My date with 80 thousand sweaty, love-starved joggers
They call it Heartbreak Hill. The City to Surf’s telling point. A 1.4km stretch of sheer running pain with spectacular views over Sydney harbour which you’re far too buggered to appreciate.
Yet on race day, you could be forgiven for thinking it was named “RSVP Hill” with the amount of advertising material for said dating website. The site, owned by Fairfax Media, assaulted the masses who tackled the hill with cheesy running puns like “hot” and “heartbroken” stapled to telegraph poles.
Indeed, it seems that among the empty plastic cups, the whole race was littered with some message or another.
Along Rushcutters Bay, The Ministry of Sound set up a speaker system blaring out atrocious dance tunes promoting a recent compilation album that apparently miraculously helps you become a better runner.
I would actually like to thank those who organised this promotion, as the monotonous drivel that spilled from the speakers spurred me to run faster in retreat and made my time a little bit less shameful in last Tuesday’s paper.
Let me backtrack a bit. Two months ago, after years of no exercise and far too many late night KFC visits, I decided to get off the couch and enrol in the City to Surf. After all, if you want to get fit you may as well have a goal in mind.
I was a City to Surf virgin. By 9:30am on race day, as I hauled my feeble frame up Heartbreak Hill, you would have thought I was a virgin of a different variety what with all those RSVP ads.
Heartbreak Hill comes at the worst possible time. After a crowded start on William St, where running is replaced with the need to hurdle over discarded jumpers and avoid tripping over the next person’s foot, you get into the flow and start to enjoy the race.
On to Rushcutter’s Bay and Rose Bay and the greater runners speed ahead, leaving the unfit behind. This is the point where you get a rush of positive energy and excitement. Perhaps you shouldn’t have doubted yourself. Perhaps those weeks spent lying hopelessly on the couch didn’t make you so slothful after all. You can finish this race and your time is going to be smashing! Uh-oh. Heartbreak Hill.
Heartbreak Hill is the Neverending Story of hills. Hauling your body up the incline is a hard enough task, let alone for the decrepit. Half way up and sweat pours from your brow, your calves burn and your chest heaves. And that’s just the first bit.
There’s a bit halfway up where it’s almost flat, but then it’s on again. Now you’re sweating like a pig. Breathing like a pig too. Your beer gut wobbles and quite you have never felt or looked worse in your life.
Yep, this is what the ladies have been looking for. Great timing for your ads, RSVP. You really are wasting your time and money when people are in a state of near-paralysis.
At this point thoughts start to bounce around your head. Is the hill finished yet? How far to go? Two kilometres? Five hundred metres? You realise you are running at the same pace as the walkers next to you. Why did you sign up for this?
You finally reach the top of the hill, your legs like jelly. You have beaten the hill but there is no time to crack a smile. You are only half way.
From here you have to tackle Military Road, not quite an incline but not quite flat, riddled with smaller hills that beat your spirit down even more. You make it, then the steady decline down to Bondi Beach.
This is the really scary part. No longer do you just look like crap in front of other people who look like crap, you look like crap in front of the general public. They stand on the sidelines glaring as you run past. At this point you should probably puff your chest out and run a bit faster. You might even look fit. You might even make a good first impression with any future RSVP correspondents in the crowd.
Taking the turn into the home stretch and all that fake bravado has left you worse for wear. You crawl across the finish line looking like someone who’s stumbled out of the Beach Rd Hotel at 3am.
Now isn’t the time for a warm down or a sausage roll. You have to get on the first bus back home, take the most flattering mirror self shot of yourself and upload it to RSVP, because face it mate, you really looked like shit running up that hill, so you better find someone who cherishes you for you are, and the sooner the better.
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