JP Morgan Challenge Sydney 2012 – Personal Experience
It was about three months ago on a typical prosaic work-night when I was ready to attempt what I promised myself to achieve a few days earlier. I shovelled the last folk full of home-cooked dinner and excused myself from the table. In the bedroom, I made a quick selection of shorts and a t-shirt from my Picasso arranged wardrobe and to complete the look I stepped-into my trusty servant sneakers. Just then before I could react on any conscious level, a scene mimicking encierro (running of the bulls) unfolded in front of my eyes, and like a ballsy or perhaps a foolish runner that got too close to the horns of the bull, I was overrun by the crazy dogs. You see, in a simple classical conditioning manner the dogs have for many months associated the use of sneakers with a nightly walk of theirs and thought not different that night. How wrong they were and how rudely they were denied the walk that night.
Escaping the clutches of the fur balls, I made my exit to the door. On the way I snapped-up the final equipment I wished to take with me; the Ipod, that would pump adrenaline into my ear canals and my phone that tracked performance. If I haven’t yet become clear to you reader what my mission was that night, it’s a version (a lengthier one) of what a working man would do when his bus arrives up the street 4 minutes early, or the reaction of the fattened tourist upon seeing an enraging musk soaked African elephant stampeding in their direction – It’s to run, and that is what I wished to accomplish that night.
The goal was to compete in the 5.6 kilometre race titled the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge 2012 that was hosted on in November, but more on that later. As the old saying goes you must learn to walk before you can run, there was no escaping the idiom that night. After some stretching affectations, I galloped out from my driveway like a freshly branded bronco, heading down the street past several blocks until the main road prevented any further straight trajectory. At this point things began to turn. The first turn was a physical right; the next turn was more of a turn of phrase, ‘going sour’ I believe it was. The gentle decline of the slope that so graciously laid itself beneath my rookie feet was now levelling out. As I was coming to grips with the changing terrain a second right turn followed, that now positioned me in the direction I originally began from. What seemed like a care-free jog on those straight travelators you find in airports just seven minutes ago now felt like the maximum elevation setting of a treadmill that your friend decided to challenge you on. Then it caught up to me, the inescapable. The meal that I had greedily vacuumed-up before my proud run decided to poke me in my side & remind just how recently we met. I have ignored a multitude of pokes on Facebook in my time, so what is a small poke to my stomach? I pushed on, making my way up the ascent that was taunting me mercilessly. This is when my stomach decided to get domestic on me. The small stitch that was expressing itself as a light poke began to feel more and more like a sharp object driving itself into my side. It was too much; I should have not eaten beforehand, now I had to pay the price, my pace decelerated to a hurried walk as the fangs of the stitch bit hard into my abdomen. There was no triumphal arch for me that night. With my tail between my legs I hobbled the rest of the trip back. My only consolation was that I consummated my training by clocking a distance only slightly short of two kilometres.
Lessons were learnt, mistakes noted, strategies revised. After a few days of licking my wounds another opportunity arose to hit the cement paving with the soles of my shoes. My stomach didn’t see any food from the oesophagus slide for a good 5 hours prior, while my legs muscles received more stretching than an Inquisition victim on a rack. The mad dash from the gates was now a paced energy conserving jog. The effort yielded dividends, and I managed to extend my distance to an impressive 3.9 kilometres. I will be honest even though there was no stitch; the pain was just as immense. The chest cavity squeezed itself, the mouth dried to a sandy wasteland and the neck cried in heavy pain, yet the body pressed on and the training line was crossed.
In the following weeks I maintained the same distance but began to slash my times. PBs were falling on the waste side with each subsequent run, while the effort of completing the circuit was diminishing to a noticeable degree. I eventually bumped my distance to the official 5.6 kms.
JP Morgan challenge is a corporate sponsored race. Employees from many different companies come together and complete in a run to raise money for a chosen children’s charity.
By now Westfield had issued me my singlet and the race number that I would be affiliated with so now it was just a matter of getting to the venue.
Having arrived at the gates of the beautiful Centennial Park with a help of a work friend, we followed other runners that were descending on the venue with us. After traversing a tree cloaked path I could finally see main event. There it was, a swarming hive of people in their company colours buzzing to and from various tents and marquees. Large speakers were booming music with accessional announcements while generators hummed fuelling stadium lights. Did I stumble onto an outdoor music festival; was this some reincarnation of Woodstock? This year it was said to be the largest crowd so far for Sydney, with over 8000 attendants. It was easy to see how you can mistake the event for a public festival.
Not before long an announcer came on the speakers again to broadcast for the runners to make way to their designated areas. Our tracking numbers were colour coded, signifying the skill level of all the participants, ranging from the professional to those planning only a brisk walk. I think the analogy to stock animals first came to my head when I was making my way to my coloured starting area. The first group given a chance to run were the blue chip runners. Prized like race horses these runners left their positions with cheers and jubilations from the onlooking crowd. Later it was revealed that Martin Dent, the same guy representing Australia in the 2012 London Olympics in the marathon event, clocked a ridiculous time of 16:11. The yellows were next to make their debut, but it was a slow process. Due to the sheer amount of runners being packed into such a small area, we were being grinned-out slowly from the starting line. These runners were slower, but still clocked impressive times. Valued like a working horse not just for the brawn but its mobility the runners received similar praises leaving their posts.
Apart from the green group, those dairy cows that were not expected to do much more than walk, the red marked group, that I was in, was one of the larger groups to partake in the race. As our turn came and we shuffled towards the starting line and finally crossing it, there I was waiting for that break in the runners, the express lane reserved for those who were serious in finishing this race. Nothing, there we were still nose to arse, shoulder to shoulder all bleating to get ahead. In some delusionary expectations I was still waiting for Moses’s parting of the red-runners miracle for a few minutes, until I finally snapped out of it and began to weave in and out of traffic like those drivers we all see and tsk our heads at in disapproval.
If the over-crowding wasn’t bad enough the first leg of the race was uphill. Reflecting back on it, it may be that the organisers intentionally set-up the race in such a manner to proverbially separate the sheep from the goats early on. But then I never understood why the goats always got such a bad rap. Baby goats are the cutest little things and I hear mutton in a delicious meat. And anyway mountain goats excel in hilly terrain so more to them. But I digress.
Ten minutes into the race after having my nose suck up a dozen scents of cheap perfume and other unpleasantries the track begins to thin-out with runners. Don’t get me wrong, you still couldn’t stretch out your arms without smacking some shmuck in the chin, but at least I could keep my pace steady.
My plan was to seek-out and fixate on someone who is running at a challenging pace that I can follow. Time and time again I would lock-in my target only to find them waddling and being deceptively slow or being on a tail of someone who just injected some NOS and zooming off ahead.
Twenty minutes in, my fed-up body sends me a rude message wondering if the sedentary life is what I should have pursued instead or maybe that I was only fit for the gatherer part in the hunter-gatherer paradigm. My brow is now filled with beads of sweat, and the cold that I caught a few days earlier is expressing itself through my nose in a form of an open faucet. There was also that familiar tingle in the stomach, could it get any worse? It can and it did, like a brewing & menacing cloud that is unable to support any more moisture and off-loads everything below, my forehead gave way to a stream of sweat descended into my eyes. There I was half blinded by my own body, in agony and leaking like a sieve, wondering if I can make it to the end. That was the low point of the race but thankfully crossed the 5 kilometre mark soon followed. With only a fraction of the race to go, I channelled my ‘Speedy Gonzales’ powers and made a dash for the finishing line. It’s amazing how your body can always find that extra reserve of energy, when you think you licked up the last bit of fuel from the tank. Not sure if it’s true with others; when I was training and passing someone on the street, I would have to put on a fake façade of confidence, as if this is all so ridiculously simple its amusing, a cheesy grin of self-assurance would emerge on my face, chest up high, big strides as if I am running on a jumping castle. I would imagine the passer-by’s dropping what they were doing and thinking “there goes another athlete in his prime”.
The finish line had spectators on both sides, so upon seeing an audience it was easy to evoke the same old delusions of grandeur. I began weaving past the other runners imagining a road-runner like dust plume forming behind me, finally clearing the line and grounding myself back to reality. I have done it!
The official time I was given was 27 minutes and 41 seconds. I came two-thousand two-hundred and something in the race. I like to tell people I was in the nearly in the top quartile of the race, which sounds much more impressive, if you can picture a bell-curve like graph.
I really enjoyed doing the race and the training leading up to the race. I am considering even continuing the running as a form of self-motivation.
Westfield, the company I represented afterwards had drinks flowing and food available for the employees. There were also congratulatory handshakes given out, and stories exchanged.
Only downside was working the next day. Will do it again next year though.
Here are some photos