As the City Slept…

May 21, 2007 at 5:07 am (Uncategorized)

I ran my third half-marathon yesterday morning. It was the Sydney Morning Herald half-marathon, and it’s a great course – my first time running it – that goes from Hickson St, around under the Harbour Bridge, through the Rocks, through the lower downtown area, up to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, and back again via Argyle and Kent Streets. Times two.

The conditions were absolutely perfect for the race. It was a very crisp morning, but cloudless and blindingly clear. Most of the high-rises kept the streets below in early-morning shadow, too, so unlike the Blackmores race later in the year (where I notched up my first two), no one baked in the over-exposed heat of a Sydney day without shade. There was lots of sun-protection but beautiful flashes of warmth that did nothing other than raise my spirits.

It’s a very beautiful city, Sydney. And pounding its city streets before most people were up was fantastic. It’s an intimate thing, I think, running in a city race. You never quite see its streets the same way again. There’s always something more to the traffic-choked roads once you’ve run along them with your own two feet.

There’s a lot to like in the field, too. People encourage each other. If someone falls, several people will immediately stop to lend assistance. If there’s a wall in a tunnel, hundreds of hands will rhythmically slap their way along it, and hundreds of voices will echo their way through it. Spectators hold up lovingly drawn posters with simple things like ‘GO DAD!!!’ on them – so simple but so moving, somehow. One older lady stood on Pitt St yesterday yelling encouragement to every passing female competitor – and it did make me smile and keep going, so I called out “Thank you!” every time in response. When the winners passed by us on the other side of the street, running in the opposite direction back toward Hickson St, we all applauded and shouted. When the first female runner came into view, we did the same thing as some of us yelled “Go girl!” just for good measure.

Volunteers are staggering, their patience and upbeat chatter quite awesome for those of us bearing down their path. Spectators are so tireless and enthusiastic and even amusing, like the man leaning over his terrace balcony at the end of Argyle St, a little the worse for wear from the night before, by the look of it, but belting out a rousing rendition of Waltzing Matilda nonetheless.

I just loved it. I ran a personal best time, too, so all those shouts and all that clapping and all the quickly traded conversation with the other runners as we went along clearly did me the world of good. I’m so glad I didn’t just roll over and go back to sleep.

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