Smiling slows you down

I have a new theory. Smiling while you run makes you run more slowly. I ran in the 10km race at the Forster Running Festival this morning.

I went into the race with a goal of running the whole 10km, walking only in the drink stations. My best time for a 10km is 71 minutes which was at the Tamworth Running Festival three weeks ago and I hadn’t really trained specifically for today’s race because I didn’t plan to enter.

I did a 15 minute run yesterday morning to loosen up and hopefully “feel fast”. I managed a fairly consistent pace which I was pleased with (blue graph below).


I picked up my race pack yesterday afternoon and had to put out a “help me please” request because I couldn’t work out how to attach the timing chip to my shoe. I’ve only had the bib or velcro ankle ones before. I found a video on you tube. I also realised the chip had a website address on the back of it so I found some instructions on their website. The only problem was that it didn’t work with the way I tie my laces. So, I ended up going with the you tube method. It seems to have worked because I registered an official time. 


201st from 210 finishers, 113th from 118 females, 42 from 43 female 30-39 runners.

The race started on a nice downhill stretch. Most of the competitors had reached the first turn around point and were running towards me before I even reached the first drink station (at 2km). And that’s okay. I know I’m not a fast runner. In fact, one tall girl with really long legs was just in front of me most of the way – and she walked most of it. I really had to push myself to gain ground on her!

Starting at the back of the pack to avoid being crushed, hiding behind the more athletic-looking people:


Back to my story. At this point, I realised that the stragglers and the back half of “the pack” were smiling and encouraging one another. They were just happy to be out there on the course, running in a race. The “serious” runners up front were focussed and determined. They were probably enjoying themselves too but you couldn’t tell by looking at them.

Here I am: already a straggler, not even at the 2km mark.


I didn’t achieve my goal. I walked a number of short sections – mainly in the shady spots trying to cool down. I’m used to running at 5.30/6.00am. The temperature at 9.00am when the race started was already pretty warm and by the time I crossed the line at approximately 10.15am it was hotter still. I need to do some running later in the day (on weekends perhaps) before I attempt another race. Today’s time was 76 minutes. In July I ran 11km in 77 minutes. Initially I was disappointed. My main reason for entering was to prove to myself that I could run the full distance after walking so much of the Tamworth Ten.

I had worked out that 70 minutes (my absolute best possible time I could dream of) was 14 lots of 5 minutes and I ticked them off in my head as I ran. After 50 minutes I guessed that I had about 20 minutes to go. Just four more lots of 5 minutes. I was wrong. It took me 26 minutes to finish from there. Note to self: Next time study the course map more closely and remember what distances the drink stations are at. Then I’ll be able to gauge my progress and have some idea how far into the race I am.

The course was picturesque with absolutely stunning views looking out over either the lake or the ocean most of the time. There were a number of different surfaces though – pavement, concrete, sandy soil (hard packed though), gravel and timber planks. I’ve really only run on concrete and pavement so I was a bit unsure and felt unsteady on the gravel and dirt.

What a nice place to finish though:


At one drink station I grabbed a cup of the electrolyte drink instead of water. I took one sip and realised my mistake. I don’t know what it is about them but they don’t agree with me. 5-10 minutes later my tummy was complaining. Just from one sip. Now (approx 6.25km) I was feeling very hot, extremely sluggish and wondering why on earth I had entered the race. The footpath I was running on was not closed to “normal” pedestrians and coming towards me were two children with their mum. The little girl said “look how fast that lady’s running”. I smiled, laughed and replied “I wish, but you’ve made my day”. That kept me going for a little while longer.

I realised later that I was running fast, like the little girl said. Maybe not as fast as others, or even as fast as I have in the past, but certainly faster than if I’d been walking at that point, and much faster than I could have imagined this time last year.

So fast, it’s blurry:


I have also realised I wasn’t pushing myself so hard that I couldn’t talk. I was running off and on with another lady for much of the race and we encouraged each other whenever we overtook one another. Towards the end I had to keep pushing myself up the hills even when she stopped. My fear was that if I’d stopped running on the hills I might not have made it to the top!

I’m not sure this could be considered a smile:


Speaking of hills, I heard one of the commentators/callers saying as the half marathoners started to finish that it’s not the fastest course because of the different terrain surfaces, even though it’s flat. Flat!? I know it didn’t have any mountains in it, but it was most definitely not flat by any stretch of my imagination. The bridge itself has two mini hills!


Just look at the elevation (green graph below). The highest points were only 17m but that’s not flat… and at the end of the race too.


I thought that having the 5km race start an hour after the 10km would be great. In Tamworth, they started just 5 minutes later so they flew past the straggling 10km-ers pretty early in the piece which I personally found a bit demoralising. I thought I at least had a chance to finish my 10km before the first 5km runner crossed the line. However, I was running more slowly than usual (and I’m fairly certain it was mostly the heat that knocked me around) and it turns out the 5km started 45 minutes after my race, not a whole hour. As a result there were a lot of speedy 5km runners were sprinting down the finish chute all around me as I plodded over the line. Some of them were young kids. One of them I recognised as my coach’s daughter.

There were also two events for children – 4km and 2km. I had already decided to hang around after my race to watch the presentations. I guess if I’m really honest, I also figured my only chance of a prize was a lucky door prize so I also hung around to put my bib in the box for that (I didn’t win one of those either). I am very glad I was there to see the real youngsters running. They were so happy. Some parents were out there with the real young ones too – including my coach whose three year old wanted to run after seeing the rest of the family running that day. (Just quietly – she’s a machine, currently training for an ironman – and ran the half marathon [winning her age group], had a 15 minute break and backed up for the 10km, then did the 2km with her son.) I’ve just debunked my own theory though because smiling definitely didn’t slow the kids down. They just ran at full speed all the way to the finish, obviously enjoying themselves. Many of them were high-fiving the spectators along the way. It was truly inspiring.

Another inspirational moment was during the presentations. I was sitting, chatting with my elderly running buddy from earlier. She won her age-group! Admittedly, she was the only female competitor in her group but I was amazed. She was in the 70+ category! And I only beat her by a few minutes.


I used to think twice about walking over the bridge (because it was soooo long, and I would reward myself with a scrumptious icecream) but today I ran over it twice, then walked back over it a third time to get home after the presentations. I might not have achieved my original goal for today but the day showed me just how far I have come since I started running. When I started a C25K program in February of this year I struggled to run for 30 seconds.

Mr K was kind enough to come along again today as my official photographer and support crew. It was extra special having someone at the finish to greet me. (My coach happened to be there too since her daughter was about to finish the 5km – as I mentioned earlier.)


I introduced myself to a fellow, Dave, who I was told is heavily involved in the Newy parkrun. Tonight when I got home I hopped on his website and can recommend you watch the TEDx talk (link on their homepage). They talk about enjoying running, without distractions. I think I’ve mentioned previously that I run without an ipod anyway – I enjoy it as my “quiet, down time” where I don’t have to think about anything. I’m not sure I can take the leap to leaving my watch behind yet! That thought scares me even just in day to day life!

It’s encouraged me to focus once again on the fact that I am able to run. Such a simple thing so many of us take for granted yet we don’t do it often enough. I can go outside and enjoy the sun and the breeze and the beautiful landscapes. I can simply run and enjoy it.

And just maybe, if I keep on running, I’ll eventually win an age-group when I’m as old as my running buddy today. It gives a new meaning to outrunning everyone else.

I was doubly inspired by both the old and young runners today.

Happy running!


PS We submitted our proposal to council this week for a parkrun! Here’s hoping they support it!


7 thoughts on “Smiling slows you down

  1. Sounds like you had a good day despite not getting the time you had hoped for. Reading your blog reminded me to look back a little too and be grateful for the progress I have made rather than thinking about what I haven’t achieved (yet)! I

    • It’s very easy to forget where we’ve come from – I think I need to find a way to reflect on the past while staying focussed on the future as well.

  2. Melissa Alderton says:

    Fantastic effort! You kept going, and got there in the end – time is irrelevant! I did the Sydney Harbour 10k in July, and it was the first time I had run 10k without stopping, and it took me 70 minutes – so I’m about your pace! All the best with the parkrun application – I run at Parramatta parkrun, and am one of the run directors, so know what a fantastic organisation it is – love my Saturday 5km runs. All the best, and hopefully will meet up with you one day on the tri circuit!

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment Melissa. Everyone involved in parkrun that I’ve had contact with has been incredibly encouraging and helpful. I haven’t heard anything bad about it – ever! Happy tri-ing! 🙂

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