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Soup of This Day #137: Beyond The Palace Hemi-Powered Drones Scream Down The Boulevard

February 15, 2012

Longworth72 out with dog on the Gascoyne River
Longworth72 out on the Gascoyne River where he liked to jog. In this instance the task was bird-watching. Avian birds that is – None of that Spartan stuff for the fully-clothed Longworth72. Apparently necessary clarification: That’s not a handbag, it’s the case for the binoculars – I was looking for a White-bellied Sea Eagle. The dog was looking for a cooler owner – Photo: Wife of Longworth72, 2004. The Wife of Longworth72 is definitely affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72 – This is not a comment on his wife’s photographic skills.

I’ve always liked running. I like the solitude so mostly I tried to run where nobody else did, seeking the track that had no human footprints bar my own.

Non-human footprints were no problem.

In Carnarvon I used to run on the dry Gascoyne riverbed or out on a track I set through the mangroves. This meant kangaroos, sometimes emus, all sorts of wild birds and once, a coral sea snake. Occasionally I’d take a dog but running into a kangaroo when you have a 40kg Rottweiler cross on a lead just means that you’re liable to lose an arm. After not catching the roo the dog would come loping back with a ‘Is that your arm back there? Hey sorry about that. See, there was this giant bouncy-dog thing. Had to chase it. Seriously you should get that arm sorted’ expression writ over his big dumb face. So I tended to limit the running with dog to circuits around the local oval.

Prior to moving up north I’d run in Perth’s green heart, Kings Park. This park is perched on Mount Eliza, overlooking the CBD. It’s 4.06 square kms of parkland are made up of verdant botanical gardens, long grassy swards and native bushland. The native bush makes up 2/3 of the whole and it’s full of wildlife, including, snakes, birds, lizards, even some echidnas, although no kangaroos or emus. What was really special about it was that it felt like you were alone, even if dense city traffic was zooming along a scant 50m away.

What I’d do is head to the long sloping, grassed corridor called the Fairway. I’d drop my bag along the edge and then randomly choose 1 of the many paths that branched off into the surrounding bushland. I’d start jogging, periodically choosing turn-offs and changes in direction, mostly on a whim. Eventually, if I hadn’t already found my way there, I’d head back in the vague direction of the bottom of the Fairway, before sprinting up the slope towards the DNA tower, a viewing platform with stairs that wind around like a double helix.

My favourite part of the run was close to the start, just after I’d warmed up. About that time I felt like I could fly, my feet skimming the ground and my legs taking strides that stretched on forever. It was effortless and I’ve rarely felt as free. I’ve talked to other folk and they got a similar feeling from swimming, gliding through the water and I’ve even found 1 dude who gets the same buzz from playing computer games, sitting in his chair at home. Each to their own I guess.

The common denominator is the freedom – I’m not religious but I reckon if I found faith I would feel pretty close to God while I’m running.

Hassiba Boulmerka might have felt that way when she ran at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Boulmerka ran for Algeria in the 1500m. She went in as the favourite, having won the World Champs the year before. All of which was nice but Boulmerka wasn’t feeling particularly free in the leadup to her event and some folk were of a mind to tell her that when running she was a long way from God.

You see, Algeria was in the grip of a civil conflict. Islamist radicals were staging armed attacks on a secularist government as they sought a stricter, fundamentalist state.

Meanwhile Boulmerka was a woman running around in shorts.

For most Algerians this was ok – She was bringing some glory to them and doing so in a simple and dignified manner. She wore shorts because they helped her to run faster.

Sadly a few fundamentalists took the interpretation that she was revealing too much of herself and she became the target of threats. So she was unable to train in he home country and in Barcelona was accompanied by armed police wherever she went.

Fortunately for the cops they weren’t required to run alongside her – They couldn’t have kept up.

Particularly not in the final, when Boulmerka beat off a late challenge from Soviet Lyudmila Rogacheva to win gold. As she crossed the line she punched the air, explaining later:

‘It was a symbol of victory, of defiance. It was to say: ‘I did it! I won! And now, if you kill me, it’ll be too late. I’ve made history!”

She probably really didn’t want to die right then. And handily she didn’t – Today, she is a business woman, which is a little bit fitting in a way – The 1st recorded female winner of the Olympics was Cynisca, a Spartan Princess, who took a wreath some time around 390 – 380 BC. She was the owner of a chariot and the custom at the time was that the owner, rather than the driver was awarded the title. In a sense then, it was her business acumen that won the day.

Cynisca’s feat made her a celebrated figure in the ancient Greek world and in particular in Sparta where strong women were seen as crucial to the creation of a strong state. In fact young Spartan women participated in athletic competitions regularly, often with the guys watching – This was seen as a naturally selective way of choosing a good mate. Consequently the girls wore simple short skirts or sometimes just raced in the nude.

Each to their own. Me, I’d just run in a comfortable pair of shorts and a loose t-shirt, while the dog always goes with a fur coat and a collar.

Beyond The Palace Hemi-Powered Drones Scream Down The Boulevard

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