Tag Archives: freedom

Starting Blocks

Photo courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net
Photo courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net

The first time I realized I could run was when I did sports at school.  Before that, I did a lot of walking, and maybe ran around the backyard with my sister and cousins as we played ‘chasey‘ and ‘hide and seek‘, but it wasn’t until I got older and involved in school sports that I discovered the delight of a ‘real‘ run.

What I loved about running wasn’t that I was able to beat anyone else who ran with me in getting to the finish line first.  It was the way the wind whistled in my ears, the way the coolness of it flowed over my face, the way the blood pumped so hard through my body, and the way my whole body exerted itself to the utmost to try to find its very top speed.

Most of all, I think I was fascinated by the way I could create the wind by running, that the whistle in my ears came from me moving at speed through space, rather than me standing still as air moved past me.

My mother was soon impressed by my running.  She came to watch my races, and loved to brag about my wins.  I did love getting ribbons but they weren’t my reason for running.  I just loved the opportunity to do it.  You couldn’t go running along the streets in those days like you can do, now, without people thinking you were ‘loony‘.

Not that I was ever that sort of runner, anyway.  Once I started running, my mother regaled me with all sorts of stories about my relatives.  Apparently, my biological father was quite a runner, especially in cross country events, though I never really knew him.  My great-grandfather had also been a marathon runner who won a lot of races.  (This only came out after I began to run).

I wasn’t a marathon runner, though.  I wasn’t a long distance runner.  Later on, after I joined an amateur athletics club, my coach tried to get me to do longer runs, like 400 and 800 meters, but I wasn’t so good at those.  I was a sprinter.  I ran 100 and 200 meter races.

Now, being a sprinter means that you have to go as fast as you can in a very short time, to cover that actually very short length.  When I was in school, I used to stand at the starting line, and I ran in bare feet.  I liked that sort of running.  It agreed with me.  I liked the contact with the earth that my bare feet had.

After I joined the amateur athletics club, my mother bought me ‘spikes‘.  I loved the way the soft, thin leather hugged the shape of my foot, but the undersole of spikes was hard plastic, so you could screw the metal spikes into the embedded holes.  They were actually hard to walk on, at least on floors or pavement.

It was a fascinating set up, and I loved the little tool that came with them, that allowed me to tighten the spikes up, or remove and replace them.  Having a little tool of my own somehow made me feel important.

Spikes did help me run faster, especially on grass or gravel, or tarred lanes, but they weren’t the same as bare feet.  There was no sensual contact with the earth.  (Even though you tend to run on your toes and the touch is light at speed, it’s still there and registers in your mind when you run in bare feet).

The other tool used to help me run faster were starting blocks.  Most athletes running races, then, used starting blocks.  My coach insisted that using them was the only sensible and correct way to go.  But then, she was trying to get our club to be the top club amongst those competing  at the inter-club meets at Royal Park in Melbourne on the weekends.

Starting blocks, to me, were like braces on teeth, or even perhaps those metal gadgets dentists used to use to hold your mouth open so they could work on your teeth.

For me, they were clunky.  I never really got the hang of them.  While I could position myself well, put my body over my arms, raise my hands on their fingers, arch my bum into the air and look to the lane ahead in anticipation of the starting gun going off, when I jumped my body out of those blocks I was always the last to leave…

My coach tried to train me on exactly how to do it.  Apparently, it all happened in the first three steps.  If you couldn’t push those first three steps into the ground hard enough to break turf you were never going to be ahead of the crowd.

My Dad got a Navy friend to come give me extra pointers.  He had trained recruits at the Naval depot my Dad also taught at, then.  Naval recruits had to be very fit and did a lot of exercise.  My Dad’s friend had some very good lessons to teach me, but it made no difference when I encountered the starting blocks.  And with the ‘lost ground‘ from being last out of them each race, it was a miracle that I won any at all.  It was only by sheer determination and from pumping my arms and legs as fast as I could make them go that saw me pass my competitors to actually win some races.

My coach shook her head, though.  All she saw was how many more races I could win, if only I could learn to use the starting blocks effectively.

My time in amateur athletics brought me in contact with many great racers.  In my own club at Frankston, the future Olympian, Debbie Flintoff King, was my peer, only a year or so younger than me.  When I was there, I actually ran faster than she did.

I also met the Olympian, Raelene Boyle, when I went to the weekend meets.  She belonged to the Brunswick club, which my cousin also belonged to (though she was a swimmer).

I used to wish I could win the Olympics.  I think it was more of an attraction to Raelene, who cut a tall, willowy figure, just like her two afghan hounds that she paraded on a leash around the outskirts of the Royal Park oval.   She seemed so self-assured as she stopped to talk to people.   I was always a bit shy with people, then, so maybe I thought that being an Olympian meant you could smooth out and be more interactive.

Of course, I know better today.  Olympians are as human as the rest of us.  They get stressed and break down, too.  Plus, the hard work of pushing their bodies so much to be top athletes in their youth often rebounds on them in old age, with arthritis and all sorts of health disorders.

My ideas of being an Olympian were short-lived, however, once my asthma set in.  It was undiagnosed at the time, but I got very frightened by the level of ‘no breath’ I had after each race, so in the end I chose to not go any more.  Luckily, my future husband came along by the time I was sixteen, anyway, so I had plenty of diversion and didn’t really miss it.

Today, there are many life experiences that I can measure in terms of those starting blocks.  At the time, I really thought that athletics was the path for me.  It certainly ate up a lot of my energy and focus, then.  But not being able to handle the starting blocks, and not being able to figure out how to use them effectively, made me doubt my ability to ever achieve the same levels as the heroes I dreamed of becoming.  It got under my skin, that sense that I could not amount to ever fully being a winner because I could not master those starting blocks.

My life took quite a divergence after I met my future husband and not only my athletics but a lot of other things I had been invested in were set aside to follow him.  For a long while, people shook their heads and thought I had given up too much, and wasted too many natural gifts.

What actually happened, though, was that I found new directions.  The same creative energy and will to enjoy life to the fullest (which was what running actually was for me) just came out in other ways, later on.

I ended up achieving a heck of a lot with my life, after quite a hiatus of bringing up my family (well, it actually began while I was bringing up my family).  I just did things my way, and waited till my time was right, though I didn’t know that was happening at the time.

For a while, I let my doubters and naysayers get under my skin, (the starting blocks were happening all over again), and I lost faith in myself and my life.  But it didn’t take much to get me back on track, finding other things that were just as fun and fulfilling to do, and that also tested my skills to their limit.

What I learned was that I’m a slow starter.  I don’t like forced beginnings.  I am never going to be able to do three hard paces to the ground at the beginning of anything.  I like to stand and feel the earth beneath my feet, get a sense of my surroundings, and then shoot off when my heart feels ready.

Once I get going, though, watch out!  If you’re already on the track, I just may pass you by…

My motto?  Never let a poor start stop you from winning, and if you can’t win, at least enjoy the race.  It can be quite a breeze.


Lilipily Spirit – Empower Your Life, Connect with the Divine




Photo courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net
Photo courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net

The first car I ever owned, personally, was an old Valiant Chrysler that my brother-in-law gave me. It was a tank. I mean it. Thick with steel so tough and heavy that it seemed the best thing to be driving on the not so safe environment of a road.

I was so thrilled to have my own car. I was well into adulthood by the time I got it. My husband had always done the driving because I was too scared to learn after seeing my sister crash the family car into the front porch during the only lesson my mother gave her when I was younger. So I didn’t even get my license until I was heavily pregnant with my third child (and could only just fit my big belly behind the steering wheel).

It was a few years after that when I got the car. I felt like I’d won lotto …but I didn’t have it for long.

At that time, I was working late at night as a cinema usherette and driving back home on country roads in almost black conditions. (We lived in a small seaside town, half an hour from the city).

There were few street lights to punctuate the very long, straight road that led to my place. I remember driving along the road that met that one and a little voice in my head saying, ‘Something’s going to happen tonight but don’t worry, you’ll be okay.

I didn’t give too much attention to those little voices back then, so I just kept driving.

Halfway down the long dark road, another car slowed my momentum, so I pulled out to pass. At the same time, I saw headlights in the distance.

I panicked, too tired to assess effectively how far away they still were, and tried to pull the car back in. Instead, I overcompensated on the steering wheel (no power steering in such an old car), and suddenly found myself going ‘slow motion’ like a carousel on the road. (Well, it seemed that way). Spinning round and around until the car came to a stop against a concrete light pole on the other side.

It hit the pole with a bump that smashed the windscreen to smithereens, and made the engine jump out of its housing to leave a massive dent in the bonnet.

I sat behind the wheel and looked at the pole now embedded between the doors on the passenger side of my car. The vehicle I’d tried to pass had carried on its way, unaware of what had happened. The headlights of the oncoming traffic didn’t arrive as an actual car until well after I’d got out the door, took a look at the now truly convex car bonnet, and had been to the other side to see how the pole had embedded itself halfway into the steel chassis.

That was a surprise. Modern cars that were around at the time would have crumpled into a tin foil ball around that pole with such an impact, but the Valiant was perfectly okay apart from the bonnet and the half moon shape in its side. It had proved its worth.

So the little voice in my head was right. Something did happen, and I was okay. I walked away from that accident and hitched a lift home with the car I’d tried to avoid crashing into (that had been the distant headlights), after it slowed to check the scene when it finally came upon me. (Which was lucky, because these were the days before mobile phones and if it hadn’t stopped, I would have had to walk ten kilometers in my high heels).

All I had was a bit of whiplash when I went to see the doctor  (or so I thought… it was thirty years later before the real damage showed with severely increased degeneration in my spine).

The car was a write off, though. Even steel tanks don’t drive too well with an un-housed engine, a convex bonnet, and a two foot inroad on their side.

I gave up my job at the cinema after that. The hours were too late, the drive too long, and I had small kids who needed a mother. I was lucky that the car had not done one more spin on the road and crashed the pole into the driver’s side, instead, so I cut my losses and left… but I missed having a car.

Months later, I saw an old Volkswagen for sale. It had seen better days. It was already thirty years old but it was cheap and I could buy it and, better yet, my husband was able to get it going.

Again, it was my own car. The paintwork was old and cream colored. I bought some cans of red spray paint, thinking I would turn it into a ladybug – all red with black spots – and I did start that artwork but it never got finished. Instead, it was simply a cream colored Volkswagen part painted in red, and with red splotches over all the rest.

My kids loved that car. The movie about ‘Herbie, the Love Bug’ was still being aired. Volkswagens were very popular.

Fact is, it seemed that lots of kids loved that car. I’ve always wondered why. Maybe it was because of the movie but there were lots of other Volkswagens around, then, and kids didn’t seem to run all excited after those cars like they did after mine.

If it had been actually finished in the artwork I’d wanted to put on it, I could understand, because it would have been a ladybug (ladybird), but it wasn’t. So there seemed to be no reason why kids ran after my car whenever they saw me driving around the estate where I lived. It was a splotchy red and cream car, that looked like an abstract painting rather than anything in particular.

Yes, it was unique, but it didn’t seem to be that attractive. If it had been guys running after the car, I might have thought, ah, it’s not the car, it’s me – but they weren’t guys, they were the local little kids, and I didn’t even know them, personally.

I had a soft spot for the car, too, but it broke down a lot and since it was the days before mobile phones I often had to walk to the nearest house (which wasn’t always so near) to ask if I could use their phone to call my husband to come tow it.

In time, we had enough money to upgrade to a new Holden Commodore, that ran better and also had air-conditioning and power steering, (which I didn’t know I missed until I had them).

I didn’t want to just sell my beloved little car. I wanted it to go somewhere it would be respected. It had done me good service. So I gave it to my younger sister-in-law as her very first car.

She had the red paint job professionally finished and added a black GT stripe. (It was not to my taste – too normal…)

Not long after she began driving it, my lovely Bug gave up the ghost. My sister-in-law complained that I had given her a dud.

Well, it was working fine all the time I had it (after my husband got it going each time it broke down).

There were many things I didn’t miss about driving that little car once I got the perks that came with my new one but I’ll never forget the fun times we had together, the freedom it gave me as it took me places and the squeals of delight from the local kids as they tried to chase it.

That car had personality.


Lilipily Spirit – Empower Your Life, Connect with the Divine