Cars race down the freeway across the road from my office; their engines making a drone like the buzzing of a swarm of bees. It’s still daylight as I turn up the road past some industrial properties and office buildings. I stop at the shops 500m from work to buy a box of tea bags for my partner. And then I turn for home.
I run past the Golden Arches and KFC bucket. Commuter traffic zips by along the main road. Down at the sports fields there’s a queue of cars waiting to park at the gym. I don’t check to see who’s playing on the soccer fields because I’m enjoying the sensation of putting one foot in front of the other.
By the 5km mark I’m out in a more suburban area padding along a concrete footpath. There’s fewer cars because this is an alternate route to cut the corner off two main roads that run perpendicular to each other. At 6km the concrete paths ends and I am left pattering along a soggy grassy verge. Occasionally I need to run along the road to cross deep drains but I run towards the traffic, which is lighter than the commuter traffic heading the same way as me. It’s dark now so my glow sticks are glowing purple and yellow on the back of my hyrdopack.
I cross the busy main road at 7.5km. Headlights careen past at 80kph and it’s difficult to find a break. I exercise patience and eventually get across the road. I backtrack along the main for the scariest 135m I’ve ever run as I get stuck on the main road between the two side roads. There’s no real verge so I’m just running in the emergency stopping lane where cars are driving at 80kph and all I have is three purple and yellow glow sticks for visibility.
As I turn down the side street everything gets quiet. I’ll see no more cars for over 4km because this is a dead end road. It’s silent but for the song of the crickets and the sloshing of water in my hydropack.
At 9km I see about eight miniature ponies standing in a paddock. They are outdoor ponies with thick slightly muddy winter coats. The braver among them starts to move towards me. They take a few steps forward, stop, watch, consider then move a few more steps forward. I talk to them and ask whether they want a pat. A pretty cheeky looking paint, and a bay with a big blaze and small paint spots let me pat them. A palomino stands just out of reach, watching intently. I think he’s the pack leader because he stops a gorgeous chestnut and white pony from coming closer. I love horses and can’t help but stop to pat and talk to them when I see them.
As I leave the ponies the road gets narrower. It winds through tall gums. It’s a beautiful section of road and my favourite kilometre of the whole journey. I get totally lost in the moment and realise I no longer see running as training but as recreation.
The road ends in a big mud pile, strategically placed to stop cars and motorbikes from traveling on what is actually a continuing road that has been cut short by developers. So once I navigate my way around the mud pile (there’s no way I wanted to sink waist deep in mud), I continue down the gravel road to the grass field near my home.
I might have to get my colleague to give me a lift to work on his way past again sometime so that I can run home again.
Total: 12.05km @ 6:11 min/km pace (6:00 min/km moving). Elevation gain: 133m (one of the troubles with living at 54m above sea level is that I don’t get much chance to get any real elevation gain in training). Average temperature: 20.2’C (the subtropics are boringly warm).