I’ve always liked to think of myself as a runner, when the reality was that, although a serial ‘brisk jogger’, a short-distance jaunter, I’ve never truly known sheer distance.
I stood packed shoulder to shoulder in the blistering cold of Sunday 12th of August on the street along Sydney’s Hyde Park and all I could think was, ‘what was I thinking?’. My bladder was getting more full by the moment and my wishing it away wasn’t helping. My decidedly elite workmates bounced lightly on their feet next to me with anticipation of broken personal records and defeating Heartbreak Hill.
I considered walking home.
Then the loudspeaker announced that the race had officially started and the block of Sydney-siders began winding sideways around the corner of William Street and just like that we were off. All I could think was that I’ve really got my nose into it now, but what could I really do, walk off the course?
As the first pit stop approached my Nike+ GPS chirped that I’d ran my first mile. That seemed like a good enough excuse to hop in the line for the (still shockingly clean) porta-potty. Sure it probably added 10 minutes to my time but now I can be even more proud of myself when I shave extra time off next year.
Bladder empty and breath caught, off I trotted and straight into the face of hill #1, so I picked up my pace and put it behind me. A few Gatorade stops, a high-five from a resident smurf which left my hand covered in blue paint and a few transitions from running to walking and back and I realized and I began the ascent onto the dreaded and famous Heartbreak Hill.
Until I started calling myself a Strategist at work, I would have never stopped to think that strategizing was something that I even did but as I started up the hill, my brain said ‘Stop now, save it for later.’ Maybe it sounds like a copout, but honestly why use of all my energy running up a 2km hill when I knew that reaching the top still meant I had another 5km to go. So, I slowed my pace and my breathing and tried to keep my walk steady. A kilometer or so later I was looking back across to the city I had just run from and it looked small in the distance.
Smiling to myself I broke back into my jog and on I went. I started to get the feeling that I was nearing the ocean and getting even more excited about my accomplishment. And when I saw the 11km maker pass me by I knew that finishing would be a breeze. I cruised downhill and watched as Bondi Beach came into view. I could see the hundreds of thousands of other runner who had finished and were in the process of finishing and I was on my way to join them. Winding around Campbell Parade past the main drag of Bondi I knew the finish line must be steps away. Good thing too, as I was gasping for breath. I ran and ran and started sucking in the air fiercely and began panicking wondering when I might actually see the finish line. Finally, there was the ticking clock and volunteers were handing out gatorade and participation medals, so I sprinted right through the finish line and grabbed my medal with a huge smile and enthusiastic ‘Thanks You’ to a volunteer who was much less excited than me about the howling wind and cold winter atmosphere.
Quickly finding my workmates and fellow runners, we jaunted off to reward ourselves with a beer. As we sat on the floor of the packed local Beach Road Hotel, our musles got stiff and our stomachs growled angrily and we decided to call it a day and head home to recover.
I had promised I wouldn’t sign myself up for another run and end up miserable all weekend in anticipation of the pain, then I went and signed myself up for the 9km Bridge Run across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and through the Botanic Gardens. I mean it’s only 9km right?