Crater Rim Ultra 50km
Date:October 15, 2017
After traveling to the USA for my last run, it’s nice to do a run in your own back yard in the Port Hills, Christchurch. The inaugural Crater Rim Ultra 50km was always going to be a bit special. I don’t recall ever running an inaugural event in my whole 14 years of marathon running. It’s a great way to keep running fresh. The start was also unique. A small ferry escorted us from Lyttelton to the start line at Diamond Harbour Rugby Grounds. It was a quiet boat ride with minimal chit chat. This is the norm when you’re surrounded by a group of mainly introverted ultra runners. New friendships are generally reserved for during or after times of adversity. We gathered outside the local rugby club rooms just in time for the compulsory race briefing. This was a classic old school running event. Run by passion, not profit, by the local Port Hills Athletic Club. The brief was thorough and pointed. Delivered in a style reminiscent of someone who had surely been raised in the era of compulsory military training. With the sound of the starter’s horn, 54 runners set off on a lap of honour around the rugby field. Through grass as high as your ankles. Cheered on by a sole elderly gentleman with his loyal golden retriever. Towards Mt Herbert and the Pack-horse Hut. This is my type of run. Rugged with no pretence. Up the mountain and into the playground. Surrounded by spectacular views of the Canterbury plains, Southern Alps, and Lyttelton Harbour. All of this in your own backyard. How lucky could you be?
When you run, you play. When your backyard is the Port Hills, you play all day. Running takes me back to my youth. Back to when you could play all day. No expectations. No one to please. No timings. Just pure, unrestrained, and unbridled joy. You didn’t walk from one adventure to the next – you ran. And you ran with a smile on your face. Running wasn’t hard. Running wasn’t unhygienic. It wasn’t a way to lose weight. It wasn’t a way to increase your cardiorespiratory fitness. Running wasn’t something you HAD to do – it was play. Unfortunately, as we drift further away from our childhood, some of us have forgotten how to play. Some of us have forgotten how to run. We’ve been caught up in the adult world of money, material assets, and ascending the ranks. When you play, you challenge your physical abilities. You test your boundaries. You learn about yourself. Running is like play for adults. In my medical office I am working. But in the Port Hills, Christchurch, I am playing. And what a backyard it is. Hopping from rock to rock. Wading through ankle high mud. Slipping and sliding down wet grass. Skipping around steaming cowpats. Manoeuvring through fresh native bush. Singing with bell birds. Passing through tracks less travelled, or sometimes creating your own path. You did whatever you felt like doing. Fuelled by your own imagination. Moving by instinct. Running liberates me from my day to day adult pressures. It unclutters the mind. Flushes out the problems. Removes the negativity. Running is my form of play. Never be too old to play. Whatever your form of play is, keep doing it. There is a time to play, and there is a time to work. Always make time to play! Dedicate 30-60 mins of your day towards play and connect with your inner child.
I must admit, after 8hrs or so of playing you get pretty tired. I probably never appreciated how big my backyard was. I’d entered corners previously not explored. Made some new friends. Refamiliarised myself with some of my favourite tracks. Rolled my ankle pretty good and stubbornly kept going. I didn’t realise how bad it was until I had actually stopped. I’d just run from Diamond Harbour, up Mt Herbert, towards Gebbies Pass, along the Crater Rim trail, past the Sign of the Bellbird, past the Sign of the Kiwi, along Sugerloaf, and was now running back into Christchurch. 8hrs and 25 mins later, I cross the finish line. Memories flash of my mother calling me for dinner. My father yelling at me to do the lawns. Play time is over. It’s time to go home now. Time to return to my wife and child. Time to be an adult again. The day ends with a recovery spa and a meal with my family at Lone Star. I order a couple of lamb shanks and a Moro Bar cheesecake. So good! Come night fall I’m completely exhausted. All played out. Before long, this adult is sleeping like a baby again! Running is medicine. Join me at my next blog, Mission Mt Somers Marathon next week. A quick turnaround!
Keep one hour a day inviolate. A full sixty minutes in which you retire from God, country, family, and practice.
Dr George Sheehan, Cardiologist, on the topic of play