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What Are You Running From?

By Alasdair McClintock on September 14, 2016 in Sport

Photo: Ken Yan

Photo: Ken Yan

Ah, spring, you magnificent beast. Vanquish those cold mornings and let us wallow in your warm and loving embrace. Is there any better time of year? No. If you think otherwise, you must either still be in school or you’re a sociopath.

One of the most marvellous things you can experience in the east around spring is getting up early and catching the hive of activity that is the coastal walk. Just before sunrise until about 7am the path is awash with joggers, working off the winter stews and seasonal depression. We can’t say ‘bikini body’ anymore, apparently, but I’m sure there’s some cold-hearted vanity at play as well.

It is a great way to start the day and also an effective method of working off the gas that’s accrued overnight. No kidding. Around 500 metres into my morning run, I start to produce a suspicious and loud quacking noise. Apologies to anyone unfortunate enough to be running behind me.

More earnest runners will have been out for months, battling the cold in preparation for the City2Surf and Sydney Half Marathon. At least I hope that’s what they’re doing – if they’re just running for the fun of it, they must get a sick pleasure in self-inflicted pain.

The half marathon is quite serious business, while City2Surf maintains a carnival atmosphere and is achievable by us mere ‘park runners’, The half marathon’s extra seven kilometres really separates the amateurs from the diehards; the pencil-pushers from the John McClanes. I have never run a ‘half’ and have no intention to. My brain goes to some weird and dark places over 14 kilometres; I feel like I might develop some severe psychological issues and self-loathing over 21. My routine of a beer for every kilometre afterwards seems a little reckless after that distance as well.

I sometimes wonder what professional marathon runners think of during those endless hours of pounding the pavement. I’m not sure I really want to know. Some real terror must reside within those tiny little skulls. What drives them to put themselves through such misery, over and over again? It’s certainly not the fame or fortune. Marathon runners are hardly the most revered and rewarded athletes in our society. Perhaps they should be, but there is nothing sexy about really skinny people literally shitting themselves so they don’t lose any time.

The vast array of inspirational quotes that litter the Internet about marathon running do give a little insight as to why people do it: ‘life changing experience’, ‘state of mind’, ‘pride’, and my personal favourite, ‘any idiot can run, but it takes a special kind of idiot to run a marathon’.

These seem like reasonable motivations. A sense of purpose and achievement can be powerful things. My father once ran a marathon and he hasn’t shut up about it since, but he only ran one. I still have no idea why you would run any more than that.