Watching the City 2 Surf today, it struck me, suddenly, how extremely bizarre the whole event is.
After all, it involves thousands upon thousands of people – most of whom are possessed of perfectly serviceable alternative modes of transport and are neither pursuing nor pursued by wild animals – dragging themselves with great effort over some of the most punishing terrain in Sydney… only to reach the end, down a few beers, and then wade through the hoards to get a bus back home.
Not really rational, seems to me.
But then, I’m not a runner.
More pertinently, though, it also reminded me of an article I’d recently read (via ‘Field Journal’) about the phenomenon of ‘walkabout’ – the way the act of moving through a landscape can work as a ritual act, attaching myths and meaning to the terrain.
“… the ‘architectural’ construction of space began with human beings wandering in the Palaeolithic landscape: following traces, leaving traces. The slow appropriation of the territory was the result of this incessant walking of the first humans.” (Doina Petrescu,“The Indeterminate Mapping of the Common”)
There’s an interesting project that’s been running in New York for a few years that adopts this idea of Aboriginal ‘songlines’, defining the routes of various walks through the city through a geography of anecdotes and legends, rather than physical space.
A similar insight formed the basis, also, for a recent campaign for Tourism Victoria called ‘The Art of Walking’.
And similarly, seems like the City 2 Surf today was also a sort of ‘appropriation of the territory,’ a kind of making-of-stories-through-communal-running…
After all, it’s only for this one day a year that New South Head Road transforms into ‘Heartbreak Hill’.
Or that Hare Krishnas party in the middle of William Street.
Or that it’s acceptable to run through Rushcutters Bay wearing a Tinky Winky suit, or a unitard, or a giant rissole on your head.
And hey, maybe they’re all on to something.
Maybe, in order to really get Sydney, you need to understand it through the soles of your feet.
You need to run your own race.
Trace your own story.
In which case, I’m gonna have to enter next year.