“Can you hear that sound outside?”
Excited voices. Breathless voices.
An occasional cheer – clap-clap-clappity-clap-clap.
“Are those people running down our street? What is going on out there? It’s Sunday morning, and the sun isn’t even up yet!”
Ahhh! It’s the Pinelands Athletics Club, which is based at the Lower Oval in St Stephen’s Road – they regularly hold fun runs/fun walks through the neighbourhood, and their route usually goes down our street.
We’ve often stood at the gates, munching our breakfast muesli or drinking a hot cup of tea or coffee, shouting encouragement at the participants – and particularly at those runners and walkers who are clearly struggling to complete the race.
This Sunday was the first time that we actually participated. My friend Colette had registered for the 10 km fun run, and Richard and I joined her mother on the 5 km fun walk.
It was still pitch dark when we walked down to the Clubhouse just before 7am, but the place was all lit up and buzzing and humming with activity. All the surrounding parking areas were filling up rapidly. Fit-looking people were milling about, greeting family, friends, and running mates. It was happy excited bustle of runners and walkers of all ages, shapes and sizes, and fitness levels.
We pushed our way through the crush to find out where we had to register for the fun walk, and sorted ourselves out. A few minutes before the race began, we finally found Colette and her Mom, and made our way to the start. Colette joined the throng of runners behind the starting line, while the walkers waited patiently on the sidewalk.
With the bang of the starter’s pistol, the runners were off! They quickly disappeared down the road in the direction of Forest Drive, as we joined the other walkers at the starting line. There weren’t that many of us, but we somehow found ourselves right at the back of the group, together with the moms pushing strollers with babies and toddlers. Ah well, as long as we reached the finish!
And actually, that was going to be challenge enough for me. An old ‘war wound’ in my lower back was acting up, and just walking at a steady pace sent stabbing pains up and down my back and into my legs. Luckily, Colette’s mom didn’t mind that we weren’t planning to power-walk all the way to the finish line, and chatting with her was a very welcome distraction!
We hadn’t even reached the 2 km mark, when the first runners came racing up from behind us, hurtling past in a blur of speed, their long sinewy legs effortlessly eating up the kilometres. Man, it must be amazing to be able to run like the wind!
It was a very chilly morning, and we could see our exhaled breath trailing behind us. I was glad to be wearing my fleece jacket. Brrr… Gradually the sky became lighter and lighter, until the sun heaved itself out of bed, and the ground fog on the large expanse of grass along our route just melted away. Perfect weather!
The friendly marshals all along the road and at all the intersections were doing a great job, and we greeted all of them with a cheerful good morning, as they shouted encouragement at us stragglers. Red-and-white tapes had been strung across corners, preventing access to shortcuts, and indicating the official route.
Ever so often, we had to make way for residents reversing their cars out of the driveway and driving slowly down the road. At intervals, smiling policemen stood at the side of the road, ensuring law and order – though I doubt that they had much work to do with such a friendly, excited, cheerful crowd!
As we passed the 4 km mark, we put in a burst of effort to overtake the parents with their little kids and the mothers pushing strollers. We really didn’t want to be last across the finish line!
And at last, we were on the home stretch, with the large green sports field right in front of us.
As we crossed the finish line, each of us was given a little medal! We hung it proudly around our necks. It had taken us just over an hour to walk these 5 km, which doesn’t sound like a great achievement, but we were nonetheless very happy with the result!
We waited near the finish line, until we could see Colette with her orange cap come running towards us. We cheered her on, as she crossed the line, looking a little exhausted. It had been a tough run for her, but she had done it! And she had a medal of her own to prove it! 😀
And the best thing of this early morning fun walk was that we still had the entire rest of Sunday ahead of us!