Tuesday, February 21, 2012

eighteen months or one year

It’s difficult to explain what this day is like.

My mind was ticking over as I drove to work this morning. I wondered at all the cyclists biking to work, the people out for a morning run or to walk the dog before their days really started. The suburbs were alive with organised and proactive people.

This is only the second time I’ve driven from my new house to work, having only moved out of the Red Zone and into stability in the weekend. My new side of the city is so vibrant and so alive. There are shops everywhere, open and operational, and traffic and pedestrians and children and so much activity that it’s an effort in concentration to drive safely.

And I think, it’s strange. To be celebrating or remembering, or both, the one year mark after The Big One. I didn’t think I would be affected by the day, and in fact I didn’t feel any different this morning. Because there’s no delineator post between what happened, and what’s happening today. It still feels very much like we’re an earthquake city. It wasn’t The Big Day way back when, and now it’s One Year On. It’s all just one long period of time. It’s hard to differentiate. It’s too soon, because it’s still happening.

I write all the time about the broken buildings, the liquefaction dust whipped up in the windy days, the favourite restaurants that no longer exist, the cordoned off central business district that may as well not exist for all it’s worth at the moment.

But today I’ve been reading stories of survival and stories of loss. I’ve been looking at the familiar photos from last year. I’ve been remembering the absolute horror I felt when I fled outside, stumbling on the ground like I was trying to run across a trampoline. The bricks that flew off buildings beside us, opposite us. Being the first one in the carpark, the sounds, the children at the bus stop crying, sobbing, when they should have been fulfilling their roles as indifferent teenagers. The blinding dust. The cars rolling, the trees moving like trees shouldn’t move. The visceral fear.

My guilt at fleeing the city. Not sticking around, not checking on anyone else, not noticing that a building had collapsed behind our office block killing 115 people. Guilt at feeling distress when the ways in which I was affected were so tame in comparison. Guilt at feeling so devastated by a broken city that still functions, while Japan’s scale was of a magnitude I can’t comprehend.

And there’s the gnawing thought that’s always present these days; it could happen again. In September, we thought that was The Big One. It was certainly big. The likelihood of another large one decreases marginally each day we go unrattled, but it never completely disappears. Today, the thought is ever present. It could happen again. I save this document religiously in case the shaking starts and the power goes out again. I was in the middle of writing last time. It was an unsuspecting day that turned into history. This is another such day. Tomorrow will be another. It could be any of these days, or it could not be. But every time a bus rumbles past, or someone walks heavily in the upstairs office, or the wind buffets my truck while I’m sitting at traffic lights, I’m right back there. Is this it?

I’m not going to any of the memorials. I don’t feel that I need to. But I might watch live coverage.

I might observe the two minutes silence. I might not. It depends on my work load. Because it doesn’t do anything. Not here at work, where I’m surrounded by empty lots, road cones and security fences and braces on buildings. I remember every day.

I’ll go to Mass tonight, but not because of the earthquakes. I’ll go because it’s Ash Wednesday. I’ll probably cry, like I teared up this morning, like I’m tearing up now. Out of exhaustion more than anything.

It’s been a long year.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

an open letter

From: Helen Ballinger
Sent: Monday, 11 July 2011 9:49 a.m.
To: George Studio
Subject: Is it really over?

Dear George,

Where did you go? This morning I crawled out of the warm comfort of my bed and hopped into the car for my early commute. I was looking forward to spending some quality time with you, after a weekend of being outdoors and away from your scope. Even when it’s dark outside, dreary and miserable, I’ve become accustomed to finding you waiting to murmur sweet sounds in my ear. Ever patient, ever present, still there for me even in my absences. You make waking up worth it, even on a Monday.

I know we haven’t been together for very long, but after ModeFM left me so cruelly last year – and I knew, I knew it could only ever be a short-term romance, a poor student unable to commit – I was looking forward to abandoning myself to you for the long term, to care for me, soothe me, heal me, calm me, revive me.

We were so young, so fresh; such a bright future lay before us! Or so I thought. You opened my ears to sounds I never cared to know before in a loving way, not judging me for my pre-George ignorance. But something wasn’t right this morning; there was a dissonance – you weren’t there to greet me. I heard unfamiliar voices; there was discord and despair.

And then I learnt the truth. You had left me.

I miss you. You can’t really call it quits on us at such a time as this, can you? We had such good times together. And I’ve seen the range of what else is out there – it pales in comparison with your vast beauty. Won’t you please come back? I promise I’ll text more, and give you feedback when you ask for it, and praise your achievements to everyone who will listen. I’ll make you popular the city over, just as long as you’ll say you stay with me.

It’s not too late for us, is it?

Helen Ballinger.


After only a few months of being on the Christchurch airwaves, George FM has disappeared. My love for a new genre of music has been curtailed and I am left with nothing but pop to listen to. It is a sad, sad week.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

the chocolate incentive

Fifteen weeks ago, the world came down around our ears and I found myself walking home half dazed in the middle of a workday afternoon. The earth had shaken violently not an hour before, and I had ditched the truck on the side of a chasmed riverbank because I could take it no further. The roads were flooded and ripped apart. I could see my street across the river, but I couldn't drive to it.

Luckily I had my old pair of running trainers in the back of the truck. I sat in the back and tied them tightly to replace the flimsy flat work shoes I had on. I rolled up my pants and I set off on foot, like half of Christchurch, in an effort to complete the journey home from the centre of town. A man braver and more foolish than I pulled up next to me in his rugged truck and offered me a ride to the next bridge. He looked as rough as his vehicle and of questionable character, but I didn't hesitate for a second. All barriers were gone, all of the social norms had been shattered.

He drove me as far as the bridge, surely damaging his truck in the process. I got out and continued on my way, half running and half walking along the other side of the river, avoiding the places where the path had fallen away. I neared the home stretch, five minutes left until I could check on the status of my already damaged yet beloved house, and matched my pace with an older woman in the similar situation who was walking in the same direction as me. She held her now impractical high heels in her hands and her stockinged feet were covered in the mud and sand and silt that had pushed its way up through all of the roads in large, bubbling volcanoes. As she walked awkwardly along the uneven ground I asked if she was okay and she smiled anxiously back at me. She was fine, she said, she just wanted to get home. I asked her how far she had to go. I guessed it was half an hour of walking, maybe more, based on the location she gave me.

I looked down at her feet and, in a tone I hoped wasn't patronising, I asked if I could give her my shoes. I explained I was almost home, just five minutes away, and that I didn't need them. She shook her head vehemently, said she was fine, said she couldn't possibly take my shoes, even if we were the same size. I tried offering a few more times, but she wouldn't have it. So we merely exchanged pleasantries and well-wishes, and I started to leave her side. I only got a few paces ahead of her before I shook my own head. I couldn't accept her answer, and I couldn't walk off. I dropped to my knee and started undoing first one shoe, then the other while she approached. I told her I didn't accept her answer and that I was giving her my shoes anyway. She fretted greatly over how dirty her mud-caked feet would make them and I told her that was the least of my concerns. I waited while she laced them up and tested them out. She made sure to get my address from me and I told her it really didn't matter if she returned them or not, because I had another pair and the loss of them was of no consequence to me. She was so grateful but I told her it was nothing, really. Because it was nothing, really.

We finally parted. I ran home barefoot and was glad to see my flatmates slowly arrive over the course of the afternoon, as cell phone coverage was unreliable and aftershocks continued strongly all through the night. The rest of the day's story doesn't bear repeating here. It was an awful time that no one wants to relive.

Occasionally over the last three months I thought of the woman and of my shoes. I didn't regret giving them to her for a second, but they were my first ever pair of running shoes, and they treated me so well for so long, and I still enjoyed wearing them every now and then for casual walks. Even though they had been relegated to second place in terms of use, they were still my favourite. But I did a good deed and I made someone's awful day just a little bit easier to get through, and we all lost so much else in the process that it wasn't an issue at all.

Over the past month especially though I found myself missing them quite frequently. I figured with the amount of time that had passed she had forgotten my name, my street, my address. I wouldn't have been surprised - there are so many things I barely remember from that day, there was so much vying for our attention. I didn't expect to see them back and I was okay with that.

And then yesterday happened. I came home after an easy week of work to find a plastic bag sitting on the door step. I shrugged and left it where it was as I kicked the crooked front door open, assuming it was put there for one of the other flatmates. A while later when I left the house to go out, it was still there, so I picked it up to bring it inside.

That's when I saw them. My shoes! My beautiful shoes! I eagerly ripped into the bag and out tumbled my shoes, their laces, a blank envelope with a card and a box of chocolates. The card read:

    I am sorry I have taken so long to return your shoes. They were an absolute Godsend and I don't think I would have got home without them. Many thanks once again. My home isn't too bad now and I hope yours is also. Many, many thanks, and kindest regards.

I broke out into a smile, so glad that I was presented at such an awful time with an obvious need that I could easily fill. I had wondered so often what had happened to her and if she'd got home okay, and was glad to see that my little act was of use to her.

What's more, I was reunited with my favourite shoes. And I got chocolate.

So really. The moral of my story is that if you do a good deed, there's a good chance you'll be rewarded with chocolate. SCORE.

Monday, April 18, 2011

the one for Sharyn

In the middle of last week I found myself captivated by a thought that had appeared out of the very cold, very blue sky. Suddenly my heart was harbouring fantasies of spending the dark winter nights this year curled up next to a fire, a cup of chai tea on my left, and a pile of knitting projects on my right.


Knitting projects.

Says she who hasn't knitted since the age of eight when it was half-hearted at best, and abandoned before completion at worst.

I sat on the thought for a few days and tried my hand at googling Knit Shops, without much success. Finally I decided to take the step that I knew would be pulling the pin on the grenade of an idea. There would be no going back once I made my thoughts known. I took a breath, I found my words, and I asked the guru of all-things-knit for her advice. The lovely Sharyn rose to the challenge within minutes! The information, the suggestions, the tips and pointers came pouring in from her Sydney location and I found myself set up with a pattern to attempt, a shop to track down, and a slight fear of failing in my heart.

With no idea what I was doing, and a new language in front of me (a round? A skein? Purling!?), I was a little overwhelmed. Saturday afternoon arrived and while the lovely Nick waited patiently in the car, I braved the rain and braved the shop full of domesticity at its best. I waited until the counter was clear and the shop had emptied a little, then I asked in little more than a whisper if someone could help me find... chunky wool? And a circular needle?

A lovely woman about my age lept to my aid, and once I'd shown her the pattern she was completely on board with my quest. She picked out a few varieties of wool, then spent a fretful time trying to find the correct needle, to no avail. She discussed my options and suggested a few other stores, aware that I was a novice wholly unable to tweak the pattern to fit a different needle. She asked if she could make a copy of the pattern to try herself, saying she was on her way south for the weekend and wished she had more time to whip up another weapon against the chill. She invited me back on Tuesday night to what sounded like a secret knitting society, looking around at the older customers as she lowered her voice conspiratorially and said, the ones who come on Tuesdays are more our age.

Then, clutching her newly copied pattern, she released me empty handed to the world and the rain. I felt a little let down. I wanted to start immediately, but there was a spanner in the works. An attempt to find a Peterborough St shop reminded us of the earthquake chaos our city is in, so it wasn't until later in the day that we found ourselves in a Warehouse, and I accidentally stumbled into the craft aisle. Wool! For a lot cheaper (both monetarily and quality). And needles! Still unsure of what exactly a circular needle was, I made the executive decision that an 8mm by 80cm would suffice for a 9mm by 60cm.

And then I youtubed.

I learnt to cast on! And then did it two more times because I either left too much, or not enough wool at the end.

I learnt what a stitch is! And I subsequently dropped one, or maybe two, but be lenient with me.

I learnt how to join in the round! I learnt how to knit a round! I learnt how to purl!

And I learnt how to laugh at myself and forgo my perfectionist tendencies when I discovered, three rounds in, a gaping hole. And something a bit weird going on with one section of the purl.

And I learnt how relaxing it is to curl my feet up under me and to click the needles together, to get a rhythm going, to occupy my always-fidgeting hands with something constructive.

I am one ball of wool, and one third of my way into a simple beginner's project.

And I am hooked.

Now I find in myself a desire to forget every other obligation in life in favour of knitting, baking, and keeping house.

What a wife. I mean, life.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

snakes in a truck

I remembered a little bit ago, half an hour maybe, that today is Friday. Friday! What great excitement that is.

Of course, I'd only forgotten for a short while. I knew yesterday was Thursday, and I knew I should start thinking about weekend plans, but somewhere along the line the reality of two days without obligations had slipped my mind.

Oh, sweet bliss.

That has made my day, almost before it's even started. That makes two good days this week. We're on the upward swing.

There are a few snippets, random occurrences that have left me thinking things over.

1. I've been fearful of everything lately. Take for example, leaving my house each day. I worry about the doors being locked. I worry about leaving my most precious, irreplaceable possessions there in case of fire / flood / earthquake (all of which seem not just possible, but probable these days). I worry about heaters being left on, hair straighteners not being switched off (I was the culprit for that one last night), taps dripping into a blocked sink that then overflows and destroys an already destroyed house, the river rising with too much rain and spilling into the property, the ground opening up and sucking down the rest of the foundations, the water not actually being safe to drink, the house being knocked down without our awareness, the world spinning off its axis and imploding.

I know it sounds a little silly, but there was a night I was in Australia and the weather raged outside the car as we drove the dark, twisting roads into the Blue Mountains. The rain lashed against the windscreen harder than the wipers could keep up with, and every half a minute there were flashes of brilliant white lightening in the sky. Half an hour earlier we had learned of the earthquake - only the earthquake, at that stage - in Japan, and for that night, though I smiled and interacted and we ate dinner as if our lives were unaltered, for that night it felt as though the straps on the world had come undone, and the very worst was happening. It seemed that no one, no place, no thing was safe from the forces of nature, and that the most terrible things you could imagine were at our doorstep.

That night, it seemed like nothing was ever going to be right again. And yes, while believing in God and a future greater than this is all well and good, when it comes down to living out a life in these circumstances, it's rough, and sometimes there is little consolation. There is no denying that it is hard, and often scary. The unknowns, the unpredictables seem so much more menacing these days, lurking in the shadows ready to leap out as soon as a back is turned.

That's what February's earthquake felt like. It sounds silly in hindsight, but for that afternoon and the few days that followed, I couldn't shake the feeling that I had let my guard down. I felt that my focus had been distracted by trivial things, I hadn't been keeping things under control and had looked away for a second, for a minute, I'd been thinking about other things and suddenly the earthquake happened. As if it was my fault. I've talked with a few people about this and have been reassured that while it's not entirely a natural reaction, it's not as uncommon or absurd as it seems.

Anyway. I got sidetracked as seems to be the case. In fact, I think I may have used that exact line in last week's post. Instead of all the other points I was going to discuss, most of which have packed up and left my mind, let me leave you with a story of ridiculousness as far as fear goes, so we can all laugh at me:

Yesterday, I had a snake in my truck. No, really.

After my small group finished at 9pm, I quickly walked out to the truck in the dark, opened the door and hopped into the driver's seat as I threw my bag on the passenger seat. Immediately I heard a loud, angry hissing, and I froze on the spot. My heart lurched painfully before I had time for conscious thought, and in a split second I assessed my fight-or-flight response. SNAKE, in the truck, how far away is it, and is it about to lunge at me before I can even see it!?

Before enough time had passed to make a move, rational thought kicked in. I hadn't forgotten I live in a snake-free country. I looked at the passenger seat, my eyes adjusting to the darkness, my hand still on the door handle for a quick exit. The snake was a book, that had slid across a receipt, ruffling the edges to elicit a hiss.

I am a fool. How about you tell me an embarrassing story of your own for solidarity?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

practicing walking

Two days ago I took my car into my regular garage in town to fix it up with a warrant. An hour wait was predicted, so I took the opportunity to do what I do best: I went for a walk. It was a cold day, one of the first to truly settle us into autumn.

My route took me along the edge of the cordon in town, where I stood at fences and looked down closed roads that are strewn with debris, seven weeks on. The stench of rotting food that wafted out from the deserted restaurants, and the dust that filled my eyes with every gust of wind was enough to leave me glum. I saw mud patterns of leaves stencilled on the footpaths. I saw broken windows and piles of bricks. I saw warped scaffolding that had failed to perform.

When buildings are torn down they leave an unnerving space. The nearby surviving structures look naked, the sides and fronts of them suddenly exposed like they never have been before. Each fallen fence feels a little like a violation, seeing behind them into yards that were supposed to be private. It is unsettling. I was glad to get back to the car, despite its failed warrant, so I could drive back down the familiar broken streets. It is too sad to stumble across new landscape changes in an old city that used to be so comfortable.

A day ago, reluctant as I was with dusk lowering the sun too early in the evening, I went walking along the river to maintain some activity in my freedom hours - the ones unencumbered by work obligations or chores. The air was still and crisp, the river like glass disturbed only by the ducks. There was no breeze; woodsmoke lingered gently at roof level with its comforting smell warming my spirit, if not my bones.

The chasmed paths were treacherous in the half light. On my return I noted sadly that only one out of every ten houses, on both sides of the river, were lit from the inside. It is a ghost neighbourhood and it feels every bit as abandoned as it is in actuality. Our immediate neighbours have pulled up their twenty four year old roots and moved to stabler pastures. The dark settled quickly and I hastened to get home without stumbling over cracks and lumpy asphalt.

Today, I made the most of having a free hour during my work day to myself. I'd begun to read, but there were my own words nagging at the periphery of my mind that I couldn't quite coax out of hiding. I left the makeshift office - a co-worker's house - and strolled down the quiet streets. The wind was back out in force; one day on, one day off, one day on. The forest towered over me on the left, and beautiful, elegant homes lined up at my right hand side.

With my eyes I consumed each picture perfect property as I passed, hungry for more snapshots to file away in my mind. Dreams are free, but these houses are not and I am too realistic to hope for one of my own one day. Their stylish gardens, immaculate stripes of light-and-dark grass mowed to precision length, sculpted trees as fences to give an illusion of openness while expertly hiding the windows behind them.

I saw a spade forgotten, half dug into the ground in this suburban paradise. Having inside information of the covenants signed up to for living in this subdivision, I wondered at how they got away with this. Perhaps no one else had noticed. Perhaps there is no specific stipulation ruling against gardening equipment lying unattended. Perhaps other things are occupying the minds of the modestly rich at this time. I wouldn't be surprised. Like the portaloos lining the streets. I doubt there is a covenant against them - after all, who would have ever predicted it would be a necessity in such a well manicured suburb in a well-developed city? No one could have guessed there would be a day, a month, a year when our sewer system would be on the brink of collapse.

Being autumn, the air is biting and the wind packs a real punch, even against the defences of a thick hoodie and a knitted scarf. I knotted the latter tighter at my neck and shoved my hands into my pockets, wondering at the discovery my fingers made of an empty sachet of sugar. When was the last time I dressed in this particular article of warmth? A year ago? I couldn't remember where I last wore it, or why I would pocket a small piece of rubbish instead of leaving it in an empty mug.

Maybe it was a takeaway coffee, and I had no other place to stash it. I don't remember much about my actions from the past year, but then, I don't remember much about anything from before the earthquakes. It seems all other life has been pushed out of existence; after the first, we were so consumed with the changes that were thrust upon us unwilling citizens, and the ways in which we could relearn how to live in a city that didn't feel right anymore. This time, for myself at least, I'm struggling to evaluate my commitment to the city. It hurts this time in a way that was only glimpsed in September, and my natural instinct is to flee. Even six, seven weeks on, I doubt my ability to bear the weight of sorrow.

Especially now as the temperatures start their descent into winter. The cold seems so much crueler this year when we are already coping just to get through each day in a new, suspended state of normal. I have been writing about the earthquakes for what seems like ten lifetimes. I feel too old, I am tired of them, and I am tired of thinking about rebuilding when the demolitions have barely even begun. I have not yet made a decision about whether staying here and healing with the city would be of paramount value for my own healing also. Perhaps, but I am so empty of life that it seems too overwhelming to consider.

But all this aside, I meant only to say that it is autumn now, truly, and my last three forays outside with my feet traversing the pavement have shown that the cold has set in, and my fingers have returned to the icy state they reside in eight months of the year. I just got distracted, as seems to be the case these days, by the cracks that have formed.

I have used many words, but said nothing really. We'll just consider this practice; a first step towards the day when I can call myself a writer without feeling like a phony.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

ten days ago

I did it again.

I spent all of Friday snacking on pasta that I'd packed into tupperware containers for myself and the two fools I'd talked into joining me. I drank copious amounts of water that required us to stop at every small town on the 4 hour drive between here and there in order to use public toilets. I had a reasonably early night and suffered through nightmares about what was to happen next.

On Saturday morning I laced a timing chip to my running shoes and had some coffee and toast for breakfast. I pinned a number to my singlet and pulled my hair back off my face. With the two others, plus many more fools, I jumped on a bus that took us out to the vineyard where stalls were set up, nervous and excited faces stood around fidgeting, and the ominous FINISH sign waited. I chomped a few jelly beans, I deposited my hoodie and sunscreen and all other non-essential items in the gear tent, and I took my place behind the line.

After some instructions and spiels over the loud speaker, the bells rung and the crowd started moving. And there I was, slowly shuffling towards the start line for my second half marathon.

Seriously? I was actually doing it again? Even though I'd spent less time and had chalked up less kilometres in training for it than the previous attempt? Yes.

I find there are good running days, when my body picks it up right away and it feels effortless, like I could almost run for hours. And then there are bad running days, where I'm a little off kilter from the start, where my body feels heavy and my limbs unresponsive, and every step is a mountainous effort. Not even a minute in, I could feel that it was a bad running day. All the preparation in the world doesn't matter when your body just doesn't want to do it.

The cloud cover was thick, the sun hidden, the temperature cool. Perfect conditions. But right from the outset, in my head for the duration of the race I was on the verge of walking. It was a relief to reach the first drink station at 6km: walking through drink stations, and walking to consume energy supplements are the only excuse for me. In the first few kilometres I assumed that I wouldn't be able to run an unbroken race, that I would cave and end up walking in some points. I was afraid it was just a matter of time until I gave out. I told myself it would be okay, just as long as I secured a better time than my last half marathon.

But I kept jogging along. The long straights where the trail opened up ahead and the distance that had to be covered was clearly visible? That was hard. Every kilometre was hard. I lost my running buddy after the first drink station; I felt bad leaving her behind, but it's about running your own race. I figured she'd catch up again, anyway. I didn't care about the halfway mark when I finally reached it: I was too focused on the second drink station that I could see positioned a few hundred metres past it. Frustrated, I dodged the people who had just... stopped at the drinks tables. Stopped, standing still, right in the way. I actually enjoyed myself for about two minutes somewhere between kilometres twelve and thirteen, but that was the only time I felt happy about the whole deal.

I'd aggravated a muscle in my leg, what I think is my hip flexor, the previous week on a fast walk, but it hadn't bothered me too much since, especially not while running. I assumed that it would be fine for the race, as the motion between fast walking and running is slightly different, and my jogging stride is a lot shorter. Unfortunately, I felt it pulling after the first few kilometres and the pain, while not unbearable, certainly made itself known for the duration of the race. Likewise, because the terrain was over grass and dirt and twigs and stones and gravel, my shoes rubbed against the inside corner of the balls of my feet, and I could feel the blisters starting to surface at around the 4km mark. By 14km they were screaming at me whenever I stepped on a stone or bit of uneven ground that would press my shoes against them. I guess road running has a bigger appeal to me now than it did before. I endured that pain too, though, but was pretty scared to take my shoes and socks off to assess the damage after I'd finished (oh, the horror!).

Also because of the terrain (oh, did I mention? It was through vineyards, down rows of vines and gravel driveways and along stony stop banks overlooking a river - incredible scenery), a lot more energy was required to navigate the course, and it required constant attention to the ground in order not to roll an ankle. Leg muscles were put to the test to compensate for misstepping on uneven ground. My right foot caught on a branch at about 18km and I stumbled a little which caused my calf muscles to seize and cramp painfully like I haven't experienced before. I ran it out, fearful of it happening again and my legs actually giving out on me. At 19km I felt myself approaching The Wall and I sternly told myself it was almost over, that I just had to distract myself for the length of about three more songs, and I'd be home free. I couldn't have run so far in such a bad mental state, only to slow to a walk in the final few minutes. No way. I wasn't allowing that to happen.

I didn't even see the 20km marker, I was so intent on distracting myself from the fact that I was running. A lady I passed told me how great it was to be in the final kilometre and I was surprised, I almost didn't let myself believe it. I knew when I'd entered the final 300 metres because the map had shown a final trail down one more row of vines before a short stint on pavement. I'd hoped for a sprint finish and I still had a little energy to make it happen, but when I reached the tarseal and tried to open up my pace, my calves started cramping from the sudden change in the range of motion they'd had for the last 21km, so I had to pull back and just trot across the finish line.


But I crossed it.

I pushed myself harder than I did in training runs, harder than I did in the previous half-marathon, and harder than I ever have before. I felt the pain of every kilometre. This course required so much more of me than the one I ran in February. My head was in a worse place and every step was an effort to just keep going. Physically, though, I felt I ran it better and with a little more energy. I felt a little more capable, despite all the aches and complaints and mental battles that were going on. I ran the entire way again, minus the drink stops and energy supplements - which were less than a minute of walking each. I ran it, even when I desperately wanted to fold my hand and take a breather and stop the movement for just a moment.

I didn't know my time as I didn't hear it announced and the results weren't posted at the after-race function. I knew it was somewhere between Fool Number One's time of 2:25, and Fool Number Two's 2:44. I desperately hoped for anything under my previous time of 2:39:07 but I wasn't holding my breath. It wasn't until I got home the next day that I searched, with anxious and trembling hands, and found it listed on the marathon website.

I came in at 2:35:13.

For real.

I didn't know the exact time we started the race, but I'd checked my watch at 8km and saw I was just under an hour, and then again at 16km to see I was just under two hours, so I was fairly happy that I'd been running at a solid 8km/hr pace. But of course, my speed slows drastically the longer I keep at it, so I wasn't expecting at all that I'd be able to maintain it for the final 5km. And when I finished I was too exhausted and relieved and distracted by the fact that I didn't have to run anymore that I didn't even think to check my watch.

So this was very unexpected. And wonderful.

Now you'll just have to excuse me for hobbling around over the next few days while I recover from all of my various aches. Everything hurts, but in that wonderfully accomplished way.