Sunday, May 25, 2008

21 kms- 131 minutes

Its a cold morning. He can hear the howling of the wind through the bathroom windows. He stands looking at himself in the mirror and notices the first wisps of white in his mop of hair. He grins toothily and completes his ablutions. He puts on his singlet and tapes his number to his singlet. Suddenly he realises that it might be hard to put the timing chip on his shoelaces. He struggles with it a bit before managing to fix it to his shoe. He puts on his hooded sweatshirt and heads out. Its dark and yet there is a sharpness in the air that instantly wakes him up. Its like a blast of cold water. The bus-ride to the starting point is uneventful. By 7:15am, there are about 6000 runners lined up. He looks around to see people of different shapes, sizes and fitness levels and realises how unprepared he is. He hopes he doesn't injure himself over the 21.1 km distance and can complete the race.

7:30 am and the race kicks off. He knows he is running faster than he should be and yet the momentum of the runners carries him for the first 10 kms which he completes in 58 minutes. He passes by the Harbour bridge and looks at the Sydney Theatre Company and momentarily thinks of a past life. The sun is just coming up over the Sydney harbour and he knows that the first lap will be the easy one. Lap one done he walks for a couple of minutes before kicking into the next 10kms. Its at the 15km mark that the first twinge sets in. His knees have never known this kind of distance. He asks himself why 7000 completely sane people decide to get up on a cold Sunday morning and decide to run 21 kms. Its the last 3 kms and he is struggling and suddenly its the last stretch. Its amazing what cheering people on the sidelines of the road do to a sore knee and ankles. He sprints towards the end and finishes in 131 minutes.

He stands there in pain and exhaustion- slightly disappointed that he did not achieve the time he had hoped for and yet ecstatic that he had stepped up a notch in his attempt at long-distance running. His legs are screaming and his thighs are chaffed and yet he runs his fingers along the medal feeling lighter and happier. He realises the answer to his question of why 7000 people would want to do this- fighting an opponent is easy as is done in other sports however running has probably more fighting oneself than any other sport. Its that battle that he wants to win and today- he did!