Melbourne’s running community strode out in force for the annual Run Melbourne event on 24 July. Thousands threaded their way around Federation Square, St Kilda Road, skirting the iconic ‘tan’ within a punt of the MCG for a 5km, 10km or 21km course.
Always jittery before an event – this one is no different. Competing with the goal of finishing – nothing more and nothing less. After a significant break from running, motivation has dissipated with time. Recently the body has been vying for attention. Aches and pains are a call out for some stretching of limbs and fresh air. With the assistance of some encouraging health practitioners, the body has gradually started to move again.
Just turning up at the starting line is an achievement. Overcoming fears around an imperfect training regime, weather conditions for a mid-winter event and the logistics of turning up with a pram and the bits and pieces to keep a 3-year-old warm and fed.
Our family registered for the 10 km course. For some it is a competitive experience to aim to win, beat a personal best time or be placed among your own age-group. Personally it is an opportunity to enjoy the generous encouragement provided by Melbourne’s running community and supporters. For a child, it is an eye-opening experience to be in a large crowd but hopefully the joy of running will be passed on.
At the first kilometre mark with jitters still in place, the 9kms ahead seems daunting. An enthusiastic outburst from a passer-by; ‘We have already run a kilometre,’ is infectious. Optimism ripples through the crowd.
After taking part in a few large-scale running events, a pattern emerges; the jitters and early burst of energy, the slogging it out phase which is truly one step at a time and then the glorious finish line. Within that format, the element which inspires most is encouragement. There is plenty of time for contemplation in endurance events—especially if placed towards the back of the field. Some runners seem to have an amazing fan base. Clapping, cow bells, calling out and messages of support provide motivation for the intended runner but the support infiltrates the whole field.
Snippets of conversation float by. Two ladies keeping a steady pace chat and a running story unfolds; she walked 50 ‘parkruns’ before she had the fitness and confidence to try jogging. Add onto that another 50 ‘parkruns’ to gradually build up a capacity to jog 5 kilometres. Nearing the finish line of a 10 km event with a steady stride is not a bad feat. The determination to create change is inspiring. She is one of thousands running her own race. Each running story is different.
The parkrun phenomenon has emerged onto the running scene while I have been in hibernation during the past few years. A friend encouraged me (thank you for your persistence) to join the local parkrun during the last year. I recommend the experience highly and have been impressed by the successful formula; encouragement to run with an expectation to volunteer. The lack of entry fee removes a barrier to participation.
Large running events are inspiring to enter but the cost is substantial. For some this alone makes the difference between joining in—or not. Don’t get me wrong, the fees are essential. They cover much work behind the scenes to make these events possible. The logistics are huge with road closures, portable toilets, administration of 1000’s of entries, running tags, timing systems, PA systems, drink stations, bag collection etc. The feeling of freedom when runners replace cars on a road is something special.
Sometimes with large-scale events it can start to feel like everything about running is monetised from high-tech equipment to marketing and merchandise. The overall benefit of promoting running in the mass media is invaluable when it inspires people to get moving. Complementing this is the charity element. It’s a great add on to see so many charities raise awareness and funds through community support.
Not all the causes are well known. A young man wears a black T-shirt emblazoned with the message ‘I run for my brother’ and the date of his passing in 2014. There is no stronger motivation.
Despite all the fanfare what resonates most is the line up of loyal supporters dotted along the edge of the course willing to show their support on a chilly winter morning. The support of the Melbourne running community is hard to beat.
The event is now packed up for another year. The glory of the finish line is fading even though the muscles are still a little tender. It’s time to set another goal. Perhaps we can add a few kilometres onto the next event.
For more information, visit Run Melbourne.