Last Sunday morning began well. I was the first to get out of bed. I went downstairs and caught up on the morning news. A Sunday morning health breakfast was quickly rustled up. Lamb chops, soft fried eggs, toast and tea. It was heaven. The main exercise I would get for the day would be pressing buttons on the remote control.
When the advertisements came on I flicked through the channels and I came across The Sun-Herald City2Surf. The early contestants were serious runners - the ones who actually care about their time. It didn't look to me that they would live longer than the rest of us - it just might seem longer.
The tranquility came to an end when my little boy woke up and wanted to see the race. We walked down to the bottom of our street in the eastern suburbs, all rugged up for a cold and windy morning. I wasn't too afraid of the effort. I knew the 100-metre downhill journey was manageable although I was a bit concerned about coming back. Nonetheless, down to the corner we strode. And life hasn't been the same since.
For the next hour and a quarter I watched in wonder as this human horde went by. Sure there were the sleek fit ones, those who glide rather than run. Their perfect bodies came by so often that I ceased to be impressed. What did impress, though, was the great majority of this mass. Some looked like me. Some were old, in their 80s. Some were young enough to be holding dad's hand. Some jogged, many walked.
All, though, were determined to finish. For most it wasn't the time they would record. By now they had conquered Heartbreak Hill and were on the homeward stretch. Bondi Beach was all downhill from here and they were all going to win.
I had never even thought about the City2Surf. Gradually it dawned on me how big it was. They had talked about 85,000 entrants. Apparently the cold kept a few away, but this kind of number had seemed implausible. Until now.
So many people can't be wrong. What's more, for the first time since the Sydney Olympics, I witnessed tens of thousands of happy people. No need for visible policing because there was no rage here. As they shuffled past, the goodwill was catching. The house on the corner had a party going on the front verandah. It may have only been 9.30am but they all appeared half shot. They waved and the multitude waved back. Music blared from loudspeakers. Anyone within a kilometre would have heard it. Two tunes stood out: the truly inspiring theme from Chariots of Fire; even better, We are the Champions. Freddie Mercury fitted the occasion perfectly.
My little bloke got pretty excited. The cavalcade of characters passing by included Santa, Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and a bevy of other generic superheroes, a couple of carrots, a pumpkin, a hundred Smurfs and two bottles of Gatorade. It was a parade of the ordinary, occasionally spruced up with a colourful costume. The ordinary, though, were doing something very special. Those 69,126 souls - that's how many finished - were showing the rest of Sydney's 4.5 million that we don't need to be obese and unfit.
On Tuesday I dusted off my joggers, pulled on a tracksuit and walked for 45 minutes. Angels didn't sing, an orchestra didn't break out, but I felt like Rocky anyway. I have done this each day since and I am loving it.
Next year, on that same corner, my son will see all those characters he saw last Sunday with one, for him, special extra - his dad. Yes, next year I will go the distance. I may finish three or four hours after the winner, but I will finish.
I want to thank The Sun-Herald for its long-term sponsorship of an event that allows the ordinary to be extraordinary, just for one day.