Tiny milestone

For much of 2021, my jogs were so short or slow (to the point of half walking) that when I logged them on Strava, I defaulted to Strava’s “morning run” or “afternoon run” or whatever. But recently I’ve been tackling a run I call Hawthorn Short. It’s called Short because a few years back, its 5-kilometer distance was indeed puny. I head down my relatively leafy inner suburban street, spend a hundred meters on a busy thoroughfare, then traverse all of another verdant street with a kink in it, before emerging onto an east-west linkage road that plunges down, then up, then down, before hitting the halfway point (two and a half kilometers), turning around, and tracing the identical route home. Half of it is amongst cars, half is quiet. It has hills, gentle rises but hills nonetheless.

In June last year, when we left our home to drive 14,000 kilometers around a truncated circle within Australia, I was overweight and recovering from a sore knee. For the fourteen weeks of the road trip, I did my best to don joggers and resume running, often in the heat of the hot outback day. I stopped to walk often and my weekly aggregates barely hit ten to fifteen kilometers. Back home from September, I resolved to jog five times a week; after half a century of running, I’d realized it’s the ideal exercise for me and that I need to do it often.

Gradually, through intermittent fasting, I trimmed fat from around my gut. I could run further without stopping to part-walk. Weekly, I managed ten kilometers, then fifteen, then from November I found twenty kilometers a week was doable (just). Enjoyment leaked back in. I no longer huffed and puffed all the way. I woke early and enjoyed the dark or the sunrise. Milder mornings enhanced my pleasure. I rediscovered the special joys of Hawthorn Short. For variety, I “sprinted” (in other words, lurched less slowly) a two-kilometer route; this in turn gave me confidence to keep going on Hawthorn Short. No more part-walking for me.

The halfway point of Hawthorn Short is at the beginning of Bridge Road, crossing the Yarra River on a picturesque bridge, heading into Richmond. Sunday a week ago, a burst of confidence sent me running over that bridge and into Richmond, six kilometers return, a run I call Richmond Shortest (to encourage me to go further). Amazingly, at the end I was weary but uninjured and not sapped. In the following week, up to yesterday, I ran Hawthorn Short five times. I worried that I was, in the words of my physio, “increasing my weekly load” too quickly, but I coped well.

25 kilometers in one week! As a milestone, it barely deserves to be recognized, but I found myself exhilarated. Suddenly I can have jogging dreams at age 66! Should I aim for a fun run, or even a half marathon, towards the end of this year? What should I aspire to? Not wanting to accept the curse of the suburban jogger, a fiery knee or a broken-down calf muscle, I’m aiming low. I’ll try and increase my “weekly load” by a kilometer each week. Just the thought of extending my runs from home, on cool summer mornings, fills me with joy.

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