The Trials of the City to Surf (For Non-Runners)

The Chevron City to Surf for Activ is Perth’s most popular and well-known marathon event. Emma trained for months to undertake her first full-length marathon, and today was the day to put her body and mind to the test against 42.2 kilometres of road and a few monster hills. Yes, there would be some trials today, but not only for the marathon runners, and their lesser distance counterparts. What about me, the one-man support crew? I too faced some of the toughest challenges of my life.

It was a gruelling day, beginning with a 5am wake up call to drive Emma and her mum to the starting point. It should go without saying that a 5am start to your Sunday is almost a physical impossibility. It took an immense display of willpower to overcome my natural instinct for sleep, but I did it. I had cleared the first hurdle of the day.

After dropping the girls off, I returned home to snatch a couple more hours of sleep. It had been a long week of unavoidable late nights (Tuesday late indoor soccer match, Wednesday scrubbing the mould out of the shower before future mother-in-law comes to visit, Thursday Paul Kelly concert, Friday stayed up to watch rerun of Sister Act 2), so I needed to recuperate.

I awoke for the second time at 8:45am and realised I was in trouble. I had to somehow find a way down to City Beach before they crossed the finish line. By the calculations we’d made the day before, they could be finishing as soon as 10:00am. This was my next challenge. It would be tough. With road closures all over the place, an enormous no-parking zone spreading for suburbs around the finish line, and a vague promise of Transperth shuttles between the city and the beach, prospects seemed grim.

I had to motor. I threw on some clothes and drove down to Glendalough station thinking I could leave the car there, train into the city and get on the shuttle. Would I make it? Did I have any remaining faith in Transperth? It didn’t matter. The parking situation at Glendalough left me no alternative but to come up with a plan B on the fly. I headed down Scarborough Beach Road. My new plan: to park at Scarborough Beach and proceed on foot.

I stopped for petrol along the way and grabbed a skinny flat white at the Wild Bean Cafe. I took a sip and grimaced. Bad coffee, the next great trial to overcome.

I got down to Scarborough Beach and found a 4 hour parking spot. I grabbed my backpack full of the support gear: a change of clothes for Emma and Anita, sandals and thongs if they wanted to change shoes, and some water. I stashed my wallet and keys in the bag, and put my headphones on, attaching them to my iPhone and putting it in its armband. I set off along the pedestrian / bike path toward City Beach.

I took another sip of the awful coffee as I google mapped the situation to see how far I had to go and how long it would take to get there. It said it was more than 5 kilometres, and that it would take 38 minutes on foot. I looked at the time. It was 9:35am!

It must have been a strange sight indeed for the people who saw me jogging on the path down West Coast Highway, coffee in hand, wearing a full backpack of gear. I got some strange looks as I ran and sipped.

Eventually I threw the coffee away and kept running, desperate to make it before 10 o’clock. Unused to the weight of the bag, my feet began to ache. The blister I had sustained earlier in the week at soccer began to burn once more, and my lungs gasped for air.

At about 10:05 I made it, I could see the finish line! The only problem was I’d come from the wrong side. There were barricades set up preventing me from getting in. I was getting desperate, so I sprinted around the perimeter until I found a way in. I cut through the drinking stations and tents set up for the finishers and legged it up the hill to the line where all the spectators had gathered. I fought my way through them until I found a spot to watch for Emma.

Thankfully I wasn’t late. I waited for a while searching for them in the crowd of runners until I saw them in the distance. I waved until they noticed me, and as they passed Anita called out for me to take a picture. I realised my error. My iPhone was still in the armband, and they were passing me! Another arduous challenge was before me. I fumbled trying to get it out and quickly switched to the camera app.

I sprinted along parallel to the runners heading to the line, struggling to get far enough ahead to get some photos of Emma and Anita before it was too late. I had to dodge the crowds of spectators, their children, and a surprising number of people with prams and strollers. Also, as the finish line was atop a slight hill, I was running on uneven, slanted ground. Struggling to breath, I managed to just get ahead to a point where I got off a few snaps.

What an arduous journey! What an exhausting day! And it wasn’t even the end, as I still had to make the 5 or 6 kilometre journey back to the car. Being a spectator is no easy task, let me tell you.

*** Note: None of the above compares in the slightest to Emma’s achievement of completing her first marathon. I am so proud of her. Congratulations to all of today’s runners. ***



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