Somehow almost entering a 16k and the economy are related.

15 Aug

City 2 Surf 16k "Fun Run." Fun, my ass.

It was raining when I hopped a cab at the Sydney airport. I asked the driver if it was supposed to last the full day. “Don’t know!” he replied cheerfully. “Just started, but it looks like it doesn’t plan to give up, does it?”

Fortunately, in the 45 minutes it took me to reach the city, check into my hotel, and grab a cup of coffee, the rain subsided. The sky remained  grey and threatening, but I didn’t need an umbrella. So at 7am, I set out to get my bearings.

New York may have the reputation as the city that never sleeps, but I quickly came to believe that Sydney is the city that doesn’t sleep in, because the streets were overrun by people at 7am on a Sunday. They were all dressed in running gear and moving in one  direction, so I slipped into the crowd, determined to see where the action was.

Some people were in costume, so I found myself walking in a group of human bananas, with diaper-wearing grown-ups ahead of us and a lone man painted completely gold to our rear.

Of course I started interviewing people, and I learned that I just happened to arrive during the annual City-2-Surf event — a fun run/walk from downtown Sydney to Bondi Beach. It’s one of the largest events of its type globally each year, with 85,000 participants.

This was when I realized that Aussies really are tougher, because not only do they willfully hunt crocodiles with their bare hands, but their “fun run” includes many hills and is 16 kilometers. I’m pretty sure that in the US, anything more than a 5k ceases to be described as “fun.”

Everyone was friendly and I figured it would be a great way to see a stretch of the city, so I sought out a registration booth to see if they would accept on the spot registrations. (I mean, 85,000 people – what’s one more?)

Turns out, one more is one too many. They wouldn’t allow same-day entries and the course was strictly monitored, so there was no chance of simply slipping in. From chatting with event volunteers I learned that race bibs for people who had registered but weren’t going to run were being sold on eBay for $160 each.

My mouth hung open, imagining someone paying $160 to run 16k. In retrospect, as I became acquainted with Australian pricing in general, I should not have been shocked. A hamburger in a divey pub? $15. Tomatoes in the grocery store? $18/kg. A 16 oz Gatorade at the grocery store? $4.50. One banana? $4.

I decided that Australia must be a bit like Hawaii since it’s an island far removed from the rest of the world. Naturally things cost more, I reasoned: there are transport costs to consider. Besides, in America we’re used to an artificially low price floor because of the WalMart Effect. So rather than experience sticker shock, I decided to seek out (relatively) locally produced items.

That logic held for kiwi fruit — six for $2. But at the “bottle shop” as they so adorably call it, I again did a double-take. I gravitated toward the Autralian wines, thinking it would be a great opportunity to try a lesser-known local label and save some money. Not so.

[Let me use a commonly known bottle as a point of reference. You know Yellow Tail? The $6 Cab you serve at parties because it doesn’t come from a box and is relatively decent for a bottle under $10? Here it sells for $15/bottle. And no, it’s not some fancy vintage — I took a picture of it so I could compare it with American pricing online and it is the same.]

Anyway. Enough about the prices here. I sound like a survivor of the Great Depression. And I haven’t actually told you what I did after getting rejected from a spontaneous 16k Fun Run. So stay tuned… tomorrow’s update will include one of the following headlines:

  • When you think your office is housed in a Radisson.
  • Opera doesn’t make me yawn. But the Opera House does.
  • Spanish Tapas in Chinatown.
  • Why sports bras are more important than eye masks on airplanes.
  • Flying Fox my ass. That’s a bat. And don’t tell me it’s a vegetarian.
Stay tuned. The Adventure Down Under continues…

2 Responses to “Somehow almost entering a 16k and the economy are related.”

  1. Lorna's Voice August 16, 2011 at 10:22 am #

    I can’t imagine getting rejected from a 16K “fun” run. I’d actually be elated–I could brag that I wanted to run, but wasn’t allowed, then eat something high in carbs just in case my next attempt to enter a race I can’t enter comes along…

    Wonderful post!

    • pithypants August 16, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

      As the day went on, I was glad they had rejected me. I had a very heavy backpack that made my feet ache from just doing 6m around town.

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