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Big hairy goals and reward trips

When marathon mojo creates celebration habits.

In November 1992 I’d planned to run New York Marathon. In fact, I tried to get into the race the year before but didn’t – I didn’t realised there were a finite about of travel packages (including race entries) available. Rookie mistake. As it turns out the year that I missed was the one time that mother nature intervened anyway and the event did not run as planned. So I booked myself in for a race a little closer to home – in Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia. But not just any race – an adventure race (not that I know what that meant at the time other than there would be some off-road running) kicking off with a solar eclipse!

It was a week-long trip that sounded like a unique experience,

that I figured would be good practise for New York marathon the following year. I planned on travelling alone and it was a group tour, so I knew at the very least I’d be around like-minded people. What I hadn’t expected was that there would be people from around the world at this race – some on a mission to complete running events on each continent, others just up for a challenge, and some like me who were just tempted by an element of something different and jumped straight into the deep end. From very early on in the trip I connected with some fellow Aussies who I have since travelled with, raced with and despite living in different states, have even had come visit me since – we’re still in contact to this day. It was a bond created from silliness, truth be told, and a sense of accomplishment from the race itself and being witness to the overall experience we shared.

Some of the highlights of the trip itself was a training run with Australian Olympian and Commonwealth Games marathon runner Steve Moneghetti, snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef, cuddling a koala and visiting the Daintree Rainforest. Of course, the pinnacle was starting the race on Four Mile Beach with goodies provided – a sponge to dip in water buckets along the course to keep us cool on the hot day and what looked like 3D glasses for looking up at the morning sun, ready to watch the solar eclipse. I befriended an older New Yorker, Gregory, who had to be in his 70s at the time, telling me he’d only seen a solar eclipse one other time in his life, so I knew it was a special moment being one of the hundreds of people on the beach all kitted up for the race gun to sound as the sunny morning turned into night for what seemed like a couple of minutes.

What I learned that day was that just like the solar eclipse, the discomfort of running huge descents and changing surfaces from grass to dirt roads to sand and asphalt in the heat for hours on end will always be over in only a matter of time.

So make the most of it while it lasts.

What I remember is getting sunburnt for the first time, and seeing Australia like I’ve never seen before, on foot through cane fields discovering scenery I’ve never seen before with farm houses in the backgrounds and horses in the paddocks and having banter and interesting conversations with other runners along the way. I remember feeling accomplished running through the finish line, despite being towards the back of the pack, and the medal I’d earned making me feel like I had won the race. After the marathon my new-found friends got together at the local pub for a celebratory meal and “rehydration” drink – that winner’s high I find lasts quite a while after the race and it’s a really nice space to be in, knowing that you deserve to be rewarded. That sense of picking a big hairy goal, like marathons, something just out of my reach, having determination to finish it and planning rewards for myself is something I’ve carried throughout the rest of my trips and years since.

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