Exercising cross country demons

FUN ON WATER: Adults can learn to sail on Caroline Bay.
FUN ON WATER: Adults can learn to sail on Caroline Bay.

Remember school sports days? I used to pretend to think they were unfair and nonsensical.

Physical education was compulsory up to fourth form (this is Roncalli in the 90s we're talking about). If you weren't a PE student, what was the point of being forced into the starting blocks of a 15-second sprint?

These days I still think sports days are nonsensical for non-PE students (a problem easily solved by making PE compulsory for everyone).

Out of "the big three" - athletics, swimming and cross country - no guesses for the one I pretended to detest the most. At least with athletics and swimming there were plenty of short (less than a minute) events you could pick from to fill up your minimum requirements (three, in my day).

Cross country, on the other hand, required a solid twenty-minute commitment. (And you only got half a day out of the classroom.)

With this in mind on Saturday afternoon, I trotted off to the scenic reserve - the irony of my plan to retrace a typical 90s Roncalli College cross country route - for fun - not lost on me.

No, the only thing lost on me on Saturday afternoon was the start line. There have been some cosmestic changes to the topography of the scenic. 

They used to line us up in a flat area in a glade of trees not far from the bridge near the zig zag. Taking a punt, I picked my start point, set my stopwatch and took off.

And nearly twisted my ankle.

The grass had grown deceptively deep. Do they still make the kids run through this stuff, or do they let them use the nicely formed track 10 metres off to the righthand side?

My challenge wasn't just a skip down memory lane; this was a race. I wanted to see if the run was truly as awful as I remembered and if I could finish it in a decent time.

Less than a minute in, vague memories trickled back.

Startline kerfuffle aside, it wasn't difficult to recall the loop. It didn't vary much during my five years at school.

"In my day" we had to scramble up a rough hillside. These days the course is probably a little less country; a well formed mountain bike track will get you to the top with fewer scratches and prickles.

So how did I do? I don't remember my high school times, but I think 18 minutes 23 is respectable.

And I wasn't even puffed.

I reckon I can do better next time.

Keeping with a weekend theme of doing "fun" exercise, Sunday morning offered something completely different.

The Timaru Yacht and Power Boat Club is doing adult sailing lessons. I learned several important lessons straight away (zips go to the back on wetsuits, don't wear jeans, and be prepared to get your feet wet) and can't wait to learn more.

As exercise goes, I don't know how it compares to cardio or weights training, but I figure anything that gets you out and moving is going to be good for you.

The Hadlow to Harbour fun run is on Sunday, so you've still got a few more days to get in some training.

The Timaru Herald