At some point in December I was going to hit a goal I set myself earlier in 2013: to have run over 200KM on the streets of Canberra. Though more on that later.

In late 2012 there was some unexpected changes in my life. My partner got a new, much better, job in Canberra, moved it’s head office to the UK and for the first time since I left Uni I wasn’t going to have a steady job. All over the course of a month.

Anna and I made the decision to move to the Australia’s capital together. We packed our bags, picked out an apartment, packed up our old one and left Melbourne, the place I had called home for the last 20 years. Anna followed the truck which held all our earthly belonging and I, after a night at my parent’s in which their terrier decided to munch down on my glasses, followed the day after.

It took over 3 weeks to have internet connected to our new apartment. This meant I spent a lot of time at the Library, applying for jobs and trying to stay on top of my overflowing email. On the days the Library was closed I start to explore my new home, taking my camera and putting it to a use for which it was unaccustomed – photographing landscapes.

allan barger canberra landscape

As the weeks, and the rejected resumes began to mount up I began to feel disheartened. I started to surreptitiously avoid applying for new jobs. We were making our way on Anna’s salary and I was discovering I had a knack for cooking and eating. I also had a connection to the internet and there was Fashionising work to do. Email, coding and the odd bit of writing proved a great distraction from the real issue that I was very quickly sprinting through what remained of my savings.

I think Anna noticed.

She began to ask my how my applications were going, which spurred me to dissemble and complain loudly that in a city of public servants I could never hope to find a suitable job. She didn’t complain or badger me, instead Anna bought me a gym membership. Maybe she’d also noticed my waistline beginning to expand. The week after, I went to my new gym for the first time. I clambered onto a treadmill, and set it to 10. Three minutes later I was red faced, blustering and completely out of breath. What the hell? I’d been a runner before. This is bullshit.

I’d spent the last few years controlling my weight with fashion weeks. There’s nothing quite like working 16 hours days to put a dent in your caloric equation. Though with my move to Canberra and our HQ’s move to Europe it really wasn’t a cost effective proposition to continue flying over just one person. We also had an photographic agency now for which I’m sure our readers are very grateful. They take amazing photos. Though, I believe I had as well.

I decided that running wasn’t for me. I was going to concentrate on weights around. Then it finally happened. I got a call back that I had been selected for an interview. I dropped everything else, I really wanted to get back to work. Then I got another.

On the day of my interview I was going to wear my favourite trousers. They didn’t fit. Neither did the next pair or the pair after that. I’d spent the last few months living in cargoes and PJ’s. Don’t judge me, I didn’t have to leave the house. Luckily I had a pair of ‘generous’ trousers that fit. I got the job, wonderful, now I thought I had somewhere to go everyday. It was also November. I didn’t realise that I wouldn’t be starting until February.

For the record I got the other job too, but it’s start date was in July 2013. That was just too long to wait.

I’d been lifting weights for over a month and I mustered enough courage to try the run again. I ran for all of 5 minutes and managed to injure myself. Win. I decided that I was going to concentrate on the elliptical machine, after all it’s a running motion right?

The Christmas break rolled around and we found ourselves back in Melbourne for the holidays. It was amazing, all the family and friends I’d been missing, all the amazing food and a chance to feel at home. To bad we had to go back in January.

On my first week back I wanted to try running again, I’d been working hard on the elliptical and I felt my fitness had improved. I was right I managed, for the first time in over two years to run for a full 30 minutes. It was amazing. I even managed to get a glancing touch of a runner’s hight. Until the shin splints set in. It was awful.

Finally my first day rolled around. I squeezed into some new trousers, and made my way to work. It was close by enough to home that I could walk there. I did. By the time I arrived I was sweaty mess – I was in worse shape than I thought.

The last time I had shin splints I discovered that using a pair of full leg Skins could help me overcome them. I went online and they arrived a week later. I was going to take it slow starting with intervals I started back on the treadmill.

I had decided that I was going to ask Anna to marry me. She has been an amazing influence on my life. I really could never picture my life without her. I began to hunt for a ring. 2013 seemed to be a year for weddings with many of our friends tying the knot.

It didn’t take long for me to find a ring, it wasn’t a secret I could keep for very long. I asked Anna’s parent’s for their permission, they very generously assented. I then began to methodically tell everyone. My family, our friends and my new colleagues, they all knew.

Australian Fashion Week(AFW) rolled around in April and I took sometime from new work to indulge myself in some runway pit camaraderie. It was a feeling I’d missed. I also told everyone there that I was going to propose to Anna. I really think that she was the only one at this point who didn’t know.

If she knew, she’s very good at feigning surprise.

allan barger engagement ring

I had hatched an elaborate plot with Anna’s supervisor to have her visit Old Parliament House where I would be waiting with ring. I couldn’t wait. Anna’s job means that spends a lot of time in the air and the week after AFW I jumped the gun. I asked her to meet me for lunch near Old Parliament House. We wandered to the gardens, I dropped to one knee, the old tying my shoe laces ploy. Brought out the ring and rather than my planned speech, delivered the momentous, “Be my wife”. Her reply, “What, now?”, was a little unsettling. I think it took a minute to settle in. Happily, despite my clear lack of speaking ability, she was now my fiancée.

It was one of the best moments of my life.

I continued training on a treadmill – but slowly.

The next wedding we were invited to was drawing closer, it was black tie, and it was becoming very evident to me that I wasn’t going to fit into my tux. I ended up wearing the same suit and tie I had been wearing for work. It was embarrassing, and I knew it was time to make a change.

I started to push against the barriers. I managed to get back to a full 30 minute run, it felt good to be back there but I wasn’t having the desired effect of slimming me down. My gym membership was also expiring. I decided since for the last few months all I’d been concentrating on was running that I could do the same thing on the street.

I was wrong. My first street run lasted around three blocks. I thought I was going backwards. I knew that I had to set myself a goal. My first goal was ambitious, to run around Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffith before I hit 30. I didn’t realise it would take me almost 2 months to be able to run a full 5K’s outside. I revised my goal. I would run 200KMs before the end of the year.

I also knew I had to change my diet. I’ve always struggled with my weight and lately I’d been nudging 95KG. My running at the gym had stabilised my weight but I wasn’t getting smaller.

When it finally happened it was unexpected. A runner’s high is one of the indescribably feelings. You’ve finally pushed through the barrier and it feels like you can continue to put one foot in front of the other forever. It’s therapeutic.

allan barger running

In the meantime the Australian public have elected a new Government and that means things in Canberra are now uncertain. Work has been harder and more intense, days have been longer and sleep has been elusive. We’ve had more upheaval and because our rented apartment has been sold we’ve had to move once more. It’s ok though, it was just down the road.

Still these things play on the mind.

I find myself craving my run. It’s a time when my brain is able to shut down, stop analysing and concentrate on moving forward. At times it’s more refreshing than a restless night. I’ve heard the chase for the runner’s high joking refereed to as, ‘chasing the dragon’. I’m not certain the euphoric feeling is similar to heroin having never experienced the latter. I am convinced that running is healthier.

As for my waistline, it’s shrinking – slowly. There’s nothing quite like putting an pair of pants which didn’t previously fit. You feel smug.

What’s next? Well… there’s always the lake and I’m not 30 yet.

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