Growing up in the bush 5hrs drive to Sydney meant that trips to the ’big smoke’ were limited. My dad would travel down to the wool sale every year held at Woronora, his mood on his return a reflection of both how the sale went, a good sale usually meant the wool broker shouted his clients lunch! I remember attending these sales on a few occasions and playing on the thousands of wool bales stored in the rear of the enormous warehouse. My brothers, Clint and Glen and sister Kate would look intently through the glass of the auction room while dad paced the floor waiting for his broker to emerge with the all important set of sale numbers.
While these trips were all business bush folks have a high esteem for the sporting and cultural events offered in the city. My dad had always aspired to become a member of the SCG and had placed his name on the waiting list when I was quite young. At that time the SCG would only offer members once a previous member had died or rescinded their membership therefore they were rare and highly esteemed. Dad would often be a guest of a friend of his who had a membership but then when I was around 12 he received his own membership. From that time the Sydney test match held in January every year was locked in his diary. My first trip to the test cricket was to see India v Australia during Shane Warne’s debut. We saw ’Warney’ return figures of 1/160 odd, Ravi Shastri a double century and an 18 yr old Sachin Tendulkur smash a quickfire 150.
It was a huge effort to take kids to events like this and I am grateful to my dad for placing such value on it. Being a part of something special like the Sydney test match gave dad a reason to get off the farm. It provided something to focus on and look forward to particularly if things were tough.
My first visit to Sydney for an athletics event happened in 1989 aged 13 where I was due to run the NSW Combined High Schools 1500m. This was my first ever look at a synthetic athletics track as E.S.Markes field at Randwick. I was as excited to be making the trip until a random accident on a giant slide at the Royal Parkes Show saw me sprain my ankle. Running was painful and slow!
2 days before the race and a day before our planned departure I was still yet to make a full recovery. I returned from a pitiful slow painful jog to dad finishing off his cup of tea and declaring;
â€œC’mon champ, go and pack your bags. You made the team so I’m taking you Sydney to run!â€
We went. There was daylight between me and the rest of the field and it was the first time that I had received an ’encouragement clap’. But dad was proud of me and the whole experience a positive one.
In the years to come mum and dad would bring me to all manner of events in Sydney culminating in the City to Surf and Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon. These two events were world class, both attracted thousands of runners and both a yardstick for progression. They were without equal and were the leading events in the country. I was fortunate to run both events as a teenager and to rub shoulders with great athletes who would make their impact on me.
Today I had the opportunity to run around the Harbour City for my ’whatever I can manage run’ or Friday run. Starting in the Rocks and making my way around many of the landmarks that Sydney boasts. Circular Quay, the Botanical Gardens, Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, the Domain and then back to Barangaroo and the Rocks.
During my run my mind flicked back to the experiences I’ve had competing around the streets of Sydney, from warming up for the City to Surf in the Domain, looking for that elusive bush for the one last pit stop to blasting around the Rocks and Circular Quay in the midst of the SMH Half. It struck me that we are lucky to have such a beautiful harbour city to run around but I couldn’t decide what has made the deeper impression; the Sydney city scape or the events themselves….
Perhaps both together create a magic and I for one am glad to have experienced.