Die Morning Runners, Die

Runners are generally a fairly obnoxious species, after all we are always running around, looking great, going on about endorphins and generally feeling pretty good about ourselves because we are fitter than everyone else. But today I would like to write about a particularly unpleasant member of the great running family: the morning runner.

IMAGE: Krystle Wright // www.wrightfoto.com.au

I don’t know what it is about morning runners, but they really get my goat.* Perhaps it is because I am not a morning person and when you ask a morning runner first thing how they are, they nearly always pipe up ever so jollily, “Oh great, I’ve already been for my morning run,” pure joy filling their smug, self-satisfied little face in such a way that makes me want to punch them in said face.**

I often see them on my morning tram to work (usually when I am jammed between a woman with seven chins and some old dude with a hacking cough who hasn’t showered for a week), and there is something about seeing some blissed out morning runner bouncing past, smug-level set to ten, that fills me with rage.

When I put on my Freud hat*** and analyse the morning runner and their profound smugness, I realise that at the root of it, consciously or unconsciously, morning runners think they are better than the rest of us. They think they are the top of the tree. When you begin to grasp this you realise why they are the smuggest of an already smug species. They are smug to the power of smug. Which explains why you always want to put a boot up their arse.

The worst of it is that this smugness is further institutionalised by the fact that pretty much all races are scheduled at an ungodly hour of the morning, when most normal bodies are still coming to grips with the day, wiping sleep from their eyes and adjusting their morning wedgie. This gives morning runners a massive advantage. My dad, who was a handy marathoner back in the day, always said that if they had held marathons in the afternoon instead of the morning, he would have run two or three minutes quicker. That is some advantage for the morning runner.

The scheduling of races so early makes me suspicious, because, let’s face it, morning runners are generally not just so far up their own arses they could lick the roof of their skull, but they are also cunning, like a rat or a Liberal party senator, or some other very cunning species of rodent. The whole thing has a nasty tang about it, a dirty stink, like an old pair of running shoes left in a plastic bag; it reeks of conspiracy.

And I can sniff out a conspiracy easier than I can sniff out a KFC in an adjacent suburb. From my own careful, meticulous research****, I have found that roughly 94.236  per cent of race directors are in fact morning runners. This cannot be an accidental correlation. After all, why else would you spend all your daylight hours ostensibly organising something else for others if there wasn’t something in it for yourself? Race directors (or should I just call them morning runners) are all in it for themselves, to keep the brother/sister-hood of morning runners winning and, by extension, so full of themselves it makes you want to puke.

Clearly something has to be done about this. No one should be allowed to be this smug for this long (unless they are Daryl Somers, obviously), morning runners have to be brought back to the pack. For a start all race directors should be sacked and replaced by that most noble of the running species, the afternoon runner, then all races should be rescheduled for a more reasonable time, like the late afternoon, which is just when the smug expression of the morning runner is beginning to droop. That should wipe the smile off a few faces.

Ross ‘The Flash’ Taylor (Assoc Editor and Editor of Vertical Life, Trail Run Mag’s sister publication about rock climbing)


*I don’t own a goat, in case you are wondering, we just don’t have the space as we live in an apartment.

**I am not advocating violence against morning runners, but certainly a bit of a slapping wouldn’t go astray.

***Interestingly, Freud was a big fan of the white Akubra long before Bob Katter gave it its current association with mad people.

****Five minutes of consulting with The Oracle aka Google.

How much desert running can Jane Trumper Bear?

“I did this whole thing to raise money for Bear Cottage, rather than to see my name up in lights,” she muses. “The lows of the trip were probably when I was out there thinking about Bear Cottage and just realizing how lucky I am to have three healthy kids. I think there was more of that sort of emotion than ‘I can’t do it’.”

Running into Birdsville with pacer and friend Susan Griffen on Day 10

Jane Trumper has just become the first woman to run across Australia’s harsh sunburnt Simpson Desert. Drinking up to 15 litre of water per day in temperatures approaching 45 degrees Celsius, this nurse from Dee Why, who only took up running 8 years ago, set out at dawn on April Fools Day, 2012, uncertain of what lay ahead. 10 days and 660km later, she made it to Birdsville, home of the famous outback races, for a beer, a bath, and a comfortable bed.

At age 51 going on 35, and nicknamed Small in reference to her subtle height, Trumper has an irrepressible lust for life that draws supporters to her. Her friend Susan Griffen came from Tokyo to keep her company along the way, new friends Garry and Janet Tapper drove their 4WD from York in WA and picked her up from Alice Springs Airport and crewed the entire run, alongside another vehicle from South Australia, driven by supporters Peter and Ellis.

Brutal temperatures peaked around 45C early in the run.

“The heat made me slower than expected so I was out each day for longer than I thought I would be. I really didn’t mind the sand dunes, even the soft sand didn’t worry me at all. What I did mind was the rubble and the ankle breaking rocks on the road.”

“You don’t get any help out there if something goes wrong, but I didn’t even take a Panadol, the whole 10 days – no pain relief, nothing!”

Any escape from the heat, perhaps running under the moon?

“I did no running at night – too dangerous out there, no way in the world,” she says, matter-of-factly.

With the risk of snakes, even after sundown, the option of running in a cooler time of day just wasn’t available. There would have also been the added strain on the support crew of making and breaking camp – a laborious process of bedding, stoves, food and water preparation, and repacking vehicles – twice a day rather than once.

Jane (centre) with crew – Janet and Garry Tapper, Susan Griffen, Ellis, and Peter (on knee)

So how did she keep running day after day, and what was her routine?

“As soon as it got light I started running. There were a couple of days I finished running just as it was getting dark,” recalls Trumper. “And on the day I was running into Pirnie Bore the distance was inaccurate so I had Garry driving behind me with the lights on and it was dark when I got there.”

The most famous sand dune in the Simpson is named Nappanerica in the local dialect, but visitors just know the 40-metre high sand mountain near the Desert’s eastern boundary as Big Red.

“I didn’t actually have to run up Big Red but I decided because it was there I had to.”

While Trumper’s last attempt to cross the desert was stopped by fires, this time heavy rains nearly saw her adventure delayed by floods. The combination of mud and sand was enough to stop one of her support vehicles, forcing the other to tow it.

“There was an old Aboriginal guy there, up the top of Big Red. He said that in his lifetime he has never, ever seen water there like that, so yesterday we had to make a bit of a detour around that for the vehicles and run a bit further than expected.”

Climbing another of the Simpson’s more than 1200 dunes

Sand dunes aside, the greatest highs and lows in ultra marathon are usually deeply emotional and personal.

“I did this whole thing to raise money for Bear Cottage, rather than to see my name up in lights,” she muses. “The lows of the trip were probably when I was out there thinking about Bear Cottage and just realizing how lucky I am to have three healthy kids. I think there was more of that sort of emotion than ‘I can’t do it’.”

She also laughs about her time in the shifting red sands. “I don’t think there were any major highs, other than seeing the support vehicle up ahead with cold water – that was probably the best.”

running into a salt pan

The day after completing this epic challenge, how does she feel?

Today, she says she could easily go for a run, maybe a 10km, but warns that it would be slow. She’s returning home briefly at the end of the week, but only as a pitstop. With just a couple more races now until she reaches her 100th ‘standard’ marathon, she’s off this weekend to run the Canberra Marathon.

But, she warns, “that’ll be slow,” now laughing, “that’ll be very slow.”

See Jane’s blog at www.UltraSmall.wordpress.com. Please visit it to donate to Bear Cottage.

Awarefoot runner: the barefoot leap

The shod stand on one side of the river, gazing across the foaming abyss at the barefoot fraternity on the other.  So far, so bizarre.  Your colleagues on the shod side mock and degrade the lunatic fringe who are skipping along in their wacky sandals, minimalist shoes and, shock, completely bare feet.

Luna Sandals – for the uber minimalist traditionalist. IMAGE: Nathan Dyer

Most people at this point turn away and go back to trudging along in their heavily cushioned factory products, shutting out the possibility that something else could be possible.  Humans, it turns out, are incredibly reluctant to change which is no great surprise given that the majority of our species’ existence has been about feverishly protecting what we have from marauding neighbours and predators.  If you find yourself at this river however, inquisitively peering at the eccentrics preaching the joys of minimalist running maybe it’s time to have a dip in the river and see if you can make it to the other side, the domain of the barefoot runner.

The swim is not as long at it looks, nor as fearsome for the reality of barefoot running for most people will most likely end up being a weekly experiment in technique refining.  And despite what your orthotic pushing mileage obsessed mates may tell you, we are actually a welcoming and friendly crowd.  Some of us even have jobs.

There is one important thing to remember though. Beyond important thing actually.  Vital. Critical.  Take it slow.

Yes running forums are covered in threads from injured barefoot runners and barefoot running can be a pursuit that takes you towards the freezer in search of ice packs but only if you move too quick.  The jury is still firmly out on whether barefoot running will aid performance and lower your PBs but I am a believer in its ability to ward off injuries and, most importantly, clear the mind.  If somewhere, deep inside there, you run for fun, it is certainly worth a try.

Despite what the punters will have you believe, the goal is not to run barefoot but to run light.  Running light not only puts less impact on your legs it also makes you feel the earth and become more aware of every part of your running.  If running barefoot helps get you lighter then that is great, and it may well teach you some lessons to take back to your shod running technique.

So start slow.  Run around the block in a pair of minimalist shoes or, if you’re an Aussie and have grown up wearing thongs and ducking into the shops barefoot then you’re probably right to do a lap actually barefoot.  The next day run shod, then again the following tap out a circuit of the block and so on slowly, slowly building up the resistance.  This will give you a taste of the liberating feeling that barefoot running gives and even if you decide it’s not for you that slightly improved technique will bounce around in your subconscious while you are back in you shoes.  At the very least running barefoot around the block will turn you into the weird neighbour and you won’t have to listen to Mrs Cheetam on the corner complaining about what the weather does to her dodgy knee as now she’ll duck inside at the mere sight of you.

My introduction to barefoot running was laboriously slow.  I had to undo the damage a few decades worth of running shoes, orthotics, Dr Martens, hefty heeled work shoes and ski boots had done to the structural strength of my legs.  By the end of month two I was just cracking out 6km runs and it wasn’t until four months of sandal shod patrolling that I pushed it to 10kms.  Having said that, I never had the faintest twinge in all that time so may well have been able to push it a bit further but figured that the risk of yet another running injury was far from worth it.  Now, eighteen months down the track and two hour runs are a simple glide in my rubber sandals.

It is probably a positive enough sign that you are reading this.  It says that you are happy to at least glance across the river at all the gliding barefooters and ask yourself the question why.  The simplest level of curiosity is all it takes.  There is no need to go out and splurge on the latest minimalist shoe sent in from the designers of Tokyo as a pair of Dunlop Volleys will do the trick as an introduction.  Take it slow, be aware of what your feet and legs are telling you and, most importantly, free your mind.

Garry Dagg, Trail Run Mag Barefoot/Minimalist Guru

As Trail Run Mag’s resident barefoot/minimalist sage, Garry Dagg will continue to write on issues, opinions, styles and techniques of barefoot/minimalist running. And he’ll test the bejesus (a sandal wearer) out of all and sundry modles now flooding the market. He’s on board not to convert, but to offer a perspective, much the same way our Shoe Guru, Simon Bright offers his. Agree or not, better to be aware, even if you’re not a fan of being bare. We welcome your opinions on the barefoot debate – fling them through on info@trailrunmag.com or Facebook them at www.facebook.com/trailrunmag. Garry will also write regularly on the topic online, so sign up for his blogs and news feeds at www.trailrunmag.com. Ed.


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