Beep beep beep,….. Beep beep beep, and it's 3:50 AM on a beautiful Sunday morning and what else would we be doing except getting up and getting ready to participate in the Sydney Running Festival along with about 35,000 other people!
And so the preparation began with the help of my wonderful carer Hazel who agreed to come at four o'clock in the morning to help get me ready, while Sharon and boys organised themselves.
The logistics of getting me up, ready and at the start line just by Luna Park in Sydney for 7:30 AM somehow seemed very daunting however, with plans made and watches synchronised we were in the car and leaving the driveway only two minutes behind schedule at 5:22 AM. The plan now was to drive to Sutherland Station and get a train to Central Station where we would change and get another one to Milsons Point and meet up with the rest of the team for the start of the fun run.
As we were leaving home we were greeted with a fantastic and beautiful sunrise indicating that the weather would be very kind to us. The journey to the station was particularly uneventful and as we arrived we did notice many other people parking their cars and dressed to participate in the run, it was quite fun trying to guess which distance they may be competing in. Would it be the marathon, half marathon, 9 km or the 4 km fun run, some people were easier to guess than others I think, although when the colour of the bib indicating their run was visible some even greatly surprised me.
Arriving at Sutherland Station we were very fortunate to get a parking space right by the station and the ramp leading to the platform. There was a train waiting for us and the platform attendant was very happy to "throw me quickly onto the train" although not literally. We had actually caught a train earlier than anticipated and were now ahead of schedule. We had just arrived at Sydenham Station when Sharon's phone alarm went off, this was indicating the time we would normally have got up on a Sunday morning, and here we are almost in the centre of Sydney! This was particularly poignant as it was another step back towards "normal" family life as it was before my accident. And it proves that with a bit of effort and an early start we can do it.
CityRail thankfully did not have any surprises for us and we arrived at Milsons Point about 15 minutes early and were in fact the first of our team there. It was incredible the amount of people milling around. There were some very serious runners getting ready for the marathon and a lot of families many with strollers (push chairs, for my English readers) and the overriding sensation that you felt was one of a really happy occasion where everybody was out to enjoy themselves.
The team was now assembling and team shirts were delivered and being worn this meant somebody had to carry all the gear that was now not required. Hmmmmm I wonder who will end up being loaded down (no clues but see if you can guess, a photographic answer will be provided later). The team consisted of us Hodsden's, Chuckie another guy in a chair his wife Mel, our physios Alana, Claudia, Camila and the organising secretary Bec. We were also joined by a research student from the University of Sydney with her family who had just flown in from Malaysia the day before.
The Walk On Sydney Wonders Team - All revved up and 4K to go!
At 7:55 AM we were under starters orders. And We're Off.
The number bibs that we are wearing are really quite clever as they contain a timing thingy that activates something as we go over the start and will stop something at the finish. I didn't want to get too technical (mostly because I don't understand how it works).
The start was a relatively slow affair as everybody had to run through the start line to activate their time thingy, however after that people started to walk, jog and run and for me my 4 km chinathon was about to begin. It is quite surprising but it is actually quite a climb from Luna Park up and onto the Bridge. The beauty about this running Festival is the fact that they close the Bridge to all traffic to allow the event to cross it, something that happens very rarely and it is fantastic opportunity to cross this icon on foot (so to speak).
David showing a good turn of speed with Sharon and I closing up
quickly at the beginning of the climb onto the Bridge.
As we progressed further onto the Bridge the views of Sydney just become awesome. Although there were a lot of people taking part in the run there were sections where the crowds were very thin and during these quiet periods I really took the opportunity to Hoon about and put my chin down and get some speed going. This was great fun as long as I avoid the cracks, small potholes and other variations in the road surface that can make chin driving of a wheelchair a very painful experience.
Have you managed to guess who will be carrying all of the excess baggage?
No? ....all will be revealed in the photograph below.
Yes it was me and I think the balloons are there to counteract the extra weight of the bags! This picture is quite incredible as it almost looks like we are the only people on the Bridge. Although it was very tempting to really speed as fast as possible across the Bridge it was also really great just to savour the atmosphere of the day and the occasion.
Sharon discusses race tactics with Claudia and Camila.
As we approached the end of the Bridge were greeted with a band playing and this added to the carnival atmosphere. It was about this point where my neck began to ache although my chin was still feeling great. The route of the run then took us across the Cahill Expressway and you can get fantastic views of Circular Quay, The Opera House and the Bridge, something that is very difficult to appreciate normally when you are in a car. As we exited the Cahill Expressway there was about 1 km left to go and most of these would now be downhill along Macquarie Street and down to the Opera House where the finish line was.
Going downhill would now be the opportunity for us all too actually get some speed up and the photographs above prove that it was a run. We crossed the finish line with the timing of 48 minutes 40 seconds, I suppose this sets the standard for next year. We must have done pretty well because we all got medals.
After finishing the run and with everybody feeling pretty good all the participants had to exit through the Botanical Gardens where there was a "recovery village". This was packed with runners getting drinks, food and sponsors tents etc and was a real reminder of the organisation that goes into an event such as this.
Getting out of the recovery village and down to the station at Circular Quay took nearly as long as the fun run itself due to the number of people trying to exit at once.
It was a fantastic day and I feel a really great achievement and as the writing on Chuckie's wife's T-shirt said on the back "it does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop" -- Confucius.
I am looking forward to my next Chinathon.
Matthew 19:26 -- With God all things are possible