Running in the rain

BRIGID DELANEY
Last updated 05:00 25/06/2013
Running in rain
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WINTER WILLPOWER: Don't let grey skies deter you from pounding the pavement.

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It's a given that there are many health and fitness benefits to learning how to run but I have a secret, personal reason. I want to see if running can help my creativity.

I have moved from Sydney to the sleepy fishing village of Port Fairy, population 3000, at the end of the Great Ocean Road in south-west Victoria. I am here for a month, working like a demon to finish a novel that I began way back in 2006.

I have to submit my final edit to the publisher at the end of the month and this last push with the novel will be a difficult one.

I'll need stamina and focus to get it done. And that's where running comes in.

I hadn't connected the two until I read Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami's short memoir What I Talk about When I Talk about Running.

He writes: ''Most of what I know about writing fiction I learnt by running every day.'' The secret to both is endurance, hard work and consistency.

Murakami is at marathon standard and I'm at the middle section of the ''couch to 5k'' app - weeks four to seven - but the principles should remain the same.

At this mid-point, the intervals are lengthening. Running eight minutes without stopping feels uncomfortable, even though I have been following the app and keeping my runs regularly spaced three times a week.

I'll be shuffling along and look at the time, thinking surely these eight minutes are up any second now, and be dismayed to learn I have been running for two minutes, 12 seconds. I've never known time to go so slow - even at the dentist.

Maybe the app is broken, I think, or I've touched pause accidentally. But there they still are, illuminated on the screen, the seconds s-l-o-w-l-y ticking down.

I'm also out of whack. Some days I can run the six-minute intervals easily, then the next time I run I can barely do three minutes without stopping, my calves burning in pain, the fuel tank empty.

You know those lines from Gallipoli:
''What are your legs?''

''Springs. Steel springs."

''What are they going to do?''

''Hurl me down the track.''

''How fast can you run?''

''As fast as a leopard.''

I ask myself myself the same questions:
What are my legs?
They are concrete pylons.

What are they going to do?
Not much.

I complained on Twitter about my inconsistent form and a couple of runners got back to me saying it's normal to have patchy days where your body isn't co-operating.

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Just get back on the horse, they advised.

Then there is the weather to contend with.

Winter in south-west Victoria is very different from winter in Sydney. The skies sit low and grey for weeks at a time, the wind that barrels in off the Southern Ocean is stabby and strong, the rain comes down in vast sheets for days and days.

People disappear during winter, into their houses or up north to Queensland.

It's great writing weather. But it's not running weather.

I can't possibly run in this weather, I think, as I see the sky blacken again with a midday storm. But the app says I must run today and I must obey the app.

At first I am worried that running in the rain will make me ill. I do what I always do when I am not sure about something. I ask Twitter.

''Just get out there,'' is the resounding response I receive.

There seems to be a feeling among the runners I talk to that rain separates the wheat from the chaff. If you want to call yourself a runner, you have to get out there in the wet.

My first rain run is along East beach in Port Fairy.

I am the only person on the beach. Not even the seagulls have stuck around.

Rain comes in sheets. The beach has almost disappeared. The tide is up and I'm sinking into the sand. The sea has spewed up vast quantities of seaweed that I have to run around like an obstacle course. And that wind, Arctic!

It knocks the buds from my ears, not that it matters - Kayne's voice was being drowned out by the ocean anyway.

I eventually run out of beach and move up to the road. I run through an icy puddle that's as deep as my ankles. No cars, no people.

The usual things when I am running - sore calves, boredom - recede as I focus on this new problem: the cold, the wind, the rain.

My skin is stinging with cold; I have a strange sensation that my nose will bleed, but the need to keep warm means that I am properly running this time.

I run for eight minutes then walk quickly, willing the next run to come up soon. I need to run or else I will freeze and be unable to move and my novel will never get finished.

I return home exhilarated. I ran in the rain! I rush to Twitter to tell my followers.

''You are becoming a runner if you went out in that,'' one writes after I post a picture of the storm I just ran though.

I wonder if it's a baptism of sorts.

When you run in the rain, when you slog down the soggy deserted beach in midwinter, in the wild and craggy south-west Victoria, you become one of THEM.

- Daily Life

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