I’m unsure what inspired my recent foray into athleticism. I’ve spent many a lazy Sunday sipping wine at the Raffles, watching lycra-clad athletes jog around the river, while feeling secretly smug to be sitting on the opposite side of the glass.
After being coaxed on a lunch-time run in Kings Park I listened in astonishment as a colleague spoke of the “running high” she got halfway through Jacob’s Ladder- a thrill I only experienced halfway through a bottle of Jacob’s Creek!
I watched in morbid curiosity as my friend’s toenails fell off after a marathon, was baffled at how runners would spend hundreds of dollars on shoes that weren’t designer labelled, and was firm in my belief that lycra should be retired to an 80s time capsule (alongside shoulder pads and sweat bands).
But with summer around the corner, and the subsequent fear of having to pour myself into my bikini, I decided to pound the pavement in an obvious display of vanity, naivety and stupidity.
God knows how I ended up at the starting line of the Perth City to Surf having upgraded from the 12km of previous years to the half marathon in 2011. My running partner and I stuffed our stash of energy bars, goo gel, Gatorade and the all important packet of red frogs into our pockets, confirming that we were clearly pros at this running business.
My support team of family and friends were given an ETA of two hours and 30 minutes to be cheering at the finish line, my iPod was loaded with Rocky-esque power ballads, and I hadn’t had a drop of alcohol for almost two days. Yep, pros. Some warm up stretches and words of support from ambassador Robert deCastella and we were off and racing alongside the 42,000 other competitors.
The City to Surf is a wonderful community event with both young and old getting out and giving it a go in the 4km, 12km, half marathon or marathon events. It’s inspiring to see non-participants line the streets bringing cheers of encouragement and waves of support. I must have high-fived dozens of kids, many clutching home made signs of motivation from the sidelines.
The water stations that littered the course every 2km were manned by volunteers; “water makes you awesome!” the teens shouted (and who can resist being awesome?); there were people in fancy dress, gaggles of middle aged women along for a chat (what fun run?), parents pushing strollers, and of course, the people who jog past the Raffles on a Sunday morning while I stuff my face with bacon.
The half marathon course starts on St Georges Terrace before doing a loop in Kings Park and joining the 12km course heading westbound to the beach. My partner and I jog in unison, occasionally informing one another what song we were listening to. I was suitably convinced that I was the only runner listening to Leonard Cohen (as if being out of bed at 8am on a Sunday wasn’t depressing enough).
Surprisingly, the last 3km was the hardest as I closed my eyes at several points and willed it to be over. Crossing the finish line at a time of 2 hours 8 minutes felt fantastic and with medal around my neck I headed towards the iiNet tent in search of a celebratory beer. I even had all my toenails intact!
So while I’m not about to go all fitness freak on you, this exercise business isn’t so bad. I’m sleeping better, feeling fitter, and gloating to others about what a super star athlete I’ve become. So perhaps on Sunday I might veto the bacon to pull on my runners, get outside, and enjoy this beautiful city. Just stop me if you ever see me wearing lycra.