I had the privilege the other day of participating in a time-honoured “fun” run you may never have heard of called the “Forest Footrace”.
The “Forest” part of the Footrace refers to the terrain and not the movie, but stupid is as stupid does. Organised by the Woolgoolga Athletic Club, it involves slogging it out over 11.2km in the foothills north of Coffs Harbour to a rainforest waterfall and back while supposedly on holiday.
I had been up “Woopi” way for an annual family get together at a beachside caravan park. It hadn’t been my family but a member of the tribe had been ruled out with a hip replacement this year and I’d got a gig because I think they needed someone to run last in the footy tipping comp.
I’d been ably assisting on that front when word went out about the Sunday run. I should have twigged there and then as to why that relo had needed a hip replacement, but no, instead I figured “when in Woopi do as the Woopstars do”.
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Turns out, members of the extended family are runners and the Forest Footrace is something “they do” each year. It would now be something that did me.
The furtherest I’ve run is 5km, and the step up to 11.2km is sensibly done in nappies as there is every chance the newbie will soil not only their reputation but themselves.
It’s easy to confuse ability with ambition and mine is generally to stop running as soon as I start. Talk to any runner and they’ll tell you similar things. They’ll also tell you they do triathlons.
The assembly point was peopled by a chatty mob of Little A land striders who looked bred from the same super fit test tube. Friendly banter dried up in the first 500m as focus turned to oxygen intake and who I could finish in front of. Pretty soon I realised no one, unless the cow I just passed had entered.
It didn’t take long before the loneliness of the long-distance runner took over, interrupted intermittently by the bulk of the field on the return leg saying encouraging things like “not far now”. To death.
Pretty soon I didn’t see them anymore, either, because they’d finished. All I saw were imaginary cows telling me to get a mooove on, as position become irrelevant, unless it was horizontal.
The idea of beating yourself by giving up is a bizzarre concept in these situations because by continuing to run, you ARE beating yourself, up. Badly.
People later asked me about the rainforest waterfall and the five creek crossings and was it beautiful? All I could remember was the sound of water, which may well have been blood pouring out of my orifi.
I finished a good 43 minutes after the winner, who had aged noticeably by the time I got back. Fearing I was having a stroke I asked someone if it looked like I was, and they said “yes” and gave me some chocolate.
With that I came too, I mean good, realising what Forest had meant when he said life was like a box of chocolates.
And a few red frogs, several gulps of Gatorade and a big long rest back at the caravan.