Caren Ware's Blog

August 3, 2010

Uggs are made in Austraila. Marathon Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — Caren Ware @ 12:14 am

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Ugggggh.  I actually said it out loud.  To whom?  The howling wind and the methodically crunching of my shoes against the sand? Yes, ugh body. I am talking to you.  Or more like you are trying to talk back to me!  More like ughhhhh.  The 30K marker was behind me.  I had gulped a few sips out of my stashed Gatorade bottle at the 30K marker and was now shuffling on a stretch of the OUTBACK that was truly breathtaking.  There is nowhere like it on earth.  Red earthen, mildly rolling, dotted with vegetation that so miraculously survives out here. I was all alone.  As an inaugural event  and given the remote location, there were only 90 of us hearty marathoners that were tackling this distance in the soft sands and wash boarded dirt roads.  This allowed us to fan out into our own paces and modes of coping toward the finish.  It made it exactly what we were all here to experience.  I liked that it was me, the elements, and this amazingly earthen place.

But I was concerned.  My body was doing things I had never felt before.  In near frozen glee we had all started at our bused to the middle of nowhere start.  Ayres Rock was the back drop. An Australian from the Outback was playing some hollowed out log called a diggeredoo or something  aborigine sounding as that.  His wind vibrations made with the drumming of his fingers sent us off on a 26.2 mile bushwhack adventure.  I felt like meeting people and picked up conversations as we trotted through the first kilometers.  “Where you from?” And I listened from there.  (That is kind of a novelty for me).  There were a lot from the states.  Lots from Australia.  A Romanian, Hungarian, German, 4 stunning model perfect Japanese.  Lots hoping to do runs on every continent.  Some had done 50 marathons or more. It turned into a long 13.1 mile loop that I started realizing, despite the mostly flat terrain dotted with a few sand dune rises, was going to be a slow course…for all of us.  A rarity had happened.  It had rained and the hard ground softened.  I was wishing I had done my training mileage on the sands of Santa Monica Beach. My ankles, calves, and pads of my feet were starting to belly ache.

Around mile 18, I knew I needed help.  I had stashed two gels, a sample Luna Bar, and my ipod in the hidden key pouches of my favorite running shorts.  Survival tunes were going to have to get me through some miles.  I was hoping  deep thoughts would.  But all I could muster up was an ‘ugh’.  And the ‘ughs”  were coming more frequently.  As I fumbled with the Ipod and prancing at a weird gait my right need cramped and I buckled.  What the heck was that?  THAT was a warning that I was about to have to survive the next eight miles in a way I had never before.  My IT Ban  was screaming no more.  No  hips were saying  no more rocking hips in the soft sand.  My Achilles, the good one, was saying I have had it with this pushing forward with every step.   My legs were shutting down on me no matter how hard I willed them not.  A couple of seasoned marathoners shuffled by me and all too quickly disappeared over the next knoll.  Humbling.  I watched their efficient shuffle and had to conclude that this kind of running compared to last weekend’s gazelles on the track was not pretty.  Ringing with “this is NOT PRETTY!” I felt like I had entered into that bad dream world where you are trying to run for your life and are going nowhere.  I was inching.  I had miles left to go and it was taking…okay, count to 100.  Now count to 100 again. Ok.  Count to 100 another time. Now, that song took 3 minutes and 50 seconds.  That means you need at least 10 more songs to get to the finish.  It was down to that.

As I crested the knoll, I could see a tall gentleman ahead of me.  No doubt by his walking and running efforts, he was hurting too.  I made him my project.  Just get to him.  It was an endless pursuit.  It felt like  my running was slower than the times he chose to walk.  I was watching his game.  Walk 10 strides and run 30.  This was serious pull from the debts of nothing something.  I don’t think this was due to lack of conditioning and training.  It was the consistent different terrain and it lassoed tendons and stabilizers that did not normally get called upon this way.  I got to meet this New York lawyer at the celebration dinner as we were bonded comrades just by being out there in the same condition with the same mileage to go.  This was his 50th marathon and he said it was the most taxing physically; that he had never had his body give in to the strain like this one.  Me neither.

I spied the tops of canopies and I knew the endless bad dream was going to have a finish.  Somewhat cruelly, the course made you go by the small crowd that was relishing their experience to cheer us on in the Outback and double back on them before making a full parade circle into the finish.  I didn’t run in.  I shuffled in and it was triumphant.  Time didn’t matter.  Effort did. That had taken more physical effort than anything I had ever attempted.  That was dang slow.  That was dang hard.  And that was so very , very worth it.

My daughter had trotted over the red soil on a 6k fun run and I appreciated her sincere presence as she snapped photos and draped a finisher’s medal on my neck and patiently let me relish the fact that I could stop running now.  My son thanked me for such an experience in the Outback.  He said to being in such an expanse of nothingness is what a fly must experience when he lands on a window taking a quote from C.S. Lewis. Then my son said, “The presence of never ending space and time that stretches from horizon to flat horizon is humbling. The stars and earth feel utterly alien and the Past is here. It is a place that never changes.”

It is a place that changes us.

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