Barossa Brave half marathon – race recap

I didn’t seek out this little half marathon, it found me. After our Dopey challenge, I’d been looking for an event to stretch me and had found a marathon in the beautiful Barossa Valley. Even better, we found cheap flights from our local airport and locked it all in. And then the company that was organising the marathon cancelled the event. I have a lot to say about that but, rather than go into details, I have just learnt not to trust that they’re going to actually run events that they allow you to register for so won’t be bothering with their offerings in other places.

However all was not lost – the fabulous organiser of South Australia’s ‘Coastal fun runs’ stepped in and organised a smaller, charity event in its place and I signed up for that instead.

And so it was that I found myself meeting a bunch of other eager runners at Bethany Reserve in the Barossa Valley on Saturday morning. The distances on offer were a marathon, half marathon, 14km and 7km and I’d opted for the half. There were about 100 runners in the event and it had such a warm, friendly, local vibe to it. Even the huntsman who joined me in the toilet pre-departure seemed friendly and welcoming. Possibly a little too welcoming.

We all gathered at the start line, had a group picture taken and set off. The course was a 7km loop running out from the reserve, along a vineyard and a road before taking us on a creek crossing (dry but fun) and then out along an out and back arm which had a bit of an incline. And then it was time for the main event – the hill in the middle of the loop which rewarded us for the climb with spectacular views over the Barossa. And then it was down the hill, along the out and back arm again and back to the reserve…..to do it all again.

I had known from the start that this was going to be tough because of the hills but the pressure had been taken away by the very generous cut off time allowed. So I was measuring this one by how much enjoyment I could get out of it – a smile PB, not a time one. It wasn’t hard to achieve – what a glorious course on a glorious day with a glorious crowd. The hills were challenging as were the surfaces – longish grass and rutted dirt on some bits, rocks and cow pats hidden in grass on others and the always fun dry creek bed to navigate. The views were ample distraction – vineyards and farmland wherever you looked and the odd cow to say hello to. We even had gates to go through (others climbed the stiles but there was no way my legs would sign up for that so I got used to opening and closing gates). The weather was perfect – crisp and a little cloudy at the start while we warmed up then brilliant blue sky and sunshine by the last lap to bring it home. Magnificent.

Due to the loop and the out and back sections, we also all got to know each and there were lots and lots of smiles, high fives and encouragement from those completing all distances. Whenever I found it hard going, I remembered that, while I was doing the big hill 3 times, the marathoners had to do it 6 times and I couldn’t fathom how much my glutes would be screaming if that were me. So I smiled as I plodded my way up.

Husband had dropped me off then gone to parkrun and made it back in time for me to start my final lap. I definitely was plodding up the hill on that one but was still doing it with a smile – so grateful to be there and was as mentally strong as ever. My physical fitness might not quite have been keeping up with what I wanted but my mind was strong – there was no point where I felt like giving up or that it was too hard. Husband joined me for the last bit and I managed to run across the finish line to lots of applause from the crowd who were enjoying their post run wines.

What an event! Well organised, contributing to charities, a beautiful course with enough challenge to keep us amused and a great crowd of volunteers and fellow runners. Besides, any event where you’re standing at the finish with your medal and a glass of wine has to be a good thing.

Dopey training – week 19

Get yourself a cup of coffee and settle in – this is going to be a long blog post. As that’s really the only way to deal with a week like this one.

Before I tell you about it, I feel like I need to make a disclosure – I still have a love/hate relationship with running. I sometimes think my blog might paint it in a more positive light than I always feel but that’s because these posts are written while looking through the endorphin coloured glasses of post-run euphoria. If I blogged before or during a run? A whole different perspective. Most of the ‘love’ side of the relationship occurs after a run while the ‘hate’ side is before and during. It’s not always terrible but it’s certainly not always great either and I struggle as much as anyone to get my shoes on and get out the door. Anyway, with that said, let’s begin.

My first run of the week was on Tuesday and, thanks to School Council in the evening, needed to be done before work. When I can make myself, I do like that time of day and Tuesday was a perfect morning for it. However the run sucked. It was hard, I couldn’t get my breathing right and the minutes seemed to take forever. The best thing about it was that it was done and I could spend the rest of the day feeling smug. Actually another good thing was that I wasn’t tired all day afterwards like I usually am (and managed to stay awake during School Council 😃).

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do on Thursday and was home earlier than usual which gave me options. So, of course, I opted for the familiar and headed to the You Yangs although ran a different trail to usual. It wasn’t as hard as Tuesday although, being on trail, it couldn’t be compared which is probably why I did it. Trail feels more forgiving of all speeds of runner. As well as generally being tonic for the soul.

Saturday was parkrun which used to be easy as we had limited options around here. Now, with too many options, I can’t choose so I ended up at my home parkrun. I needed to get in some extra kms so I got up early, parked at the beach and ran along the waterfront before running to parkrun and finishing my run with an easy 5km. I was tired at the end but glad to have got the kilometres in early so I could enjoy the rest of my day and get ready for the really long on Sunday. I got all of my things ready, rechecked the route and was in bed by 7.30pm – such a party animal.

So, today. My alarm went off at 4.30am and husband and I were on our way to Melbourne. It’s funny that he doesn’t worry about me out on the trails but didn’t like the idea of me running in Melbourne alone so had offered to drop me off and asked me to text him every 5km. I was grateful to have somebody along for the journey. Even if he wasn’t running with me, it was really reassuring to know he was there.


We arrived at Southbank at 6am so I took advantage of a final toilet stop then set off on the Capital City Trail. The first part was very familiar as I’d run it many, many times before, albeit in reverse. I settled in well to the early kilometres and it all felt good – I was running 1:30/1:00 run/walk intervals (as recommended by my friends who ran their loooong run last weekend) and they were perfect for keeping me well under pace but not tired. I was trying out podcasts for the first time and was really enjoying the one I was listening to which also helped the time tick away. I ran along the river then over it and into the Docklands before joining up with the creek trail that took me under CityLink – a very strange experience that reminded me of being in canals around cities in the UK.


There weren’t many people around, just a few cyclists and it was very peaceful by the creek, despite the traffic overhead. The peace ended when I came to the end of that particular trail – the sign telling me where to go wasn’t there and, confronted with a busy road ahead, I had no idea where to go. I took out my phone to double check, only to find that my battery was down to 24% (no idea why – still investigating). I searched the map and tried my best to quell the rising panic attack – the thought of no music or entertainment for the remainder of the run, limited contact with Gary, limited access to maps, on top of the fact that I still didn’t know where to go next were all contributing.

Eventually I found my way back onto the trail then texted Gary to tell him that, despite being only 7.5km into my run, I was turning my phone off to conserve power and would be unreachable between my text messages. The next section of the trail heads towards and through Royal Park and is, again, quite scenic although not brilliantly signposted and I took another wrong turn before realising and finding my way back.

This section of the trail after that had much better signposts, including information about how far things were which I found very reassuring. At this point, I was still feeling pretty good and keeping up the intervals. I took a few photos when I turned on my phone to text Gary with my progress but wish I’d been able to take more. It’s a great trail and you get to see such a variety of Melbourne landscapes. I was also feeling quite lonely as I couldn’t text Gary as frequently as I wanted – I loved knowing he was out there, supporting me and looked forward to ticking off another 5km so I could message him.

Highlights in the next section included Dights Falls and Collingwood Children’s Farm, complete with strange animal noises and quaint farmyard scenes. The Children’s Farm also was my one and only toilet stop with fabulous facilities right next to the trail. There were more people up this end and I also started to come across participants in the ‘Bloody Long Walk’ which made me smile and feel a little less alone.

I don’t remember exactly where it started getting harder but my Strava file seems to show it around the 26th kilometre as that’s where my speed really slowed. I was edging closer to the city, was on more familiar paths and had had enough. All sorts of unhelpful thoughts were sneaking in and, no matter how much I looked at my ‘Run Brave’ bracelet wrapped around my wrist, they wouldn’t leave me alone. Most of them were about how hard this was and how much harder it was going to be to add another 10km to this to complete the marathon. How, despite all the training, I wasn’t good enough or fast enough. Even though I knew they were irrational, they were still there and making it so much harder than it needed to be. I think, had I had enough energy, I would have cried to clear it all out but instead just concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. I constantly checked my pace – up until 26km, it had been a perfect 9:20/km but it was slipping lower and lower.

My last text to Gary said ‘30km Swan st bridge Very slow’. I wanted to say a whole lot more but didn’t have the energy to look at the screen. I wanted to say that it hurt and that it was taking every fibre of my being not to just sit down in the gutter and cry. I couldn’t even really put a finger on what hurt – it wasn’t injury type hurt, just ‘I’ve been on my feet too long’ kind of hurt. Blisters, sore feet, sore hips, tight calves – all of it. Just keep moving.

I got back to Southbank to discover I was 1km short of my target so had to keep going then, while waiting for Gary, ended up doing laps of the roundabout to finish off the last 250m. And, finally, I could press stop on my Garmin. 32km – done. At a pace that was just in front of the virtual balloon ladies – 9:58/km.

A few hours on, I still have mixed feelings on this one. Of course I’m proud to have finished it – 32km is a huge achievement that I never thought I’d be capable of. However it was far too close on pace and I am disappointed with that. I know I’ll go quicker at the event with all the adrenaline and crowds but still realise I face a very real possibility of not being able to finish this. I’ve known that from the start but tried to just ‘trust the training’. That’s getting harder. 3 weeks now until the next ‘longest run’ and I’ll certainly be reflecting on whatever I can do to start and finish with confidence.

Weekly summary – 55.9km total:

Tuesday – 5.2km (45:15)

Thursday – 5km (45:07)

Saturday – 13.6km (2:03:55)

Sunday – 32km (5:18:58)

parkrun tourism @ newport lakes

When I think of Newport, Harry Potter-ish thoughts come to mind. Before you click ‘close’ and assume I’ve gone slightly bonkers, hear me out. We caught a steam train from Newport station once and it fulfilled many childhood wishes. I still vividly remember the train going through Southern Cross station, tooting its horn and feeling like I was on a magical mode of transportation that the muggles on the platform couldn’t quite see, only hear. So Newport will forever be a place linked in my mind to positive, if slightly eccentric, memories.

We weren’t able to make the launch of Newport Lakes parkrun as it was Balyang Sanctuary’s birthday so managed to get along today to event #3. This was probably a wise move. While there is definitely something about launches, there’s something different but equally as rewarding in turning up at an event unexpectedly and checking them out ‘in their street clothes’. Every parkrun has its own feel and quirks, even though the format and rules are all the same. The first thing Newport Lakes has going for it is a dose of the unexpected – I have driven through the area on my way to a friend’s house a few times but would never have known that this gem of a park was tucked away down a short road amidst all this suburbia. When I think ‘lake’ in relation to a Melbourne suburb, I assume it’s man-made and probably has a fountain and boardwalks. But no, this one has a lake that’s real and a trail that actually feels like a trail.

The first timers’ briefing gave us an overview of the course (which sounded confusing but signposted) and it was wonderful to see so many first timers. The main briefing then gave further delights – the Hobsons Bay running group had come along and were putting on a complimentary BBQ breakfast afterwards. I love this. I love that none of this needs to be a competition, that existing events and running groups can all work together to achieve the common goal – to get more people moving. But I digress.

After gathering at the start line, we were soon off. The start is across the grass, following the cones then looping back around near where you’ve come from. We followed the outside edge of the park for quite a while before following a bit of a long zig zag through the trails and closer to the water. The signposts were great and plentiful however I still had a few moments of doubt as there was no one around me and I wondered if that was because I went the wrong way. I trusted the arrows and kept going, finding some people further along the path. The surface is gravel track with some rocks and tree roots thrown in for good measure and I was glad I’d worn my trail shoes as they just gave me a bit more grip going up and down the inclines. There aren’t any terrible hills, just a few short ups and downs but lots of turning and loops so I really didn’t know where I was at any point. Running back along the road, I was completely disorientated until I turned back onto the grass and over the finish line.

Run done, we joined in the BBQ breakfast and chatted before heading off in search of a trendy venue for coffee and second breakfast. We found Leroy’s which perfectly fit the bill. Mmmmmm.

Well done to the event team at Newport Lakes – definitely a course I’d like to go back to although I’m equally sure I won’t be attempting a freedom run on it. I was fairly sure that, if I wasn’t completely attentive, I could get lost even with signs. Without them, I may be in the unfortunate position of needing to call for help in finding my way out of a suburban park!!

Dopey training – week 8

Training started off a bit slowly this week – I decided to push Tuesday’s run to later in the week, partly due to work commitments and partly because my leg was still feeling a bit dodgy. So my first 45 minute run of the week ended up being on Thursday. It’s been pretty rainy and wintery all week so waiting for the perfect weather was definitely not an option – it was either run and take your chances or don’t run. I took my chances, managed to get away from work on time and headed for a park in town. I managed 2 laps before the rain started and I headed down to and along the beach to finish off my 45 minutes. As always, I grinned maniacally while the rain and wind battered me – there is something distinctly satisfying about fighting it out with the elements to get your run done. While I’m not a fan of heading out into the rain, I don’t really mind running once it starts. Although I did have some problems feeling my fingers, especially while trying to take this photo 🙂

Saturday was my second 45 minute run – this time at Brimbank parkrun launch. I had a great run – a beautiful trail and fabulous company, this one was definitely measured in smiles.

And then today I did my long run. There was definitely a time, not that long ago, when I didn’t like long runs at all. Nothing about them. I now feel I’ve moved on to a love/hate relationship with them. And I’m equally as passionate about both sides. All week, I’ve been excitedly looking forward to the weekend for the chance to do my long run. Each day, I’d deliberate about where to go, which route to take. Last night, I was looking at the clock from 7.30pm, wanting to go to bed so I could get up and get it done. The ‘hate’ kicked in this morning when it actually came to getting out of my warm pjs and into running gear but, once I was out there, I was in love again. I chose one of my favourite trails – the Surf Coast Trail from Jan Juc to Ironbark Basin – and soaked up the stunning sunshine that we’re lucky enough to have today. I took it easy today – it was about getting the kilometres done and enjoying some solitude, not cranking out PBs. I started with set run/walk intervals as per the plan but then decided to just go by feel instead. And I made sure I took some time to stop and smell the wattle. Spring is definitely on its way!

Weekly summary:

Thursday – 5.7km (47:03)

Saturday – 5.2km (43:11)

Sunday – 15km (2:18:50)

surf coast trail marathon – not a race recap

It was one of my running goals this year to not run. Odd, I know. I wanted to make sure I gave up some of my potential runs and chose to volunteer instead. The running community has given me so much over the last few years, I wanted to be able to give something back and make sure others could experience what I have. Hence why I didn’t run the Surf Coast trail half marathon today but instead chose to don a high vis vest and volunteer instead.

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Sunrise from our briefing point in Torquay

For those who haven’t volunteered at a running event before, it’s not hard. I was a marshal today which involved turning up for briefing (easy), finding my given marshal point (quite easy) and raising my arm every now and then to point in the appropriate direction, accompanied by cheering and words of encouragement (very easy). The hardest part was probably not running although I did quite a lot of pacing around to keep myself warm while I waited enthusiastically for some runners to cheer on.

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My marshal point

In fact, I’m actually quite enamoured with this whole volunteering thing. You get a whole different perspective on running, events and the human spirit. I saw fast runners today for whom the whole thing looked completely effortless. And many of them gave up some much needed breathing time to thank me for volunteering.

I saw a whole range of different runners with different styles and different levels of concentration and pain on their faces. I saw some runners at the back of the pack who I thought were just amazing. It’s one thing to run with a group of people around you for motivation or with crowds awaiting you at the aid stations. It’s quite another to be out there almost alone, knowing you’ll be out there for twice as long as the ones at the front. All running requires you to draw deep but I feel like that sort of running requires you to draw into a magical well of miraculous depth. A well that most of us never have to find out whether we have access to. So my loudest and most enthusiastic cheers of the day went to those runners who had been out on the course the longest.

And, when the sweepers came through, letting me know that my shift was over, I headed along to the next aid station to continue cheering people on and gaining further appreciation for the human spirit as I watched runners wading across a river on the course which they probably hadn’t realised was going to be there. Resulting in my very wet feet thanks to the king tide that engulfed them when I was paying more attention to the runners than I was to where I was standing. All in the name of running fun.

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So, all in all, a very successful volunteering experience. If you haven’t volunteered at an event before, do it. Not as daunting as you’d think and a great way to spend a few hours. A huge congratulations to every single runner out there on the course today – you’re all simply incredible 🙂

 

 

Run Forrest 2017 – race recap

Every now and again, it’s good to do something that scares you a bit. To stretch yourself, revise what you believe you’re capable of and remind you that life is full of opportunities and rewards for those willing to embrace some risks. In short, being brave, not perfect (Thanks to Jade Hameister for this one – I’ve adopted it as a personal motto).

Run Forrest has been on my wishlist for a while but has always scared me. Even though this year I felt more ready to have a go than ever before, it still took me until last Thursday to sign up. I’m not exactly sure what I was scared of – hills? Trails? Not being able to finish? The unknown. As much as I love trail running, I tend to stick to familiar ones and get nervous when I strike out somewhere new, in case I come across something I can’t handle. Thus my nerves when I thought of this event.

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The morning didn’t start too well as the fog was very heavy on my drive over and just added to the nerves. I arrived safely, parked up and stopped for a toilet break then faced the next issue – how to find the event village. There had been some information on the website but I had expected perhaps some signs however couldn’t see anything obvious (I later saw arrows on the road but had obviously missed them going in). To get to the event village, you follow a little path on the edge of town and wind your way down to trail heaven. There I found a great little event village, complete with fires to warm ourselves as we waited and hay bales to rest on.

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Having managed to slot in another toilet break, I added my bag to bag drop then ambled to the start area. My nerves were still there but I just wanted to get this thing started and face whatever demons I found out on the trail.

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From the start line, we headed out, around and back past the same area before running behind the event village where we were confronted with the first hill. A significant hill. Some people around me could even be heard muttering ‘Silvan’ under their breath (refer to this blog post for that particularly gruesome hill). Having this so early in the event did make me falter a little – I’d already been nervous; was this the evidence I needed to prove that my nerves had been justified? Would it be too hard? I’m pleased to say those thoughts moved on pretty quickly – I’m not in love with hills but I’m much better friends with them than I ever used to be and I knew I just needed to put my head down and get on with it. So I powered on.

At the top of the hill, we moved onto a narrow trail through the beautiful bush with undulations but nothing unrunnable. I instantly felt better, stronger and happier – I could do this. Of course I could. I also noticed I wasn’t alone, with a fair bunch of runners both in front and behind me which made me feel better as well.

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The scenery we were running through was, simply, stunning. The Otway Ranges have long been a favourite place of mine, even before I took up running. I couldn’t help but feel very lucky to get to run through this today, in the most perfect running weather you could wish for (especially in a place well known for rain). As well as getting to run along narrow trails, there was also a tiny bit of road as we headed up to the West Barwon Reservoir, adding to the impressive views. A woman running nearby and I were chatting about our ludicrously large smiles which seemed permanently etched to our faces – despite the sore and hard parts of running, this was one of those runs that just made us smile.

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We headed back onto the trails, past the drink station and up through the turnaround loop for the 10km. This was definitely my sort of running – gentle ups and downs, soft (and slightly slippery) paths and blissful serenity all around. The faint sounds of the event village could be heard through the trees but not close enough to worry about the run being over yet – I was happy for this one to keep going for a while.

As we continued to weave through, we hit more of the technical mountain bike trails with banked corners and a sticky clay surface – both a bit of a hazard but easily dealt with by my fabulous trail shoes. Not sure I would have coped in road shoes for this event. I could have run on this stuff forever – I felt strong and more like a mountain goat than I have before on the trail, ably picking my way around tree roots. But it wasn’t to be as we emerged out of the trees and back on the final stretch before the finish.

I actually think I managed to take a bit of a wrong turn in the last section as I followed runners ahead but then found others converging with us on the path further up. This might have contributed to me pulling up a bit short on distance although I think that’s probably more to do with the general difficulties of measuring trail runs – very hard to work out the line when you’re dodging all sorts of natural obstacles.

There was one last uphill then a downhill jaunt through magical tree ferns – a perfect prelude to the finish line. As always, the finish chute seemed to go on for a long time although I wasn’t as ‘done’ as I normally am and ran it fairly strong. To see the run for yourself, check out my link on ‘Relive‘.

This event really is a one of a kind in many ways. The location, the scenery, the trail, the diversity of runners it attracts, the vibe of the event village – it all builds to a very special package.

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Afterglow – race recap

There are runs that are serious. Where you want to get a good time and you’ve followed your training plan to get there. Then there are runs which are really designed for fun and frivolity. Afterglow is definitely one of those. The dress code? Fluoro running gear (the brighter the better), tutus, sparkly bits and pieces, something to light up the night. The venue? Along the gorgeous trails of the Surf Coast of Victoria, from Southside to Torquay.

So, we dressed accordingly and rocked up to the meeting point where we chatted, added our glowsticks, sorted out where our battery packs would go (because of course we all had fairy lights on our tutus!) and enjoyed the atmosphere.

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Soon enough, we jumped onto the bus (having managed to somehow time it completely wrongly so we weren’t on the one our friend was driving!) and were taken to our start point at Southside. The bus driver had to give us some persuading to actually get off the bus as the wind felt like it was coming straight from Antarctica. We huddled together and waited patiently for the other buses to arrive so that we could be briefed. The briefing was…well…brief. Ocean on your right, keep moving forward, head towards the lights. And then, finally, time to start.

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If you look closely, you can see the fluorescent runners making their way along Bells Beach

The first part was great – a gentle downhill wind through a beautiful trail, ultimately spilling us out onto the iconic sands of Bells Beach. These sands are of the soft and challenging variety so took a bit of time and then ended up taking longer as one of our friends dropped her keys so a search ensued. Keys rediscovered, we continued our trek back up the stairs at the other end of Bells.

From there, the track continues its general up and down, twisty path towards Torquay. We were all taking it easy – definitely here for a good time, not a fast time. There were some spectacular jumps, a few wardrobe malfunctions (running with fairy lit tutus was always going to have its problems) and lots of chatter.

As we ran into Torquay itself, we encountered some of the nightlife – some kids hanging out in the park and some drunk, beer gutted men yelling ‘encouragement’. I had enjoyed my run up to this point but was starting to lose interest once we were back in civilisation. The cruel part of this run is that they take you right next to the finish line, only to send you out onto the beach for a couple of kilometres. If I had lost interest before, this was the ‘enough’ point. In the darkness, the beach seemed to stretch on forever and it felt like my friend and I were the only people out there. I was so grateful for her company but at the same time, I wanted to be anywhere but there. We finally reached the wonderful volunteer marshall who directed us up the dune from hell (albeit fringed with pretty lights) back to the path.

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Glowing my way across the finish line

Once at the top, we were again engulfed in darkness and felt like we were miles from anywhere or anyone. We shuffled our way back towards the finish line. The beauty and treachery of the trails is that you might not really be far away but the twists, turns and scrub throw your sense of distance. We crested a hill and saw (and heard) the finish line. As a sign of how long it had taken, there were a couple of marshals ahead of us, coming off duty. I found a final burst of energy and sprinted for the line, crossing it with cheers from my ever patient husband and friends as my soundtrack.

So, the verdict? This is definitely a fun event – the volunteers are as zanily dressed as the runners and give such a happy vibe to the proceedings. The course is gorgeous but tougher than I’d given it credit for (despite having run it all previously in reverse). And the bling at the end is very funky. If you’re up for something different and want to end your year with a bang, this is the event for you 🙂 Just make sure you bring a crowd – it’s not an event to do on your own and, as with so many events this year, wouldn’t have been anywhere near as much fun without my fabulous running friends.

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