These change-your-life running books promise such a simple narrative: start to run and everything will be, in the words of ’70s running guru Thaddeus Kostrulaba, ‘wonderfully changed’. For me, it wasn’t quite like that. I might have been a surprisingly easy convert to running, and I certainly enjoyed it, but I didn’t suddenly unlatch myself from my bad habits.
I wanted to keep doing the things runners aren’t supposed to do: binge watch box sets, drink martinis, blow afternoons in bars, smoke on balconies, lose track of time reading and wake up in a haze. I made pledges that I’d drink no more than one glass of red the night before a long run, and then broke them. Still, I kept running, and the world began to seem kinder.
Of course, the kindness in my world wasn’t solely a by-product of running. By the time I started to travel regularly and for longer stints, my sisters had grown up. Even my tiny nephew and nieces were getting bigger. By the time I started to run, the administrative catastrophe of my parents’ estate had finally been put to rest. (Watch the Paper Tiger team demonstrate a quick legs exercise. Post continues after video.)
It had taken so long to settle the paperwork that when we sold the family home, eight years after Mum and Dad died, the window frames and architraves were clogged with cobwebs. There were jars of spices turned to dust and swollen tins of tomatoes and pears still in the cupboards; half-filled notepads, diaries and leaking pens lay scattered on the kitchen bench.
None of us had stayed in the house much since the plane crash – it was just too dismal. My sisters had lived with other families, then found their own homes. There had been no question of getting tenants either: early on, the empty house took on the qualities of a mausoleum.
Finally we were able to pack our childhoods into boxes and hurl the past into a huge skip in the driveway. Into that skip went the newspapers that my mother might have read one morning long ago, along with Dad’s still-dusty running shoes and spare leads for the dogs.
Sympathetic friends worried that detaching ourselves from the family home must be terribly traumatic – but really, by then it was a wonderful relief.
Later, as my runs out of doors became habitual, and I developed startling attachments to the streets and the parks in my Sydney neighbourhood, I found a pace suited to the precarious labour of memory.
Here are some of the best running, walking and hiking tracks in Australia – should you need a little extra inspiration. Post continues after gallery.