There were buff, hot, sweaty, six-pack wielding men while the women were trim, taut and half-naked. No, I’m not at a strip club. I was at the Sydney Morning Herald Half-Marathon.
The morning of May 17, 2009 dawned cool, crisp and picture-perfect as 8,500 runners crammed into College Street for the beginning of the half-marathon. Some stood quietly in place, some were hopping from one foot to the other either in an attempt to beat the cold or to beat the nerves, some were going through some last-minute stretches, but all were humming with anticipation. As for myself, I was standing on the sidelines, camera around my neck trying to find the 4 people I was cheering for (I found them, then promptly lost them again) – friends from Vision Personal Training, the gym that I go to. Having only recently started to take running seriously, I didn’t think attempting the 21.1 kilometre course around the Sydney CBD was a good idea yet – unless embarrassing myself was the goal of my race! So, there I stood, rugged up in a thick jacket, cap and gloves while my friends stood there freezing in their running singlets and shorts – and I found myself desperately wanting to join them.
This year’s race bore an emotional tone. Each runner’s bib had the tagline: “Running for Kerryn McCann”. Kerryn McCann, four-time SMH Half-Marathon winner, lost her battle to breast cancer last December after deciding to delay her treatment to give her unborn child the best chance she could. Everywhere I looked there were people, either runners or spectators, wearing the pink bandannas in support of the cause. It was obvious that her ‘can-do’ spirit lived on. Her family, husband, Greg and children, Benton, Josie and Cooper proudly watched on as Kenyan runner, Reuben Kosgei crossed the finish line at an amazing time of 64min, 18secs and that was while he was still jet-lagged! Profoundly deaf, Melinda Vernon, took home the inaugural Kerryn McCann trophy with her time of 75 mins, 26 secs.
It was impossible not to be inspired by the grit and determination of the runners. There were some that at first glance, you would never think could complete, let alone survive, the challenging course, (I saw a gentleman who I’m pretty sure was in his 70’s!), but there they were, pounding away on the pavement, giving it everything they had. The spectators were there in their full-throated glory, cheering on mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, wives, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends, workmates or like myself, friends – as they ran for a cause, a run club, a gym, work or just for the sheer joy of running.
I’ll be right amongst them next year. I already promised.