Fig Tree Bridge

Lost in Riverview

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South-west view of Fig Tree Bridge in Sydney, ...
The Fig Tree Bridge which I was so pleased to eventually cross

Saturday evening I headed out for a 24 km training run, but was confounded as darkness fell and I became geographically embarrassed in the streets of Riverview.

For those unfamiliar with Riverview, it is a leafy enclave of a suburb nestled snugly in the North Shore.

From Riverview you are able to enjoy spectacular views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and running at first I saw it over my left shoulder, and then later (thinking I was still headed in roughly the same direction) I saw it over my right shoulder as I looked around to check on surrounding landmarks. As soon as I realised I was going in a big circle I stopped to ask some kids kicking a footy on the street how I might run back to Sydney. They thought that was one of the most ridiculous things they had heard in their life…too far away for running!

Riverview is a privileged suburb, and enjoys beautifully designed large houses, sporty cars, and well maintained gardens. Speaking with the kids playing kick-to-kick I soon discovered there were no buses operating at that time of night, and the nearest train station was miles away.

Not only was I miles away from where I would have preferred to have been, but I became aware I was worlds apart from the situation where people live in extreme poverty- the two environments are almost without comparison they are so completely different.

With no option but to run my way out of the problem, it became a problem solving exercise and a test of mental stamina and toughness that running training develops. After a certain stage in training when fitness has been proven, much of the training becomes more about a competition within yourself: will you blow off training one night? can you run hard when it hurts? will the small niggling pain that you feel (which every athlete gets and endures) eventually make you decide that it is just not worth it?

I worked my way out of the situation and salvaged the run. I passed an unfortunate car prang along River Road and thought that things could always be worse. When I finally was back onto ground I was familiar with and crossing the Fig Tree Bridge, then across the Gladesville and Victoria Bridges, I felt a great sense of achievement known to those who have experienced ‘the loneliness of the long-distance runner’.

As I came off Victoria Bridge, I felt I had proved enough to myself and a bus came tearing along the road, close enough for me to catch back to Town Hall.

For a short period of time I was contemplating: ‘was the seemingly impossible possible?’ The discipline of overcoming small challenges gives us the strength to combat the larger problems we encounter. Maybe this has some relevance to how we can address the situation of extreme poverty: a lesson from the most unlikely of places, Riverview.

Training log: 11 September. 24 km scheduled harbour run…and ended up a little lost

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Variable tolls by time-of the-day were impleme...
Sydney Harbour connected by the bridge

Saturday evening I headed out for a harbour run which joins up the land mass through a series of seven bridges. Crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge first, I headed across towards Gladesville with an intention of coming back across the Iron Cove Bridge and ANZAC Bridge before crossing the Pyrmont Bridge back into Sydney city.

This run is varied for terrain, both undulating and across some scramble goat-tracks tucked within the northern banks of the harbour- a truly beautiful walk if running doesn’t float your boat and you are in Sydney. If you want to take a walk, leave a comment I will give you directions to the best start point for access by public transport. Many parts show wonderful rock walks with plenty of mangrove like vegetation.

I ran counter-clockwise given that I started the run late and I had planned to have reached the Fig Tree Bridge in Gladesville by nightfall (the route is across small dirt tracks before then so going would be made slow by poor visibility after the sun set).

I took longer than I anticipated getting out to Riverview, then because I was used to running this route clockwise I sort-of became lost as you can see by the photo map between 9 and 14 km…a little bit of backtracking.

Read the next post I will write about being ‘Lost in Riverview’ because it was a good experience of having to rely upon the mental stamina and toughness that running develops. After a certain stage in training when fitness has been proven, much of the training becomes more about a competition within yourself: will you blow off training one night? can you run hard when it hurts? will the small niggling pain that you feel (which every athlete gets and endures) eventually make you decide that it is just not worth it?

I worked my way out of the situation and salvaged the run, crossing the Fig Tree Bridge, and then across the Gladesville and Victoria Bridges before catching a passing bus back to Town Hall Station. Ordinarily I would have run the distance back to Sydney, but it was getting much later than I had intended to stay out for, I knew I had covered about the distance I was wanting to train over, and there was nothing to prove by running it home as there were no gains in fitness and probably more to lose in fatigue. I think it was a good judgement call, although some of the passengers might have been less than impressed sharing part of the bus ride with me…

I maintained time of the overall run, no heart-rate data and measured weight before and after the run.

I felt confident across the distance, and am looking forward to the first run in New York on 24 September.

Earlier on 11 September a spirited gang of supporters ran and walked from the Sydney Opera House across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to the other side of the harbour where we enjoyed breakfast. More on that in a following post.