Pain and pleasures of City2Surf show Sydney at its finest
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Pain and pleasures of City2Surf show Sydney at its finest

Well done youse. All of you – more than 80,000 souls, wearing out the soles of your shoes to take part in this year’s City2Surf. Wherever you are reading this – in a free newspaper while waiting for the race to start or at the end celebrating or soothing your tired muscles in a well-earned bath, let’s recap the day.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve taken part but I know for sure this is one of my favourite days in our city’s calendar. Not only because it always heralds the start of Sydney spring – but because this race always brings out the best in Sydneysiders.

Fun-runners battle up Heartbreak Hill as the city shines in the background.

Fun-runners battle up Heartbreak Hill as the city shines in the background.Credit:Christopher Pearce

Starting with the free public transport – note how everyone is always chatty and friendly, unlike the silent procession of the daily commute; strangers lend safety pins to adhere bibs to T-shirts. Tribes from all over Sydney assemble at Hyde Park and wait good-naturedly. The anticipation. The en-masse discarding of clothes, which either meet you magically at the other end thanks to good-natured volunteers or go to the homeless.

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The starter's gun fires and they’re off racing, running, strolling or strollering. Down William Street through the tunnel – not a car or an incident of road rage in sight, just pure pedestrian power. Savour that. Light at the end of the tunnel comes in the form of Rushcutters Bay – the first toilet stop for those regretting that early morning coffee. Next Edgecliff and Double Bay – be buoyed by the band that blasts from The Sheaf garden bar, it will raise your spirits all the way to Rose Bay.

It is always awash with parties (many still going from the night before). Smile at the Smurfs in their blue and white costumes urging you on. Then, ahhh, the water spray, and the Gatorade to replenish you for Heartbreak Hill. Probably the less said about it the better. Other than a reminder to think of it as a metaphor for life.

Thousands begin their journey from Hyde Park to Bondi.

Thousands begin their journey from Hyde Park to Bondi. Credit:Daniel Munoz

When I ran /walked this once with my son when he was in primary school he said to me at the end of the day: “Every life has a Heartbreak Hill, sometimes it is at the beginning of the race, sometimes it is at the end, but we all go through it.” It’s as C.S. Lewis observed in A Grief Observed, pain is part of the deal, especially at Heartbreak Hill. Just grin and bear it and look to the left when you get up near Kincoppal and enjoy one of the best views of our harbour city.

And how good does it feel when you get to the top, round the roundabout and get your first glimpse of the ocean? Listen out for the Rose Bay College band urging you on to triumph around Dover Heights. The path dog legs through suburban back streets then suddenly: beautiful Bondi. That roll down the hill with the seething mass of humanity across the finish line. Smile. Cry. Get your medal. Take a selfie. Simple.

Long before he was a senator, even before he became known as the “human headline”, Derryn Hinch bought the idea of this race back from America where he had worked as a correspondent for The Sun newspaper, a Fairfax afternoon tabloid that closed 30 years ago this year. The 14-kilometre race was modelled on San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers, but like so many ideas we’ve imported, we’ve embraced it as our own.

Remind yourself today, how blessed we are to live in this beautiful city and try to bottle the spirit of this fun run and your own achievement. It’s the one winter day the sun, as well as Sydney, always shines.