IT’S EARLY MORNING and I’m waiting with ten thousand other people in the four lanes of road that separate Sydney’s Hyde Park from St Mary’s Cathedral. A man is talking to us through a megaphone but it’s hard to hear him against the vigorous dance track bouncing from the sound system. Eventually someone will blast a siren and we’ll all go off and run a half marathon together.
I am squashed into position in the middle of the pack, which is approximately where I will finish the race in a couple of hours. The weather may change but the start of a running race is always the same: nerves, clichés, noise, enthusiasm. By now I must have run close to thirty half marathons but I’ve never shaken the feeling that I’m an interloper when I wait in a crowd like this. When did bookish klutzes start running long distances? I’m still astonished that I can run twenty kilometres at a stretch, that I have become someone who craves access to the wide spaces of the imagination that running opens. I ran my last race a year ago and now, heavily pregnant, all I want to do is run: to clear a path with my feet, to move like a beacon through the city, to run. My unborn son kicks, thrashes. He moves faster than I do. When I started to run long distances it was as if I had become the inhabitant of a new body. Now, waiting for the baby to be born, it is to the rhythms of the running body that I wish to return: exertion, release; movement, stillness. In the interim, strangers offer me their seats, friends offer to buy me sandwiches, drunks offer me the first taxi: anything to get a pregnant woman off her feet.
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