The only real rules around taking part in the fantastic virtual race that I signed up for (in aid of Project Semicolon) was that I had to run my chosen distance one day this weekend.
I struggled to lay down any actual plans around this because I had to wait and see what miracle cure the Physiotherapist would have up his sleeves to sort out my stupid hip pain. But generally I was thinking that I’d run on Saturday.
Today being Saturday, and in light of the total ban on running that my Physio imposed yesterday, I had to quickly think outside the box. It wasn’t that hard, because the answer to my dilemma occurred to me as I sat in the Physio’s office, when he told me that I should try jumping and hopping in the pool. I decided to run in the pool.
Yes, I knew I would look like an absolute idiot. I myself have mocked the geriatrics who get in the pool of a weekday morning for a quick stroll through the water. It seems absolutely silly. But it was my only option because in my mind the race must be ran, not walked.
I wasn’t sure how far I could run in the pool – the added resistance from the water would obviously mean I would run quite slowly (even slower than I run in air!) and the shallow pool is only 25 metres long, so it seemed absurd to say I’d do 100 lengths (2.5km). That’s a heck of a lot.
Instead, I decided to set a time limit on my race. A slow 5km run through air would be about half an hour, and I’d planned on doing more than 6km (my longest run so far) in order to make this race a bit significant in my training and give it the honour it deserves. So I decided to pool-run the equivalent time of about 7 or 8 km – which meant that a target of 45 minutes was chosen.
On a Saturday the pool opens at 6 but the little pool closes at 6.30, to accommodate an aqua aerobics class. The Big pool remains open but is too deep to run in. I would have liked to have started my run as early as possible because I had a busy day planned, but I had no option other than to wait for the pool to reopen at 7.15am.
I arrived at reception at precisely 7.15 in all my swimming gear minus my goggles and swimming cap. I wandered over to the pool and was disappointed to find that squad sessions were on (I thought these were cancelled over the school holidays) so there were millions of children around, as well as King Kirk and his sidekicks, Jade and Laura.
It is one thing to embarrass yourself in front of strangers, but I was even less thrilled about embarrassing myself in front of people who vaguely know me. To make things worse, the aqua aerobics class hadn’t finished on time and I had to stand at the side of the pool for a few minutes, waiting to be allowed in.
First, I had a chat to Jade. I am sure she could not have cared less what I was doing, but I stammered out an apologetic explanation of my lame and pathetic workout anyway. She didn’t seem phased by my craziness, but her face dropped slightly and she regretfully explained that the little pool was going to close again at 7.30 for the infant swimming class.
Someone obviously didn’t want me to do this damn race. I am not even sure if it was the Triathlon Gods. I cheerfully told Jade that I would make the most of the 15 minutes I was permitted to use the pool, and as soon as the first aerobics lady walked out I jumped straight in.
Before I had a chance to start working out a backup plan, Kirk wandered over and said hello. We exchanged pleasantries while I squirmed around, feeling very self -conscious and desperately wanting to explain that I had to do some shallow stuff as per doctor’s orders.
Kirk just wanted to tell me that he had watched me swimming in one of my sessions earlier in the week, and that I was doing really well but I was keeping my head too low. He said my head was completely under water at times and I needed about half of my head to be above the surface. I appreciated his advice and encouragement, and then he disappeared back to the big pool, leaving me to feel embarrassed by myself.
So I started ‘running’. I noted the time on the clock and simply started pumping my legs, pushing up and back beside the wall of the pool. As I ran, I came up with a new plan. I was adamant that swimming the race wouldn’t count, so I couldn’t just get in the big pool and swim. But the only shallow pool that I could run in and wasn’t closing was the play pool outside – the one with water fountains and jets for splashing around in.
I managed to squeeze in 10 minutes of pool-running inside and then it was time to get out and air-run outside. Again, I was very aware that I looked like a lunatic, but I had to run the distance between the pools, otherwise it was cheating.
I jumped into the outside pool and it hardly came up to my knees. I waded out to the deepest part, which came up to my hips, and started pool-running again. After a couple of circuits I had worked out a small route around one part of the pool that was deep enough for my hips to remain underwater the whole time.
So I just ran. In a little circle in part of the splash pool. It was really embarrassing. Every single person that entered the leisure centre, whether they were going to the gym, the pool, the tennis courts, the beach volleyball courts, they all had to walk past me. I am sure 99% of them assumed I was a weirdo. Let’s face it, I was.
The tricky part about being outside was that there was no clock. I have no watch. So I had no idea how much running I had done, other than the initial 10 minutes inside.
I just kept going, and as I did so I pondered the reason I was doing it – to help support Project Semicolon. I thought about the lady whose son had taken his own life at the age of 16. So young! So unnecessary. And when I got to a point that my ankles and calves were aching and I didn’t think I could keep going, I thought about the reason that Project Semicolon chose the symbol of the semicolon. Because it marks a point where you thought you were finished, but added something extra.
I didn’t know it right then, but the point I wanted to finish was about half an hour into my run. By adding the extra after my semicolon, I ended up adding the time I needed to get to my 45 minute goal. When I eventually climbed out of the pool and ran to check the clock inside, it had been 47 minutes since I first started in the shallow pool inside. Success! I made it. It sounds silly but I could have jumped for joy. I left the complex with a massive smile on my face.
I will admit that if I hadn’t announced that I had signed up for this event, I probably wouldn’t have blogged about the session this morning. Because it was truly embarrassing and even though it was the best I could do, pool-running is not exactly what the organisers of the race had in mind, I suspect. So I would have preferred to not tell any of you about it.
But if we can take a positive out of it, I guess it is that no matter the obstacles thrown in front of you, there is always a choice you can make to find an ending that will suit you. When you think you have no control left, you will be surprised at the power inside you to find a way to wrest control back. And when you think you have had enough but you push through to turn your ‘full stop’ into a semicolon, well that is when the magic happens.