I caught a train across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, early one morning in 2013, to run a half marathon. It was chilly, September, and the sky was still a murky gray opal. The carriage buzzed with runners talking the usual nonsense: carb loading, perfect splits, personal bests. Runners can be very annoying en masse.
Three passengers didn’t fit in, young men on their way home after a night on the town. They were smashed when they lurched onto the train, the blotto antithesis to all the athletes dressed in spotless, sweat-absorbent shorts and singlets. Something had to give. One of the boozers started to heckle. "Look at you all," he jeered. "What are you doing? Runners! What the f*ck are you doing?" On he went. A holy fool in strained black jeans, the young man shook his head in disgust and leaned into a pole for balance, mumbling to himself. I looked down at my shoelaces and lingered on a pang of identification. Imagine, I thought, being stuck in a train full of runners on the way home to a clanging hangover. Why would anyone run a marathon? Why did you?