After doing it for the first few weeks in Thailand, then not for seven months, I resumed running six weeks ago. It is always hard to fight that feeling of "running a few mornings a week is so little exercise, it cannot possibly make a difference", but Gem, in her infinate wisdom, reminded me how every little helps and even five minutes of exercise is better than none atall, thus I was able to rediscover some motivation to exercise. It doesn't nearly compare to a full workout in the gym and my fitness and stamina will only be a fraction of what it was until I am able to work regular gym workouts back into my daily routine (probably when I return home) but it is something, at least.
In the last six weeks, I have run in places from Magnetic Island, up to Carins, accross to Darwin, down the middle and now in Adelaide. I've found some really fantastic routes to run and ran in a few different conditions too, so I figured why not document my running as another aspect of my trip round Oz... so here it is thus far:
My first run after the seven month drought was on Magnetic Island, a truly beautiful and calming place of the sort that made me feel healthy and alive and just like getting up and being active. For this first, I ran down Horseshoe Road from the YHA to the shore, then along the seafront to the right and then the next morning, to the left. The entire duration of my run was at most ten minutes, but by the end I was feeling completely whacked, I was out of breath, my legs were hurting and I felt like I'd just done a marathon... it was an unpleasant reminder of how much my fitness had slid.
In addition to being really unfit, my hiking shoes, which I use to run in, were rubbing something chronic having walked for a total of nearly 20km in them all over Magnetic Island during the three days. I had blisters and my feet hurt. but I was still glad I'd done it!
Next up was Mission Beach, I remember thinking how much more humid it was than Maggie & Southwards (but the humidity was yet to come!). I stayed at Scotty's Beach House, which is less than a minute from the immensely long beach bordered by palms and other trees in which Cassowarys lurk. I ran northwards along the esplanade and back down again, watching skydivers circling overhead (that would be me the following day).
I was in Cairns for a total of 8/9 nights, on and off, during which I stayed in three different hostels. I developed a running-route that took me out and round the boardwalk beside the docks; running on boardwalk is GOOD, the planks are springy and make a pleasing thunk-thunk under my shoes, it SOUNDS like I am "pounding" along and serves to motivate me more! Cool also to see through the gaps between the boards, turquoisey/grey water lapping below. One time I ran in the evening and had to weave between hoards of Japanese tourists just disembarked from a boat from a trip out to the GBR. It was still pretty warm even at 6.30pm; morning is definitely the best exercise-time for me. I had to be up and out by 7am to avoid the heat of the day, and even then it was already a bit steamy. I was on the ProDive boat for three days but as laps of the deck didn't appeal, I had days off!
Next stop: Darwin, where 40C heat and 50% humidity made for some good endurance training! Of course, it wasn't quite 40C at 7o/c in the morning, but I believe humidity is fairly constant throughout the day and that was the killer. It was really an experience! In Darwin, I ran Bicentennial park, by the sea, from one end to the other, in about 20minutes, making a total of 26m door-to-door. It was a gorgeous view out over the sea and plenty of other runners to say "hi" at. By the end of each run my clothes were wet-through and I was dripping in sweat, pretty gross, although I actually quite liked how it made me feel like I had REALLY done some good exercise. I must admit I felt a bit like a British Athlete training for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, testing my performance under extreme conditions!
After Darwin, I set off on my trip down-the-middle, when swag-sleeping, being in the middle of nowhere with just the Stuart highway or the outback as running-tracks and 4am starts meant that I had an excuse not to run for a week or two. I missed it, though and by the time I got into South Australia and my eyes were filled with green and trees and my nose with the scent of the sea again, I was reinvigorated and raring to go and I had a fantastic run at Port Germein on the last morning of the Rock2Water tour.
It was still warm, contrary to my fears that SA would be freezing, but it was cooler than the outback and the early morning air was refreshing. Our campsite was just metres from the shore and I turned left out of the gate to immediately arrive at the sea. I ran along the road until the tarmac ended then a dirt-track, which eventually also disappeared leaving me running on what appeared to be a deep bed of dried out plant litter, my feet were sinking right in deep and it was hard work pulling them back out, good for the calf muscles! After the litter lessened, I was then running on a mountain of dried shells, I think it might have been what they call a 'shell midden', which is basically a huge heap of shells left from where the locals used to sit and eat shellfish. I'm a bit sceptical about the whole idea, it was like a massive area raised up from the shells, that's a lot of shellfish and I can't really believe that people would just have let the shells drop where they found them to the extent where they altered the topography of the landscape; surely they would have either found a use for them, or thrown them back into the sea so become broken and ground up and particles of sand and shingle. Anyway, it was pretty crunchy underfoot and a little bit unstable and slippery too. I went a bit slower than usual, owing to the cross-country nature of the course, which made a nice change!
After that I slacked off again for a couple of weeks. I was quite busy seaching for harvest work and jobs and getting pretty stressed out about my lack of success and dwindling bank account; I don't run when I feel down or hopeless, then it really feels like there is no point, I can usually only make myself do it when I'm feeling okay, which is a bit stupid as the very act of doing it makes me feel a lot better! I didn't run in Melbourne either, for the same reasons, in addition to the fact that it was big and busy and hot and dirty and crowded and just... ugh.
Back in Adelaide, however, calm descended and I once again felt stirrings to run. The first couple of runs, I took advantage of Adelaide's grid-layout of straight streets and I used my watch to run by, going for five minutes to the west, then seven to the south, then five to the east, then seven to the north, the intention being to end up back at the hostel exactly but I spent a bit too long runnning to the east, overshot by about a minute and had to come back round. The next two times I ran up to the river Torrens and ran the cycle path alongside the river, once in either direction. Yesterday morning within about 3mintues of my setting out, it started tipping it down with rain and I ran through the rain for 28mintues. It was okay actually, I had a lot of energy and no desire to turn back and once I was soaked through I couldn't get any wetter anyway so I just resigned to running in it.. I think it was better than the humidity, if not unlike it, in that I was wet through and kept having to wipe my face on my T-shirt!
It's funny, running would never be my exercise of choice, I much prefer being in the gym, with the smooth motion of the crosstrainer or stepper and a visible count of how many steps I have taken and calories I have burnt. But with a limited budget here and moving on frequently, running is really my only option, with a few stretches and situps thrown in when I get the chance.
I'm actually pretty hopeless at running, I'm not a smooth or natural runner, I lurch a bit and I look kindof awkward (I've seen my reflection in shop windows, lurching past in my hiking shoes and limegreen running shorts... cool). I don't go very fast and i get bored pretty quickly.
When I'm gymming it and I go on the treadmill after a few sessions, it makes my knees and ankles hurt. But here I actually haven't had that problem, I think actual outdoor running impacts less on the joints than the treadmill variety. Possibly a case of 'needs must' but I've actually grown to like running more than I did previously, I have the motivation for it that I never had before with the gym as a preferable alternative and it has turned out to actually be quite a good way to get to see parts of a city or area that I don't otherwise come accross. I still yearn for the focussed indoor pumping but I know I can return to it when I go home and keeping up the running while I'm away will hopefully put me in good stead for getting back fit when I get home.