Wednesday, August 20, 2008

the bright spot: Sun Herald City 2 Surf

You'd think that a trip to Sydney, Australia, would be lovely. Usually it is. My mother was Australian. I am half Australian (a dual citizen, even). I love, love, love Sydney. Almost as much as my hometown, New York City.

I have probably mentioned before that my mother died on July 11, 2007, from ovarian cancer. She had moved back to Sydney when I was 19 and in college. I went out often. She came back often. She was fabulous (not to idealize -- she also could annoy me more than anyone else).

This trip was the first I could make to sort and clear out her apartment in Redfern, a suburb in the city. "Suburb" means a neighborhood -- it is a proper part of Sydney, not outside of it.) I am her only child, so I was pretty much on my own, though I cannot slight the help of my uncle and my step brother (whose father died 10 months before my mother did -- this is turning in to a bummer of a post, anyway...).

I was there for a mere two weeks, with my younger son, Az, who is now 14 months old. I left husband and 4-year old Iz at home. (Iz needs action, structure, not sorting and packing.) No way I was going to get everything done. I was non-stop (well, except for stopping every 30-60 minutes to feed, entertain, comfort Az or get him to sleep -- as non-stop as a mom can be). I sorted boxes in the two-car garage underneath the building. I sorted the office of a writer (my mother was an excellent one -- look her up, Glenda Adams) -- including the notes, the novel in progress, the copies of books, the reference books. It was incredible. And I could not throw out her writing. No way.

What does all of this have to do with running? Well. Since I started running, my mother encouraged me to run the Sun Herald City to Surf in Sydney. And I did twice while she was alive. And she would be at the Lamrock Cafe when I finished, waiting for me with a flat white coffee.

The race covers 14 kilometers, or 8.7 miles, from the center of the city to famous Bondi Beach. I have now run it three times, in 2000, 2003 and 2008 (just a week and a half ago). My best time, go figure, was the most recent. Five years older, two kids later, sleep deprived because Az was waking up at least three times a night. I finished 6,000 and something out of 70,000 registered runners. (Yes, 70,000 -- it is a crazy-huge race. This may explain the few moments of rude behavior I experienced -- deliberate elbowing, running into, etc.)

The race is gorgeous. Especially once it gets to the water. The course is very, very hilly along the southern shore of Sydney Harbour. Heartbreak hill is a kilometer long, curving, winding up a headland. That may not sound long, but that is only the longest hill, not the lone hill. Volunteers handed out heart-shaped sponges soaked in cold water. Ahhhh.

Did I mention it is winter there? And winter is mild. Maybe 60 degrees at the height of the day. So the hill could have been worse, especially in August in the Washington, DC, region.

The race finishes at Bondi. We hit the northern end of the beach at the 13 kilometer mark -- still a kilometer to go. Sounds like nothing -- but six-tenths of a mile is not insignificant when you feel ready to sprint to the finish. Still, I felt great. But that beach is darn long.

My step brother's girlfriend was at the Lamrock Cafe waiting for me. (My uncle had Az, but we met up with them nearby.)

The race was the one bright spot in a very hard trip. Though breakfasts at Cafe Zoe were also excellent. Oh, and the oatmeal cookies at the Bourke Street Bakery. And runs in Centennial Park. (I rented a jogging stroller.) My mother would have been pleased at the little moments I grabbed.


Crumbs said...

Just lovely. This brings up so much emotion, it's hard to capture in a comment. Your mother would be so proud.

Crumbs said...

Forgot to say:
"6000 out of 70,000" Wow! That's quite a pack chasing you!

morgan said...

And my 6,000 was even a respectable pace -- just over 8-minute miles -- and I was in the second starting group (way at the back, after a 45-minute wait for a port-a-loo). Very speedy people come out for the race (I think the top times were around 42 and 45 minutes) -- as do tons of costumed and back-of-the-pack runners (they actually call that fourth starting group "Back of the Pack").

The first time I ran the race, I did it after arriving in Sydney at 6am. I was there for the starting gun at 9am. My mother had organized the whole smooth transition.