Island Life by David Slack

What Would Denzel Do?

When I say that I’m not the most coordinated person on the face of the earth, what exactly does that mean? Try this: yesterday, as I was out on my usual run, I broke a rib.

It’s a very nice course I run: around the perimeter of Devonport, past three beaches, over Mount Victoria, through parks and walkways, and around behind the Navy playing fields in Stanley Bay, bringing me back home in about forty minutes. Yesterday, at around the thirtieth minute of that run, I came across Lake Road, past the plaques to fallen soldiers, under the pohutukawa trees and up to the boardwalk that takes you onto a walking path along the edge of Ngataringa Bay.

It’s a popular spot, lined with native trees. To keep out dangerous vehicles, it has a chain looped across the entrance to the boardwalk. The chain is about ankle height.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve jumped that bloody chain without incident.

So anyway, you can probably put together the picture. Foot remains where it is, stuck behind the chain. Head, torso and legs keep going. Face hits the deck first, followed by left hand and chest. Right hand is busy letting go of mp3 player. No, that has nothing to do with it.

Immediate personal reactions:

1. Hardwood is the correct description for the timber they use on these things.

2. That’s a kid in the stroller coming along the footpath. Don’t use the language you have in mind.

3. I suppose the mp3 player’s stuffed.

4. I feel winded.

My friend Mr Macdonald has for some time been a proponent of a Denzel Washington expression which he shared with readers in his Sunday Star Times column this week. His glamorous wife is, he says, not averse to using it on him also. As I limped over to the park bench and waited for my breath to return, it occurred to me that I might also benefit from the advice: Man the Fuck Up. So I shuffled back onto the boardwalk, and jogged back home.

But damned if it didn’t keep on hurting like a son of a bitch. I got to bed and found that I could only sleep on my back. So this morning, I was down to the doctor and sure enough, I had a broken rib. The treatment turns out to be pretty simple: wait. It’ll take quite a few weeks to mend, he said. The good news is that it’s okay to go on running, if I can do it comfortably.

Just as well. This will be the fourth year in a row that I’ve set out to do the Auckland half marathon and run into complications. Not that either of us is competitive or anything, but my brother and I have firm opinions on our running ability. I take the view that I can totally bury him. He takes the view that he’s done 1.31 in a half marathon, and I haven’t.

Since Tim moved up here four years ago, the Auckland half marathon has presented us with an excellent opportunity to find out who’s right. The first year was no good. I signed up for it, and then Karren’s nephew announced he was having a wedding in Rotorua that weekend.

The next year, I ended up in the mole map place about a month before the run. The doctor saw something he didn’t like and before you could say biopsy, I was having the middle of my back stitched up. Strictly routine, I thought, and I asked as I got up if I’d have to skip running for a day or two. Er, no, he said - with that sympathetic look doctors always have ready for the wildly misinformed - you really shouldn’t be running for a month or so.

Tim ran 1.37 that year.

The next year, I was ready to line up, but Tim wasn’t going to be around. Not to worry: same course and a time to beat, no worries. A month before the race, I got a new pair of shoes and ran 24k the following morning. By the next day, the shin splints were so bad, I could barely walk. I had to lay off all the running and managed to get in just one run a week before the race. On top of that I got a cold a few days out from the big day. Yeah, yeah, excuses.

I came in two minutes behind Tim’s time. The family arrived at Victoria Park Market to pick me up. Karren said she supposed that might be what I looked like when I had my heart attack.

Rib, schmib. I refuse to accept that someone might be trying to tell me something. You can’t keep me away from that race. Not only do I want to beat Tim or his time, I also want to see if I can do a little better against, for example, the hearty looking 80 year old guy and the extremely fit schoolgirl who both buried me last year near the back of the tank farm, which incidentally is the real psychological killer in that race. You come off the bridge and along Westhaven drive towards Victoria Park and just when you think it can’t be too much further, you turn left and go way the hell up to the end. Sadists.

But that'll do; no unmanly whining. I have publicly declared that I’m running the thing, and that’s that. Training resumes tomorrow morning.