find people of similar coloured number card. And we were a little surprised when all of a sudden the crowd around us started moving towards the Starter’s gate. And so, 15 minutes early, a starter’s pistol began my odyssey.

My plan was to walk the first kilometre then try and run the next 3. From there, walk. But as we were gunned off with the semi elite, I had to run from the start or look like a complete twit… up from the Festival Theatre to North Terrace, down King William Street to South Terrace. And by the time I arrived at the tram tracks, I was stuffed. As I made my way past Beehive Corner I felt like a complete fraud. My joke was backfiring on me in large lumps. With every step I was beginning to realise the complete difference between road and running machine. I felt Victoria Square was going to be my finish line. And that, embarrassingly, would be that.

But I struggled on and found a rhythm that allowed me to keep my daughter and her friend in site. If I were going to be a fake, I’d have to fake it for as long as I could. But I could feel myself loosening up and I became comfortable with a shuffling pace… so much so that I went left at Victoria Square and came out ahead of my daughter.
I wheezed heavily past the 2 kilometre sign, which came as a surprise as I missed the 1 kilometre marker. Things became a little easier as we turned onto Anzac Highway, as the every so slight downhill gradient was encouraging.

I shuffled past the ‘Second Wind Ensemble’ a brass band who had set themselves up on the grassy median strip. I was happy they had come to see me run.

A lone piper stood skirling in the middle of the road. “You sound like I feel.” I said as I past. He did the musical equivalent of dropping a stitch.

Now I have never noticed it before but there is a massive hill to climb in front of LeCornus on Anzac Highway… massive… OK it seemed like one for one like my who was really struggling for breath.

Hungry Jacks offered me water from a card table on the verge. A stretcher would have been more appropriate.

I was amused to see the Smokemart drive through festooned in balloons. It seemed to me that today their marketing efforts had their target audience wrong.

Centro Kurralta Park was on the horizon and all of my ‘Fun Run Days’ survival techniques were coming back to me. Set a rhythm. Lead with your knees. Set small goals. I remember from my running days that the mind gives up before the body. But my mind was saying ‘stop running now, you’ve proved your point’. And I listened. I was beginning to drift from side to side on the road, so I pulled up at the half way water station and drank two cups and began the walk part of my run.

At 7 kilometres I felt fine again and decided to use music to get me down the road. I put the headphones on and used some blistering flamenco to get the feet moving. I figured I’d run one song, walk the next and so on. And then carefully pick the final track to accompany me across the line.

Music make the time go quickly.… I passed the EFM fitness guys waving signs at me. I already had a gym but I guess from the look of me I might not have given that impression. In any case their signs lacked a good advertising idea. Rather than “’$30 for 6 visits”’, what about “’I can have you here 10 minutes earlier next year’.” I was going to stop and suggest it but I was on a running song.

The feeling that I just might make it entered my head at the 10 kilometre mark. And I began to think of the right track to listen to… ‘Eye of the Tiger’? ‘Rocky’? ‘Bound for Glory’? Actually I left it on ‘Rio Ancho’ a frantic rumba that unfortunately get’s faster and faster. This was my theme to run the corridor of cheering, clapping people that lined Jetty Road. Adrenalin kicked in and I lost the Cliff Young shuffle for a Distance Runners Stance –- upright and strong and with an attitude that yelled loudly to the crowd ‘Forget the bus. I’m running back to the city.’ The truth was I crossed the line, skulled 3 cups of Gatorade and sat under a tree and waited for the family to catch up.

My iPhone stopwatch still says 1 hour 30 minutes and 15 seconds. And on reflection I regret crossing the ‘fun’ off my bib number plate. I, weirdly, enjoyed every minute.