Rottnest Island ,Western Australia

A Rumination on Running with a Sling

I am running along a path on Rottnest Island ,Western Australia ,my left arm secure in a black sling .I have become attached to that sling ,my shoulder and wrist are safe.I also feel like I stand out from the walkers and runners along this way .I am not just another old woman stumbling along ,red in the face and short of breath ,pumping my arms and leaning forward as I have been told in training so as to get maximum benefit from the running movement ,shoulders back ( that in itself creates problems .I fear that the lean forward will tip my precarious balance so that I topple over onto the already injured arm .How do I lean forward ,look ahead and keep shoulders back while moving at a pace past a stumble ?)

Age and falling are much on my mind today .My mother after countless falls has a frame ,which she uses just to toddle around the house.She never goes out the front door ,not even into the garden.Her days are spent sitting on the same chair around the dining room table staring into space,rinsing out undies and boiling some rice at 3:30 pm on the dot .She comes to the door after a few rings and if she cannot get the visitor to go away she grudgingly lets them sit in the chair opposite her for a bit ,peering constantly at the clock and saying that she has to get her tea done .This as well as being almost stone deaf ,so it’s an exhausting process talking with her ,even when she wants to hear. My favourite aunt ,my mums sister,is in the hospital with a serious lung problem .She cannot breathe properly ,and has stopped moving too .My mother-in-law,always self sufficient , has organised her daughter to move her into high care.Older friends have started dying .Even some not so old friends have died from assorted causes .I am back running as far and fast as I can.But falling is always on the cards.

The writer David Sedaris in his collection Lets Explore Diabetes with Owls describes his fall during a tour of some ruins .A man yells “Don’t move him”.Sedaris recounts as he moves stiffly around the next morning that it was not the impact of the fall that caused most hurt ,but the embarrassment of that remark-he felt not only stupid but “stupid and old “.I confess right now that after reading the Sedaris essays I thought ,well he is old.He is a writer ,he has written about the mostly muddled ,accident prone and much travelled existence he leads ,and he gets away with it.People read him-why not me ?So David Sedaris if you read this ,thank you .I have finally come out as a writer,and although I may not emerge as amusing and touching a writer as you ,I can have a go in the short time remaining before I fall off another chair and stop running .This blog starts with my fall from a chair at Rottnest holiday island off the coast from Fremantle.

Actually I had just got back from the mainland ,returned to the cottage my husband and I were renting for a long term stay and I panicked (another thing that old people do more often ).Where was my computer ? It was not on the shelf I usually leave it on ( old people have to leave objects in the same place each time they put them away or they forget firstly that they ever had the object and secondly they spend hours in a fruitless ,increasingly panic stricken search before retreating into a stupor .This leads to a recurrence of depressive symptoms if not halted immediately by some action like a run ,or rushing to the wine bottle and the cake or nuts .Or, the least harmful reaction ,if the partner is around, a blend of blame ,wistfulness and indirect threats slung at the partner)

I was on my own and had been warned by aforesaid partner about standing on chairs .Nevertheless,in an unthinking moment I grabbed a curvy surfaced chair ,dragged it to the shelf up above the cupboard in the bedroom and leapt up on it with both feet.No computer.Rising heartbeat.In my haste to get down one walking boot tangled with other as the curved chair surface rose to meet the sides of the boots and a hurriedly tied lace .I felt the snag and foresaw the fall the second before it happened .I saw my self hurtling through the air to the tiled floor and hitting the shoulder that I have already injured twice from assorted falls,but my body was already in freefall.Fortunately I managed to fling my left hand out in front of my shoulder so that the wrist took the impact as my arm bent back with a loud click .Pain shot through my whole arm as I lay there thinking ,well thats a broken wrist now,how stupid ( and my computer was where I had put it ,but disguised under my jacket )
The bandage and the brace from the island clinic plus some panadol raised my spirits a little.It was a black ,leathery looking brace . My hand fitted in it like a glove ,and I could still run.

In the few days before I had to go back to the mainland to have an X-ray I felt really secure running along with my left hand in the new shiny leather black brace .
My feelings of euphoria ,the product of running ,enabled me to be quite writer-like about some reactions to female runners ,well older female runners .A reaction I have been wanting to document for years ,well,ever since I entered the veteran category .Its all in the tone of voice ,and usually spoken by older ,often potbellied ,men
“Well done “on a rising tone means surprise ,lower means the opposite ,like “silly bugger “,a flat tone means “hope I don’t have to pick you up of the road or call the ambulance “
“Hello” or “Hi”,ditto regarding the tones .This one word has many nuances though as it can mean “ don’t talk to me ,we know how old women look for any opportunity to talk and I am busy .”It often denotes complete disinterest ,like you are an invisible object crawling along the horizon ,not worthy of even a slight gaze
“Careful Now “is usually spoken by a man not moving ,probably at a roadside drinking point or leaning on a wall or propped up against something ,usually with a red face and other signs of high blood pressure.It may be that he wants to strike up a conversation as ,understandably ,his partner has left him .The addition of “love “,this is in Australia,enhances the annoying factor as it denotes a relationship and a caring which the speaker has no right to.Remember I am now at the END of the run ,highly coloured ,gasping for air ,legs buckling ,which means I cannot answer back.I am in no state to be charitable and take this comment at face value or even just as an Australian older male habitual phrase
Which leads me to my forthcoming blog entry ,to the hazards confronting older women runners ,or ,more engagingly,Vets .You will be surprised to discover that the principal,most enduring hazards come from within our own female ranks.Not from the slightingly daft comments made by old male passersby on the periphery of the running circuit .