My First Sydney City2Surf by Sarah-Jane Bonner

cs4

Rewind to December 2013…My bestie Carmen calls me to tell me she is engaged! I am sooooo excited, until she asks me to be her bridesmaid and announces that the wedding is in 12 weeks’ time! I panic! Carmen was my bridesmaid in 2005 when I was a fit, svelte size 8 bride. On that hot December day 20 months ago, I weighed in at almost 100 kg, having completely let myself go weight and fitness-wise while mothering 4 children. What was I to do? The answer…RUN!

January 2014…having walked at least 3km every day of December, I began my C25K journey. I ran my first 5km, without walking, the day before Carmen’s beautiful wedding! I was so proud of myself! I had lost almost 10kg, and my very first 5km time was 43.55- I had been bitten by the running bug!

July 2014…I had worked hard, the weight was moving down and I ran my first ever 10km race in the Hunter Valley Winery Running Festival! Another amazing moment in my running journey. My ever-supportive RMA buddy, Michelle had been training too and was about to compete in the City2Surf. I loooooved the idea of doing the C2S! But I knew I wasn’t ready…it was to be my major goal for 2015!

Being a country girl (growing up on a sheep and beef cattle property near Coonamble NSW and now married to the gorgeous Farmer Paul, living on the stunning Breeza Plain NW NSW), I have always adored the beach. I was a competitive swimmer when I was younger and have always been a ‘water baby’. The idea of following the coastline to arguably Australia’s most iconic beach, Bondi, was a running dream to work towards.

Farmer Paul and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary with our 4 little cherubs in April 2015. And guess what? Thanks to my new found love of running, and my determination to meet my new running goals, I happily fitted into my wedding dress! Having lost almost 40kg, my life had completely changed! And here I was ready to chase down my goal of C2S in August!

I got a little side-tracked (and super inspired by RMA!!!) and ran my first half marathon in late July, revisiting the Hunter Valley Winery Running Festival and meeting a whole bunch of fabulous RMAs! (A real thrill for us rural runners!)

But C2S loomed as my ‘race of the year’!

I had the great privilege of lining up at the start line with my ‘sister’ Lulu- who has encouraged and supported me every step of the way with my running. Lulu isn’t my biological sister. While I was in Sydney at uni, I was actually her family’s nanny! But the bond was well and truly forged and we have stuck close ever since! She is 23 and a long term runner and gymnast- one seriously fit young lady! The City2Surf was her first ever race, I’m still not sure which of us was the most nervous and for which reason! Hehe!!!!

Race Day, Sunday August 9th 2015… It felt, despite many other running goals set and achieved, that this date was looming as the pinnacle, the moment that was thought of, dreamed of, worked towards. I was getting to share it with someone I love, I was going to make my family and friends proud, and I was going to run near water!…and up hills!!!, things I certainly don’t ever do at Breeza!!! 

We woke up bright and early and headed into Hyde Park. I couldn’t get over the crowd! Despite having gone down to school and then uni in Sydney, I really had forgotten how big the city is, and what it’s like to be near so many other people! I was pretty overwhelmed as we marshalled toward the start line, though so many bodies in one small space definitely took the chill out of the air! We were in the blue start group. I had hoped to crack 80 minutes, but Lulu had a last minute panic the night before the race and we had agreed just to take it all as it came and enjoy the atmosphere, the scenery and the comradery of such a big and iconic event.

Before I knew it we were off! Weaving our way through the throng and trying to settle into a comfortable pace. I was just soaking it all up! People-watching, dancing, singing, high-fiving! Boy, this was awesome! Despite having not lived in the big smoke for very long, I was familiar with the basic premise of the route. That said, I make it a habit not to look at the map of any race in much detail after doing the 55km Coastrek in March- the maps just freak me out! I find it easier to go with the flow and hey…I am not that fast that I won’t have someone to follow!

We cruised through the tunnel, headed up the hill to Edgecliff, sailed down the hill to Double Bay, past Elvis, The Beatles and KISS (Farmer Paul’s favourite band!) and suddenly we reached a big sign saying ‘Sprint Start’. WHAT??? How could I sprint here? It was a hill! I am running up this hill thinking, ‘Wow! Look at the Harbour! How blue is the water?! Where is Lulu? Oh, there she is about 10m ahead of me. Oh, look! There is Kambala- I played softball there in the 90s. Didn’t Jimmy Barnes’ daughters go to school there? Oh wow! These houses are gorgeous! Imagine the backyard, harbour views! You know what…this hill is quite steep! Oh well, keep on going, almost at the top now.

Oh look there is Lulu, still just up ahead, and a sign says the sprint finishes soon. Typical city slickers thinking people could sprint up a hill! Haha! Ah, caught up to Lulu now! Yay! She looks puffed! I wonder how red my face is? Maybe I should have put on makeup for this run? Is this place Vaucluse? I like that name, sounds a bit like Valhalla, and I do love me a good Viking….’ (Yes I really do think like this when I run!!! Lol!)

The hill is over! This RMA (me!) who lives somewhere with the word ‘Plain’ in the title, breathes a sigh of relief and remarks to her sister, ‘Wow! That hill was a bit epic! How bad must Heartbreak Hill be? Not looking forward to it! And they thought we should sprint up it!! Hehehe!.

Lulu blinks at me several times…oh I must look red and wrinkly…she is really staring at me like I have something in my teeth! I sneak another look across at her as we head down the other side of the hill, and she looks like she is crying! Then I realise she is laughing and trying to catch her breath at the same time. She starts shouting to me, ‘you dill! That WAS Heartbreak Hill!!! Didn’t you see the timing signs???’ Oops! My bad! I worried over it for months, and then I missed it!! Should I laugh, cry or what??? Maybe it was the best attitude to have as we picked the pace up with me jubilant and joyful, isn’t it all downhill to Bondi?

Well…maybe not quite 😉 but the big hill that had me scared and seemed to be the stuff of urban legend, most certainly didn’t have this RMA beat. I checked Runkeeper a couple of times, and by the 11km mark (where it truly, ruley is pretty much downhill from) I knew that my sub 80 minute time was in reach! Here we go! Now the race against my own personal goal really began…I had a moment where I thought of me starting out in January 2014…how far had I come? This symbolic, classic event was a beacon, reflecting the journey I had made and summing up my newfound joy in its brilliant 14kms.

We came onto Campbell Parade- and there was Bondi Beach in all its sun kissed, pre-spring glory! I had made it-made it in the race and, in my running journey. This was the moment where my hard work, determination and self-discipline all paid off in an instant. There might have been other races, longer races; there might be hundreds more running achievements to come… But something about this race really resonated with me. It was something I set my sights on, and here I was achieving it!

As we came towards the finish line, at what felt like breakneck about-to-take-flight speed, I looked across at Lulu- so thankful to her for all the support she had given me, so proud of her and the young woman and athlete she is, and so excited that we were sharing this experience with one another! Quick! Spotted the photographer! We threw in every pose we could think of approaching the finish line…and we crossed it together in 1:19:13! Yes! Sub-80! Another special moment in a truly special run.

cs2

cs3

Thank you sooooo much to Lulu, and to Michelle who also inspired and believed in me, and to Maz, who I had the pleasure of celebrating with after my Hunter half, and who I was lucky enough to spot during the race! But the biggest thank you goes to all the RMAs who have shared their stories, who are open enough to post honestly and humbly on the Facebook wall, who have made me feel part of a team and part of the family. Good luck to everyone as they chase their running dreams no matter how big or small. City2Surf- I will see you again one day soon!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s