Not all runners are created equally.
Not all of us are motivated, ambitious, ruthless, driven or even all that strong. Some of us just run to clear our heads, feel centred and start the day right.
I've been getting up at dawn five mornings a week and running through silent streets for a while now, and although I know that's far more than many people, it also isn't that impressive. I run slowly, I rarely change my route and I almost never worry about going faster, pushing myself or "taking it to the next level" in any way. My only goal, really, is to run five kilometres without stopping, and get home before the kids wake up. My only secret is that I don't give myself the choice.
In other words, I exercise in my own time, and on my own terms. I don't like group exercise, or team sports. I have an obscure complex about somehow letting people down just by existing as a generally less physical competent person than other, more sporty types. I duck when I see a ball in the air. I don't know anything about cricket. I will never join a team.
And, until last week, I had never, ever considered for even one second doing a Canberra Times Fun Run.
This time around, for various reasons, I got guilted into it, at the very last possible moment on the Thursday afternoon before the run.
I registered, put it at the back of my mind, and tried not to put too much thought into it before the day came.
That evening, over a glass of wine, I Googled "preparing for a 10km run" on my phone, and understood quite quickly that the wine probably wasn't a good idea. Nor was not having put any thought into it at all in the weeks and months leading up to it.
I was reminded of a friend who, many years ago when I was pregnant with my first child, ordered me, with a hint of hysteria, to take some pre-natal yoga classes. She herself hadn't bothered with her first, thinking she was already enough of a hippy type to breeze right through it.
"I thought it would be like running a marathon," she told me. "You know, one foot after the other. But it's nothing like that. You need to be ready."
Later, another friend told me something different. "Labour is like climbing a mountain, or some steep steps," she said. "Each contraction is like another step closer to the top."
I took both sets of advice on board. Both had been right.
Oh well, I thought, in the days before the Fun Run. I won't run the day before, I'll carb-load with some pasta the night before, get a good night's sleep and just see how I go.
A colleague who was similarly adverse to group sports gave me some more useful advice. "Honestly, the weirdest thing is just all the people around you," she said. "They're everywhere, and you just have to ignore them and listen to some music."
As I drove down to the lake early on Sunday morning, I had the type of low-level panic that accompanies all forays into the unknown. How would I know where to park? What if I had got the day wrong, or no one was there?
But as I parked the car and observed, in wonder, the dozens of people I saw doing the same thing, parking and marching, clad resolutely in running gear, towards Rond Terrace, I was reminded of another conversation I once had.
It was during Canberra's Centenary celebrations back in 2013. Robyn Archer, the Centenary's artistic director, was gazing contentedly out at Commonwealth Park as crowds of people gathered to celebrate Canberra's birthday.
"Canberrans are just so obedient," she said, delightedly. "You tell them to turn up somewhere at a certain time, and they just do it."
I felt a similar sense of gratitude as I took in the crowds limbering up for a good Sunday morning run. This was, after all, a Canberra institution, one that the paper had been behind for a good few decades. My parents still have a "I ran the Canberra Times Fun Run" sticker from the 1980s on the downstairs toilet. It's a bonding ritual, a rite of passage. Runners of Canberra, unite!
I mean sure, I'd ignored it for my whole adult life out of sheer bloody-mindedness and fun-aversion, but I was here now, and I was going to do it!
The run itself was exactly as hard and as easy as you'd expect. I went through all the normal phases: anger, fear, denial, brief regret, moments of euphoria.
I had stitch, then a dry throat, then a moment of self-doubt, and then a final swelling sense of satisfaction that I was going to finish it, intact.
I felt a sense of Civic pride, running around Parliament Houses Old and New, and along Kings Avenue Bridge.
And, between the songs through my earphones, was the sound of the runners' feet all around me, the rubber soles of their trainers pattering on the bitumen, like raindrops on a tin roof, strangely comforting and uplifting all at once.
My time, thanks for asking, was one hour and one minute.
One hour and one minute!
It's the fact of that one minute, that bloody, bloody one minute, that killed me the most.
Because now I know I have to do it again next year, and shave those 60 seconds off to reach my personal best.
I'm one of those people now.