LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Running the risks

I QUICKLY — well, not that quickly — went from being scared of running to running scared.

I had barely gone beyond fast walking pace when one day I decided I needed to use up some energy and went on a run, first informing others where I was going so they could come and find me should I not return within the next three minutes or so.

Once I started I couldn’t stop. More miles. Faster miles. Hillier miles. A 5k, a 10k, a half-marathon, more half-marathons, then a marathon. Just the one.

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Most nights, every weekend, however much alcohol I had consumed the night before or intended to drink afterwards, I was pounding the streets, even on holiday.

A scary moment occurred when I ventured out while in Turkey and couldn’t find my way back to --- I was staying. As dusk approached everywhere looked the same and I found myself running down people’s driveways and across their gardens, before eventually locating the apartment about two hours later.

I wouldn’t do that again. Except I did.

Noosa, Queensland, Australia, the land of big bad animals, small killer insects, all manner of strange creatures, and I choose to go for a run at about 6pm.

I had no idea where I was, but came across a forest. That will be interesting, I’ll go through there, I thought.

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I ran further. And further. Into the forest. Deep into the forest. But seemingly not out of the forest. Approaching dusk became dusk and darker and eventually it dawned (not dusked) that this may not have been my best idea.

I started to panic. I could see figures in the trees, I could hear some making noises. I didn’t know what they were. They could be anything. Emus, cassowaries, crocodiles, giant rats the size of a dog, Tasmanian Devils, local beer monsters. Who knows? I didn’t.

I just needed to get out of there, but the problem was I couldn’t see very far so was unable to speed up as a quickfire risk assessment (to follow the one I hadn’t taken that would have concluded entering the forest could end in death) told me there would be plenty of trip hazards to overcome and a fall could leave me stranded and vulnerable to attack by anything from, say, a dingo to a jumping peacock spider.

Suddenly something darted out. A big thing, huge in fact, with spikes on it (I Googled it later and it turned out to be an allegedly not so scary echidna, which is a bit like a hedgehog and eats ants and termites — but nowhere did it say not humans and they have evolved over 20-50 million years so, you know, are pretty tough). I leapt over it and thought sod this, sod the potential injury, I’m out of here, and heroically sprinted through the rest of the dense woodland like a crazed Tarzan being pursued by a lion (or a mid-paced tortoise).

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Did I learn? No. Other runs have seen me struggling for breath under a sun blazing over a Greek island and, less name-droppery, sprawled out in the road on Middle Lane South. Also, I once ran smack into a bloke who was leaving a chippy without due care and intention, already tucking into his potato-based take-away. He remained standing (probably due to his size) and spilled none, while I was left face down in the concrete and apologising.

I mention this because new year has people trying all sorts of nonsense — Dry January?! — with the supposed aim of becoming healthier. My effort, if the collection of injuries accumulated over the years allows, is to do more running.

We’ll see how long that lasts. One thing I do know is I’m keeping out of the sun, off the road, away from woodland and taking a map with me.

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