Proprioception on a flatline

Footprints in the Sand – Foxton Beach inaugural half marathon

Date: 25 November 2017
Distance: 21.1km (we measured 21.8km)
Time: 2:29:52
Previous: 2014

When we entered for this event on the morning before the start, little did we know that it was an inaugural. Whoop! Another one in the bag. To be fair, it can hardly count as an inaugural since this event is already in its fourth year. But, previous runnings were only twenty kilometres and 2017 marked the first year that it is an official half marathon. So, technically it IS an inaugural and mind you, I only realised now that the very first one we did back in 2014, was also an inaugural. 🙂

Being the kind of event that it is – a straight, flat course on a mile wide beach – you have lots of time to think. Your mind can wander endlessly, without having to worry that you might miss a course marker, or a turn-off, or stumble and fall over something. There is nothing apart from vehicle tracks, footprints, sea to the one side, and some drift wood and sand dunes to the other side. It is almost a zen-like experience, if only you can turn off your mind and “live in the moment”. Easier said than done, with all the stresses that comes with daily life that usually occupies ones mind.

While trying to get into the moment, I thought about another buzz-word that seems to crop up everywhere. Proprioception. It has to do with your body, movement and joints and how you/your body fit into your environment. Your awareness of where you are in space. So, I started to try and become more “aware”. I would look up ahead, making sure there is really absolutely nothing to stumble over, then close my eyes and run by feel. Just listening to my footfall on the sand, the sea swooshing far to the left/right (depending whether you’re on the way out, or the way back) and concentrating on my breathing.

And this made me think about one of the “tricks” to help improve your running form. Stand on one leg and close your eyes. Once you’ve mastered that for, say, two to five minutes on end without falling over, start doing things while in that position, like brushing your teeth. Hard, isn’t it?

When running with eyes closed, I imagined one might reach a state of “flow” easier. It is not every day that you get the opportunity to run with your eyes closed (apart maybe from running on a treadmill?), but being in nature while you do it is as close as you can get to “being in the moment” completely. Away from modern life’s interference. It was difficult at first, and I didn’t “trust” myself or my surroundings, but once I recognised and acknowledged the environment to be “safe”, I managed quite long stretches of “mindless” “blind” running. Without fail, every time I started concentrating too hard on my footfall, or when my foot might hit the ground, doubt would set in making me think that the sand was closer or further away than it actually was, losing my focus (or is it intuition? mindfulness?) and be forced to open my eyes and get back to reality. And therefore also lose that zen-like moment.

As it happened then, now also here. Enough of the fuzzy, feely stuff. Ultreia!

The weather was absolutely perfect. Overcast, warm and just the slightest of breezes to keep us cool. The humidity was out of the park, and we both perspired like bulls at a yard sale. No baby seals or blue bottles this time, but heap of fish carcasses and even a wee shark. Seven water points on the way out and back to make sure all 17 participants (four walkers and 13 runners) stayed well hydrated on the half marathon course.

To make up for the extra kilometre needed to turn this into a half marathon, participants first head south towards Wellington for about half a kilometre, before turning around and running all the way north towards Himatangi Beach, make another U-ie and back again to Foxton Beach Surf Club. It has to be the straightest and flattest half marathon in the country. But, make no mistake, I could well and truly feel my calves and hammies have worked harder than on a normal road or trail run. Although it was low tide and the sand solid packed, the aftermath was still reminiscent of sand running.

The 10km and 5km events saw a few more participants and overall we were in the order of about 200 runners/walkers. Thanks to the Foxton Lions Club for staging such a lovely event. More than a hundred spot-prizes made sure that almost everybody walked away with something. I received a $20 voucher from Mr Grumpy fast foods (that’s lunch sorted), and Gerry a free WOF. At only $25pp entry fee, we got more than our money’s worth back in spot-prizes!

I’m puzzled as to why the numbers are so low in the half marathon. Fingers crossed for a better turnout next year.


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