Karen Busby is a teacher, mother, and jogger. She used to be a runner. She is competing in the 10k at the Western Sydney Marathon – and we are following her journey. We are also making her wear our gear, just so you know who she is.
29 September 2015 – 4 sleeps to go
Occasionally my iPod is a pre-requisite for a run. After a cursory analysis, I have realized this relates to my mood, which relates to life events. Occasionally it relates to my physical fitness, and my lack of confidence in my ability to haul my body up the first hill without the motivational pull of Uptown Funk.
Its not like I can just press ‘shuffle’ and relax, either. It has to be the right song at the right time. Given that I have carefully selected every song on my iPod, they all have a ‘time’. I’m happy to listen to New York, New York as I leave and warm up, but never when I’m trying to run a bit faster, or struggling at any stage. That’s when I need something like Sandman or anything from Cold Chisel. It is interesting to consider, though, why the music is so important.
I was running along quite comfortably before I became aware that Yellow Brick Road (I do love Elton John) was almost over and I hadn’t even noticed. I would normally skip it whilst running, but I was too busy thinking about the cricket game my son played the day before. It was his 2nd real game ever (backyard, I have convinced him, doesn’t count in terms of cricket careers. This is an incredible shame for his stats) and the first I had watched. On Sunday I was still feeling the fury generated by a person somewhere behind me (at cricket) who thought my son’s bowling action – admittedly very flamboyant – funny enough to warrant a big fat LOL. Admittedly, 100% of his second over in the Under-10s was wide or a no-ball, but he bowled TWO good balls in his first over. By good, I mean they virtually made it the length of the pitch. I couldn’t believe my response to the laughter. I was still seething about it whilst running, and it was this, not the music, that got me through at least one kilometre without noticing.
As with everything to do with running, it is best not to analyze too deeply.
Before I knew it, I was running up Grose River Rd, an 800m incline that has only become tougher over the last 20 years. I
skipped about 12 songs that were just too slow (a mark of my desperation) in order to run to Fat Bottomed Girls. This time it was a different scenario that got me up the hill. My daughter is in Kindergarten and learning to read. I ran into the mother of a friend of hers. Her only interest was in my daughter’s academic progress. It really, really annoyed me: No, surprisingly, my daughter is not a fluent reader at the age of 5 – and why do you care? What reading level is she on? How would I know, we just try to enjoy reading, but if it makes you feel any better, apparently she is not advanced. Why do you care? Once again, my annoyance on behalf of my children helped me through a particularly difficult section of my run. I think its called ‘channeling your emotions’.
The theme of parenting was maintained as I turned around to go back home. Thankfully, this was down the same hill I had just climbed, so Hey Jude was fine. I mostly ignored it anyway, as I considered where the parents of some of the teenagers I teach went so wrong. What’s with kids who are told “no” to their request to go to the toilet 5 minutes after lunch (or, in my class, any time) who then repeat the request with a really pronounced “pleeease”?
Still “no” guys.
“But Miss, PLEEEASE”.
Really? This isn’t a politeness issue. You’re not going.
The horror on their face as, at the age of 15, they threaten to wet themselves right there in front of me, suggests to me they have rarely been told “no” by somebody who actually means it. I’m prepared to gamble they will not wet their pants in front of everyone, because they’re 15 and not 3. More to the point, the coincidence between my request for independent WORK and theirs for the toilet has not escaped me. As genius as their work-avoidance strategy is, I’m onto it.
So as I ran happily along the last lovely stretch in semi-rural Grose Wold with Eddie Vedder howling like a wolf, it occurred to me I didn’t necessarily need my iPod as desperately as I first thought. It is a tool for distraction from physical exertion until my thoughts take over and, as it seems, anger drives me on. This is both an interesting and happy insight. I have fuel for many, many runs. My list of fury-inducing topics includes termites, Minecraft, incompetence (generally), unwiped benches when my husband “cleans the kitchen”, Peppa Pig and my daughter’s newly-acquired habit of eye-rolling. The topic of the recent plethora of kids who are suddenly “anxious” when confronted with challenging work and therefore can’t be expected to do it, is easily enough to get me through a marathon. Apparently then, the thing I love doing the most – running – generally requires not music, but anger, to get me through the most difficult moments, so I can finish and reflect on how enjoyable it is. This is confusing. As with everything to do with running, it is best not to analyze too deeply.
22 September 2015 – 11 sleeps
For the record, I love my dog Teddy.
Not enough sleeps to go. I took my dog, Teddy for a run today. She is a Golden Retriever, and loves to run. Of course she does – any advertisement with a Retriever invariably has this breed of dog running and looking quite spectacular in the process. Given this genetic inclination, it made sense to take Teddy with me on a stunning Sunday morning designed for running. And she (yes, Teddy is a girl) was very excited to leave. It was the inspiration I needed as my Achilles continues to give me grief and all my muscles feel a little bit tight because maybe I’m not stretching as conscientiously as I should.
First, Teddy baulked at the hill. It is a big hill. It reminded me of my friend Amanda’s logic re: her own running issues – “I’d go a lot faster without hills in the way”. Demonstrating the apparent intelligence of her breed, Ted stopped at the top of the down-hill and studied the steep incline that followed it. It is the first time she has run with me and it was a rooky-error. I explained to Ted the importance of just putting your head down and taking it on, one step at a time. “Before you know it”, I assured her, “you’ll be at the top”. Running really isn’t a thinking-person’s pursuit.
My delight at Teddy’s mastery of the hill was short-lived. Only a few short, slow kilometres into the run she decided she had had enough. She completely downed tools on a nice patch of grass, and just looked at me like the brainless creature she is. No amount of tugging on her lead would budge her. She was impervious to my masterful use of expletives.
Santa brought Teddy for the kids 2 years ago – she was a cute, fluffy new family member, and meant to be intelligent. Santa has so much to answer for. This is a dog who bounces around brown snakes like they’re a toy; who becomes so focused on barking at a plane overhead she almost runs off cliffs in the process, and who genuinely has no standards or self-respect when it comes to food.
I considered my options and realized I had none, other than waiting until Ted was ready to run again. She has proved countless times she cannot be trusted if left alone, especially given we were just near a horse-stud with very expensive horses just waiting to be chased into a fence or something equally disastrous. I was starting to cool down and became quite anxious about the next injury I would acquire if I waited too long to start running again. I may even have to resort to stretching. Things were desperate.
Then it came to me. The sheep across the road have proved far too tempting for Teddy in the past, so I decided to lure her onto her feet with them. I pointed them out to her, reminding her of past transgressions.
“Look Ted! Sheep! Remember how you like to trespass and chase them so they run into a dam and drown? Remember the $300 it cost us last time, and whatever it cost us the time before that?” Far from feeling guilt at the grief she has caused multiple families, Teddy, without a conscience, was excited at the prospect of more sheep fun. It worked. She was on her feet in a flash. No, I did not let her ‘play’ with sheep. I started running, and she reluctantly ran with me. I know it was reluctant, because at the next big muddy puddle, she became ‘bogged’ again.
We eventually made it home. We had done less than 6 kilometres and it took an hour. I now officially have someone to blame for any failure I experience in the Penrith run. That is important to me. Interestingly, though, for the first time in a long time after running, my Achilles isn’t sore. I’m sure the slow pace with Ted has something to do with that. I would rather run slowly than not at all, so maybe I should be grateful to Teddy for her company on my run. However, it will be a while before she accompanies me again. Apparently those running Golden Retrievers on ads where everyone is having fun are more like unicorns and aren’t delivered by Santa. My love for running will continue to be a solitary pursuit in future. I think Teddy’s life depends on it.
15 September 2015 – 18 sleeps
I went camping with my family this weekend, at our friend’s 2000 acre property in Canowindra. I was worried I might not get an opportunity to fit in a much-needed training run. Turns out all I did the whole time was run.
The “movement with haste” (one of the many on-line definitions of ‘run’ I found in my desperation to assure myself that, despite my times, this was indeed the act I was undertaking) began as we raced the sun to get to the camping spot before it was dark. Knowing our friend Scotty would be monitoring our tent-erecting technique, we had put the kids through a practice run prior to departure. We were keen to show off. Despite a family history of lateness, though, we had not accounted for this inevitability in our plans. So it was indeed dark when we arrived. Still, my husband directed the children with the efficiency of a German General. He sounded assured and capable. Everyone performed wonderfully, except for who-ever was supposed to make sure the tent wasn’t inside out. We were in a race against the 1-minute deadline advertised as the time it takes to get the tent ready, and we achieved one of our worst-ever times of 25 minutes.
My first proper run came after a terrible night’s sleep – a given when you camp. My son was talked into having a go on the home-made go-kart. Standing near the track to give him encouragement meant I was right in front of him as he left the track and careered towards me. I ran. He followed, screaming, “stop Mum! Stop!” (Its not like he was tied to me).
“BRAKE!” I yelled back. But Scotty had told us not to use the brake, so my son did as he was told by someone other than me. I turned and ran up the hill and he turned the go-kart after me. It eventually stopped. I was exhausted, mostly from fear.
We went for a drive around the property. The group included our 70+ year old friend, Liz. The truck suddenly sunk in the soft mud, (“bogged” is the technical term) and the trip around the property was over. We had a long walk back to the camp, or “someone” could run and get another 4WD to at least pick up Liz. The chance for a run would normally have been welcome, but this time, despite very detailed directions that unfortunately included the terms “north” and “east”, I had no idea where to go. Of course I acted like everything was under control as I ran down the track on my rescue mission, the group clapping their hero on. I completely forgot Scotty’s directions as I hit a fork in the road. I had no idea where “east” was (still don’t) and I think I started to whimper. I went left because I’m left-handed. That’s the level of logic I was exercising by this stage. I tried to at least appreciate the beauty of the country-side as I ran (it really is beautiful), but I wasn’t wearing a sports bra, and by this stage Liz’s life was in my hands.
Miraculously, I found our camp. I had been running for 12 minutes. Only a few kilometres. I got to double it though, as I ran back to tell them I didn’t know how to manuoevre the stupid 4WD with the stupid trailer attached. I was too stressed to be embarrassed. Happily, Liz didn’t die. She actually set a brisk pace walking back, and managed to help assist a ewe that was struggling with the birthing process on the way.
My other runs included running away, squealing, from the only (giant) yabbie I caught as it dropped on my foot and I saw its nippers for the first time; running for more pants and undies for my daughter as the art of the bush-wee continues to escape her, and running out of patience with everyone as the finely-drilled team-work of the Busby-Hawke tent-erection team eluded us during the packing-up process.
I’ve heard its good to mix up your training regime once in a while. I consider mine to have been mixed. As much as I really enjoy being outdoors with the family, I’ve realized running is much more fun when it is unaccompanied by fear.
8 September 2015 – 25 sleeps
I never get sick, except for Sunday. Flus, colds, vomiting bugs, allergies – none of them affect me…until
Sunday. The only running I was committed to was the quick dash to the bathroom to throw up. There were days, long past, when I would have forced myself out to run regardless. So yesterday I thought it was a sign of maturity that I chose to remain in bed and attempt to recover. Worst decision ever.
I don’t think my children have ever seen me not leave for a run on a Sunday morning. They have never seen me sick, and they certainly have never seen me “sleep in”. It was quite perplexing to them that I would be in bed after 6AM, when the whole house usually wakes.
My daughter: Why is Mum in bed?
My husband: She is sick.
My daughter: Oh. Mum’s sick. Calls out to her brother: Bert !! Mum’s sick!!
My son: Are you sick Mum?
My son: Can you have a look and tell me if I have abs?
My son: Yes? Phew. (He breathes out)
My daughter: Are you really sick Mum? (I detected a note of skepticism).
My daughter: So can you take me to the park?
My husband: Want some toast Kaz?
They were all in the bedroom with me. Asking me questions. Staring at me. Not leaving me alone. I had to push through a veritable crowd during my next vomit-dash.
My daughter: Now can you take me to the park?
I honestly couldn’t move from bed. The parenting was left completely to my husband yesterday. Dr Phil would probably say it is good for kids to experience the relaxed approach of my husband as opposed to my more direct, efficient, somewhat controlling influence. I’m not so sure. I could hear the kids outside.
My son (to his younger sister): This is a trench. I’m going to try to hit you with these bombs, so hide on the other side.
My daughter: OK. Are they rocks? Will they hurt?
My son: Yes, so get ready.
My daughter (sadly): OK!!
My daughter: Hey! These bombs (now large pieces of timber) have nails!
My son: Yeh, but some of them don’t. Hide.
My daughter: OK!!
There was no indication of concern from my husband. It made me anxious. However, by some miracle, we didn’t spend the afternoon at Hawkesbury Hospital.
It was early afternoon before I remembered it was Father’s Day. Frankly, not the most important day on our family calendar anyway; my children remind my husband often, “every day is Father’s Day”. Still, I felt guilty. The state of the house as I emerged from my bedroom took the edge off that pretty quickly though. Apparently, now that I was upright, everything was fine.
My daughter: Mum! Can we go to the park now?
My son: Mum! Its Father’s Day…what will we have for Father’s Day dinner?
My husband: Want some Kentucky Fried Kaz?
I just went back to bed. I listened to my husband negotiate bath-time with the kids:
My husband: Bert, have a bath.
My son: But I had one the other day.
My husband: When?
My son: The day after swimming.
My husband: That was Wednesday Bert.
My son: Yeh, well, my dirt’s permanent anyway. No need for a bath.
…..and that’s where it ended. Defeated, my husband changed his tact with the next child:
My husband: Tilda, do you want a bath?
My daughter: No.
The positive from all of this is I was able to pretend I didn’t hear any of it. That was my Father’s Day gift to my husband in acknowledgement of the wonderful father he really is to our kids. I think next Sunday, though, we will all be better off if I show some resilience and haul myself out of bed, and more importantly, the house, and go for a run.
1 September 2015 – 32 sleeps (but who is counting?)
Sometimes the logic of running escapes me. It was 1 degree when I put my running shoes on this morning. I didn’t have to get out of bed, and I certainly did not want to. I accept that I desperately need some training for this race in a few weeks, but really, I won’t be fighting anyone for a place on the podium, so I could have easily avoided facing the unruly winter morning in shorts and singlet. It just seemed a silly thing to do.
So it was with bemused surprise that I found myself returning from my morning shuffle in quite high spirits. That’s not how I left. And nothing about the way I’m running at the moment warrants good cheer. As I left I was questioning the rationale behind such ridiculous actions – my bed was still warm and I have a great new pillow that works. I didn’t know where I was going, which didn’t matter anyway because as soon as I got there I was only going to turn around and run back. And my iPod was flat.
According to Born to Run (Chris McDougall) the ‘Running Man’ theory of evolution dictates that humans are designed to run long distances, which is why we have Achilles tendons. That’s weird, because its because of my stupid Achilles tendon that I’m struggling to run right now. Apparently, then, there is an innate compulsion to run. That’s good – it takes the pressure off me to articulate why I run, particularly these days, when it really does hurt a bit.
When you think about it, and not even particularly deeply, there are many reasons not to run. My husband, who says he treats his body “like a temple” by, in part, not running, believes the lack of destination (like a rugby scrum) for a purpose (to have a rugby scrum) is just confusing. Many of my good friends have lived their lives by the exercise philosophy of “no pain…no pain!” Possibly the best time to consider why I do run is after finishing a training run, like this morning.
As humans we are programmed to move. It is far more comfortable not to, but running simply makes you feel better.
As humans we are programmed to move. It is far more comfortable not to, but running simply makes you feel better. I watched my daughter and her friends at the park for an hour this afternoon. They ran, pointlessly, in circles and up and down a hill, screaming laughing the whole time. Other than the screaming laughing business, it wasn’t that different from my own experience this morning. I don’t know if it is a chemical reaction in the brain that makes the whole thing addictive, or just the joy of stopping that makes you so happy at the end. Whatever the reason, running simply makes you feel pretty good – it really is that simple.
25 August 2015 – 39 sleeps to go
My recent goal of finishing a 10KM race in a time other than “whenever” has motivated my first week of “training” in 10 years. By week, I mean the day of the week I actually ran. Today. Last time I did a “training” run I wasn’t over 40. Wow – how things change.
Firstly, there’s gravity. It can wreak some havoc in 10 years. More on that later. I’m pretty sure last time I dressed for training, before 2 children and the discovery of cheese, I didn’t have to tuck my tummy into my pants. And the “self-talk” during the run was understated and encouraging: “I nailed that hill…I’m awesome”. Now, its in-your-face and undermining: “my Achilles is surely going to snap”, “my hamstring shouldn’t feel this tight”, and “stop crying, you sook”.
Another change is my inability to switch off and enjoy the beauty of the Grose Valley as I run. Instead, Bear Grylls commentates the run, and becomes particularly energetic on the hills: “This is what the commandoes do as part of their basic training” (of course it is) and, “this is very, very, hard work and technique is everything”. Well, that’s unfortunate. My shadow suggests I’m almost doubled-over. It’s not the image of me in my mind. No doubt this was a sub-conscious effort to get my heart as close as possible to my legs so, logically, the oxygen would travel to my burning quads faster. Quite clever, really, but interestingly not a technique I’ve seen adopted by anyone who can actually run well.
One thing I’m sure will never change is the joy of a hot shower after a tough run. The prospect of this was my consolation all the way home. The Open Door Policy that was instituted by my children as soon as they were mobile means I usually have an audience for such events. This was when my daughter highlighted another change for me as an over-40 runner: “Mummy, why are your boobies so…(she considered her words carefully) long?” she asked.
18 August 2015 – 46 sleeps to go
I used to run, and now I jog. There is a difference. Jogging is much harder. Running is what you do when you do not have children – either physically hanging off you, or standing at the front door crying “I just want someone to love me” as you attempt to leave the house alone. Running is what you do when your time is your own every day of the week. I know that time existed in my life because I have photos.
Now I jog. The prospect of 10KM at Penrith Lakes in a matter of weeks is just about the most challenging goal I could set for myself at the moment, and not because I am now officially slow. Jogging means I am not as fit as I was when I was a runner. At this time of year I am still hauling my winter body along on my Sunday morning slow shuffles. Coincidentally, despite the change of seasons, I have maintained my winter body fairly continuously since 2005. So when it comes to doing a “fun run” (hilarious misnomer) what to wear is a huge issue. Especially when you’re destined to be out on the course for as long as I am. Compressions tights, tops and, as of today, socks, can only “compress” so far. Looking like I am ready for a bobsled race is not the answer. What I really need is a jogger’s burka. See the challenge?
Entering the race is the easiest first step. The rest of the process for a jogger like me is indeed fraught. The runners at the front remain blissfully unaware of the hurdles (please let that be figurative) that confront joggers behind them. Arriving at the start line looking remotely like I belong there will almost be worth a selfie.