It is the day before the 6ft Track Ultra marathon and I find myself on the train going over the Blue Mountains blanketed in fog and mist, and down into Lithgow, where my mother will pick me up and take me onto Bathurst for the night. Before driving back into the mountains in the early morning to the start of Australia’s most famous off road Ultra Marathon, “The 6ft Track” all off road starting at the top of the Blue Mountain Range descending down to the Megalong Valley floor before a lung busting ascent up the Black Mountain Range and down to the finish at Jenolan Caves. 45km’s of torture is how it is portrayed, if you can do a marathon in four hours (which I have done) then expect to hopefully finish in six hours is how the race info puts it.
Now six hours is 360 minutes, but for my friend Stuart he would tell me that he looks it as 72 blocks of 5 minutes. Why five minute blocks?
Well I have spent the last few days with one of my oldest and closest friends Stuart. We met on the first day of High School together back even walked home together on that first day. We grew up and did everything wrong and good together that mates do as teenagers. We never had money and what money we did earn from doing paper rounds we spent together. We did our first holiday overseas together as young lads in Fiji and even when we went our own ways we never lost touch and somehow whenever we talked on the phone, it was like we had only spoken the day before. If I ever needed to hear a friendly voice of a mate it is always Stuart that I call.
Then last year Stuart, only older than me by six weeks got cancer of the bowels, he had an operation and they removed twenty cm’s (nearly a foot of his bowels). He fought and fought as hard as I have ever seen anyone fight, as a single father of a sixteen-year daughter he has too much to live for.
Then last week things went from looking positive to bad, as a side effect of the chemo he had developed a 6cm blood clot in his arm where the chemo went in, the clot had started to break and had passed thru his heart into his lungs.
The hard thing is that often friends do not tell you till to late what has happened, it is not embarrassment or fear that is behind their decision but courage and bravery. I spoke to Stuart Wednesday night after I found out he was back in hospital, he sounded awful but still positive. The next morning I walked into his room and saw what little remains of my best mate, he is fading in body but glowing in spirit and determination to beat this disease.
The good news was that the clots had been stabilized and that he was to be released that afternoon, still amazes me the ability of modern medicine to treat people and Stuart is probably at the best hospital in Australia.
We spent four hours together in the hospital, the amount of time it takes me to run a marathon. Just doing what we do best talk, laugh and plan our future lives.
When I rang him last night he was back home full of spirit and determination and when I asked what he was up to he told me
“ I only think of the next five minutes, I get through those five minutes grateful and I plan the next five minutes. Nothing more nothing less”
He added “have a great race Saturday”.
Running is in all honesty a solo sport, when it gets tough people and friends around you support you and get you thru the tough times but essentially it is you alone with two legs going left right repeat. Tomorrow will be different for me because when I feel bad or hurting, when I feel like there is nothing left and I want to stop. I will say to myself:
“ Five more minutes Mal, just five more minutes. Because if all Stuart wants from life now is five more minutes, then by god I am going to run hard for five more minutes for my best friend. Stuart tomorrow I run not for me but for you.
Friday March 9th 2007