Monday, June 29, 2009

Run Melbourne Half Marathon

I made a last minute decision to do the Run Melbourne Half Marathon, when my alarm went off at 5.30am I did wonder why. I got to the start of the course with plenty of time and actually managed to get a car park close to the start/finish line. I dropped my bag off and bumped into a woman who I ran King Island with. She mentioned that she had just got back from running a marathon in Phuket, she was going to run the Half Marathon that morning and then next weekend she is heading to Gold Coast Marathon and people think I am crazy running two marathons in 4 months!

I think it showed me that its all about benchmarking. When I first started running I believed that I was only capable of running for about 20 minutes. Then when I moved to Mississippi and did my first every 5km fun run and placed second in my age class I realised that maybe I could run more than 20 minutes. I used to do 5km races almost every weekend in Mississippi, and then I started looking for a new challenge - I trained up really hard and I did my first every 10km run I couldn't believe I could run that far. I stayed at that level for a year or so still only limited by own beliefs. Then I moved to Sweden and was encouraged to run the GoteborgsVarvet a Half Marathon, it was weird because now the 10km run was my training run! It took me three years after that before I attempted my first Marathon in 2005.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

40,000 years in a hostile environment

The plan for this weekend was a 20km run on Saturday, but the best laid plans of mice of men don't always pay off. I had car trouble on Friday night which I needed to deal with on Saturday morning and hence I needed to change my long run to Sunday morning. This also meant that I wouldn't have any running buddies on Sunday morning so would only have myself for company! It was actually quite hard to motivate myself to get out and run - the reason that finally drove me out the door for the run was the fact that the marathon is only 8 weeks away!

As usual once I started running it really wasn't that bad and since it was quite a lovely day and there were lots of other runners and cyclists out there. As I was running I was thinking a lot about a presentation I heard on Friday given by one of the researchers at my institute. She talked about the much higher risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in Indigenous Australians and provided some thoughts about why this occurs. One of the contributing factors was that Indigenous Australians have been uniquely adapted over the last 40,000 years to successfully survive in the hostile environment of Australia. The traditional lifestyle of hunters and gatherers exposed them to regular cycles of feast and famine conditions, to unstable and sparse environments. In this environment Indigenous Australians have excelled, in fact it was suggested that this may be one of the reasons that makes Indigenous Australians good athletes. This can be clearly seen in the case of Australian Football League (AFL) - 11% of AFL players are Indigenous Australians - a much greater proportion than in the general population where Indigenous Australians make up only 2% of the population. However it appears that those same factors which had previously enabled Indigenous Australians to cope with the feast and famine environment play a role in them having accelerated risk of disease under so called 'feast' environments.

One of the slides the researcher showed was of an elite Indigenous Australian Football player in his prime - a wonderful athlete and then a photo of the same individual about 10 years after the end of his football career - now severely overweight and probably a prime candidate for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. So what I take away from this, well firstly there is sound reasoning for why today's Indigenous Australians living in a 'plentiful' environment have increased risk of cardiovascular disease and secondly we really need to target and improve those factors that reduce the impact of 'modern living' - having access to nutritious, inexpensive food; safe opportunities for increased physical activity; education about the risks of poor lifestyle choices. While my personal heritage does not put me at such a great risk of CV disease I do have a direct family lineage of diabetes and so it is necessary for me to make the right lifestyle choices to minimize my risk of developing diabetes - but I am lucky I have education, secure finances, safe neighborhood to enable me to do all those things easily. Many Indigenous Australians are not so fortunate and so we need to support them to achieve those same things for themselves.

Route: Charman Road to Small Street return; Time: 120min; Weather overcast 13C; Distance 20km
Map Route:

Sunday, June 14, 2009

MS 10km Fun Run

Those of you who know me, know that I am not exactly a morning person. So you have to question why I would willingly get up early on a Sunday morning. Well this morning it was in support of a great cause, a fundraising running event for MS. It was also was a great chance to catch up with my cousin and his family: they decided as a family to do the 5km walk, which I think is terrific.

The run started at 9am and the walk started at 10.30 am so all things going well I decided to run the 10km and then do the 5km walk with my cousin and his family. The gun went off and we started, it took a little while to get through the slower runners in front! But then the path cleared up and I was able to set my own pace, targetting runners ahead and overtaking them. I finished the first lap and discovered that the course was exactly one lap so the distance would be just over 9km! About a quarter of the way through my second lap I noticed a male runner who was drafting me, I kept my pace but couldn't shake him for the rest of the lap. Just as we were coming to last 1km he passed me and was only a little ahead. As we came up to the last 20m from the finish line I decided that I would not be beaten and I sprinted past him across the finish line - it felt great!

So what did I take away from this running event 1) I am very fortunate that I am fit and healthy enough to run 10km when I feel like it, many people with chronic disease, like MS find it difficult just to do normal everyday activities 2) I really do enjoy the challenge of trying to catch the people running ahead of me 3) 10km is a really nice distance to run, you can run hard and you are able to stop running before it hurts too much 4) it is great to be able to share a running event with family - I hope we can do more together 5) it was interesting to see the number of people who stopped to walk in the first 3-4km - pacing is so important when you run, that is, running at just the right speed that you have energy to run the entire race - with just a little bit left over for the racing line sprint!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Marathon Training has started!

There is now 10 weeks until the Alice Springs Marathon and I have officially started training! This weekend was a lovely 16km run along the beach. It was a great day to run particularly since I got to run with two friends who I had not seen in a long time. It's amazing how much easier it is to run with good company and the time seems to go much more quickly.

Today I also arranged to have my photo taken by a very good friend so I could improve my proposals with some great pictures. We ended up taking the photos on a deserted dirt road in green, bushy fields which I think will work really well. I must admit I felt like a bit of a dill running up and down the road for the shots. I actually think my friend delighted in asking me to run back - just one more time to get the light right and the picture clear! I will be sure to post a couple of photos when I get them this week and of course I will have a new opening photo which shows my face.