August 26, 2007

Blisters and bin-bags

I have just returned from participating in my first mass sporting event, and it was great!

Six of us entered the Perth City to Surf as the "Hills Hikers" team, to do the 12 km walk. Only one of our group had done it before, so although we all walk regularly in the bush, we weren't sure what to expect. Waking to a forecast that included a Road Weather Alert and warnings of strong winds and thunderstorms was a little off-putting, but we all met up at 7am and piled into one car for the trip down to the City. I was surprised to see small groups of people in jogging/walking gear on every city block as we looked for somewhere to park, and when we reached the starting point the size of the crowd was truly eye-popping: despite the rain, about 22,000 people had turned out for the event!

The runners set off first, followed by the walkers, but for the first kilometer it was more of a stroll, because of the crowds. Quite a spectacle though:

By the top of the first hill, the crowd had thinned out, so we were able to pick up the pace, aiming for a steady 6km/hr. For dedicated people-watchers it was a fascinating experience. All ages were represented, and although most people opted for standard exercise clothing, there were the usual smattering of costumes and silly accessories, not to mention the use of large garbage bags as an alternative to the blue plastic rain cape supplied to each participant. In fact the threatened storm did not eventuate, and although we had a fierce headwind the whole way, there were only a few rain periods. Spectators braved the weather to cheer us on, and volunteers provided drinks every 2 kms.

One thing surprised and disappointed me: many hundreds of the garbage bags and plastic capes were removed as people found them too hot, and they were just discarded on the spot, blowing down the road, into people's gardens, up trees and into ponds and pools. Similarly, at every drink station, and for a hundred meters thereafter, plastic cups littered the road and footpath in their thousands. I can understand the most serious runners having no time to use one of the many bins, but surely the fun-joggers and all the walkers could afford to break one stride?

We all wore nifty transponders on our shoes, which were programmed to our race numbers and triggered as we crossed the Start and Finish lines. The official times have not yet been posted, but we were pleased to reach the end in close to 2 hours. In view of the many hours of walking I do every week, I was very disappointed to develop blisters under both feet, but of course I never walk on bitumen or concrete, so after about 8km of that, my feet were complaining. The logistics of transporting 29,000 carless people back to the city were mind-boggling, but in fact the queue for free buses moved along fairly quickly due to a sensibly blind eye being turned on the number of standing passengers in each vehicle.

I'm rather stiff and sore, but thrilled to have done it, proud to have helped a good cause, and found the whole experience very rewarding. I plan to do it each year if I can.

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