Nearly 300 keen and eager people turned up at Riverside Park this morning for this year’s Moruya Surf Club Town to Surf Fun Run. I am not a journalistic sleuth, so I know little about this event and its origins. But I did discover that the event apparently started in the 1970s, I imagine when running (or jogging as people are wont to call it) first became fashionable. The Visit Wollongong website told me that the run “was a regular event on the calendar in the 1970s and 80s and has been resurrected in recent years.” And I am glad that it has been resurrected. I have been running for forty years and while I am no good at it, I get a buzz from trotting along. To be frank, it makes me feel good and it may well have made many of the other entrants today feel good. This is because exercise stimulates the production of endorphins and it is the production of these endorphins that leads to the “runner’s high” which is a feeling of euphoria you can get as you trot along. How many endorphins you release depends upon the intensity of the exercise you do … a gentle walk will not release many while running along the Town to Surf Run on a warm 20°C spring morning will produce quite a few. The long and short of it is that exercise does you good. And however much you do, you should probably do more. The people of the Moruya Surf Life Saving Club are the noble few who organise the Town to Surf Run and by all accounts it very nearly didn’t happen this year. I for one am pleased that it did. I have been through about 10 weeks of iǌury and I was relying on today’s run to ease me back in to running before the Sydney Running Festival’s half marathon next weekend. The endorphin thing is important because it’s addictive so when you can’t run you get grumpy. I am a natural curmudgeon, so a surfeit of grumpiness does not go down well with my longsuffering wife. The great thing about Fun Runs, rather than the more serious events like next weekend’s half marathon, is the kids. They are living proof, if proof were needed, that it is a great benefit in life if you don’t know that something is supposed to be hard. This has been a mantra in my life ever since I read a book called ‘The Soul of a New Machine” by Tracy Kidder (1980). This is the story of the late 1970s race by a computer company called Data General to build a computer that would out-perform that of its competitor, Digital Equipment. Data General had been caught on the hop when Digital Equipment released a machine called the VAX and realised it had a year to build a faster one. One of the critical things about a computer is its central processing unit, the CPU. The CPU needs special code and the received wisdom at the time was that this code would take 18 months to 1 develop. The designers went to a number of universities and they found someone who said he could develop the code in six weeks. He did not know that it was supposed to be hard. It took him eight weeks. So, what has this got to do with the Fun Run? As we were waiting for the start I heard a father providing important advice to his young son. I guess the boy was about 6 or 7 years old. “Don’t go off like a hero,” he said, “it’s a long way and you need to take it easy to start with.” I don’t think the lad was listening. Like the man who developed the CPU code I am sure he thought “what are you on about, Dad? It’s just a trot.” Later I heard his father saying “save your energy till the end. End with a flourish.” When I have done this run in previous years I am always surrounded by flocks of small children who blast off into the morning sun. They are the hares. I am the tortoise in his seventh decade and I know a thing or two. Gradually most, though not all, of these youngsters fall by the wayside.
The gun, which is actually a hooter, is fired on the stroke of 0900 and with a collective grunt the crowd surges off. I am continually surprised in these events about why it is that people seem to need to chat to one another as they move along. Are they not there to run? Can they not keep their conversation until the end? I started gingerly as I am nursing a well-strapped ankle that I turned some weeks ago (the doc tells me that ligaments take 3 months to heal). I can hear someone trying to keep up with me, but he is panting fit to burst. I think he will not stay the distance. A woman asks another woman how her mother is … I mean, seriously. The course is 8km (in fact my Garmin Forerunner 735 watch measured it at 7.88km but we won’t quibble) and the Surf Club website describes the “undulating course … [as] … challenging for serious runners, but well within the capabilities of the casual jogger/walker.” It is a good course; apart from the first 500m it is all on solid ground and there is some reasonable, though not particularly arduous hillwork. It is on the hills where you catch the folks who haven’t trained. As soon as you stop to walk you are finished, I think, so don't stop. At about the 6.5kms I spotted a runner coming back the other way. I was passing a fellow runner at the time and I broke my own rule about talking. "There's the winner running back to town." I think I said the wrong thing as she uttered a sound that can only be described as one of dejection. But 8km is not that far for a practised runner so running back again still totals well less than a half marathon. In the end I staggered over the line in a time that, while it was pretty miserable by any reasonable standards, was pretty good for an old bloke coming back after an iǌury. When I do the half marathon next week I shall be running with my son and when I was his age I should have been disappointed with a time today of 32 – 35 minutes; today I was happy with a time 15 minutes longer than that. But as I approached the finish line I could see several metres ahead of me the young lad finishing with the flourish that his father would have been proud of. His old man did pretty well too. These events take some considerable organisation. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the Surf Club for organising it. We can discharge that debt of gratitude by turning up in huge numbers next year. Start training now.