I dislike fun runs and avoid any event that uses those two vapid rhyming words in its title. What's fun about paying $45 to lope around a course someone else has chosen along with 25,000 sweating strangers obscuring the scenery and wearing worn-out 1980s running t-shirts bearing the faded words '1981 Big M marathon', when you could do exactly the same thing on your own, enjoying peaceful solitude - and the scenery - free of charge? Fun? About as much fun as shopping at Northland the week before Christmas. Or any other time.
On Saturday I made an exception. For two very good reasons. First, the organisers of the annual Portsea event have removed the words ‘fun run’ from the event's title, branding it instead the 'Portsea Twilight 2010'. The second reason is the scenery. Plus, I didn’t run anyway. I walked. Why hurry, with all that view to enjoy?
The event starts on the old road leading to the pointy end of the peninsula normally not open to the public because it is crawling with unexploded bombs and lost ordnances left over from the days when this entire end of the peninsula was a defence establishment. You’d think military discipline and efficiency would have meant bombs should not have been left laying around, but the warning signs are on the fences every hundred metres or so, so all I can deduct is that defence personnel must have had some pretty wild Saturday nights to have left their bombs and guns all over the place.
So you stick to the road. And what a road. It carries you on a rollercoaster ride along the top of the peninsula where it narrows to mere metres, before a last circular rise overlooking the heads, with the polite waves of Port Phillip Bay on your right and the threatening, rolling spume of thunderous Bass Strait on your left. It’s like running down a soup spoon resting on the side of a bowl. Way down below, a ship was labouring up towards the city under a load of containers stacked higher than the bridge. It was blowing a gale and at the neck of the spoon where the cliffs fall away on both sides, running caps were flying off everywhere and being blown into the sea. We circled the bowl of the spoon, dropped down to sea level and commenced the climb back out and up, via 110 stairs. There was a three-minute bottleneck wait at the bottom of the steps that got the runners all flustered and madly hitting buttons on their oversized computer wristwatches because it was going to play hell with their elapsed times, but could we just relax and enjoy the view of the gulls reeling gold in the light of the sun going down over the water? No? OK, then. Go ahead and hit your buttons and fret about your interrupted time. Obsessed.
Then we got to the top of the stairs and it was the same rise and fall in reverse as we advanced, like an army without ordnances, back up the peninsula with a different view this time; across a darkening bay to Melbourne and Mt Martha and Arthur’s Seat and points further east and west and north and a couple of empty ships setting off into the night, to China, to fetch more containers.
The Portsea event is held annually. I would recommend it to everyone. But only because they don’t call it a fun run. You’ll never forget the views, where two bodies of water meet at twilight and turn gold before your eyes.