The sun was rising, hearts were palpitating and an estimated 80,000 runners were nervously awaiting the start gun.
More than 30 IMP supporters, ambassador Kurt Fearnley, seven IMP Graduates and 12 IMP squad members were about to perform on one of the country’s most iconic running stages; and they certainly earned a standing ovation.
For Broome runner, Megan Highfold, it was her first ever fun run after injury ruled her out of joining her IMP brothers and sisters in the Gold Coast Half Marathon in July.
And her first fun run experience wasn’t at all what she was expecting.
“Absolutely not, it was better! It was so much fun! I thought I’d be at the start and everyone would be really serious and competitive.
“And of course some people were, but there were also people dressed up, lots of entertainment and colour, and the views were incredible. I can’t wait to do another one, now I know why people keep going back for more,” she said.
Heartbreak Hill was, of course, highly anticipated but the squad wondered what all the fuss was about.
“What Heartbreak Hill? I didn’t even notice it,“ said a cheeky Wade Mongta.
It was a sentiment shared by a few of the runners who acknowledged the hill-hype didn’t live up to expectation; much to their delight.
“I was expecting it to be so much harder. Everyone was talking about it, but it wasn’t as hard as what I thought it would be,” admitted Adelaide’s Tahnee Sutton.
While the squad was making its way through the course, IMP Ambassador, Kurt Fearnley was centre stage breaking the finish tape in 33 minutes.
Eighteen minutes later, IMP Mt Druitt flyer, Jesse Thompson stopped the clock in just over 51 minutes, an incredible performance for his inaugural City2Surf.
“I probably went out too hard, but the atmosphere was unreal. I hit the top of Heartbreak Hill then just rolled down into the finish.
“You come down into Bondi, and you see the whole of Bondi Beach and you don’t realise, but you have to go all the way to the end and come back.
“I thought the finish line was right there,” he laughed.
Charlie Maher, 2010 IMP Graduate, was hot on Jesse’s heels hitting the line in around 53 minutes, with 2014 IMP Graduate, Nathan Riley clocking in at around 57 minutes.
Fellow Graduates, Raymond Ingram (2014), Tali Tabuai (2013), Rachel Baker (2014), Eileen Byers (2015) and John Leha (2015) all followed in quick succession, along with a group of runners that John has been training through his Sydney Deadly Runners group.
Gold Charity runners made their footprints throughout the course, cheering on their fellow IMP supporters.
“I saw a young boy in his IMP singlet, so I made sure I gave him a high-five. It was great to see someone so young out there running for IMP, very impressive.
“I saw so many IMP singlets out there, it was fantastic,” said Gold Charity runner from Canberra, Nicole Mills.
Minister Andrew Leigh MP donned his IMP singlet, but unfortunately his 44 year old self couldn’t beat the time of his 18 year old self; the last time he participated in the event.
“I love running in an IMP supporter singlet – it makes you feel strong enough to take on any hill, even Heartbreak Hill.
“The squad is inspiring, and it’s always great to hear the stories of each extraordinary IMP runner,” said the Federal Member of Fraser, Assistant Shadow Treasurer, and appropriately, Minister for Competition.
Standing at the IMP marquee post-race, it becomes evident yet again that it’s not about the about the time on the clock or your position in the results.
Watching the interactions between squad, Graduates and supporters, hearing laughter, swapping Heartbreak Hill stories and injury woes, running has created a camaraderie that binds these strangers as new-found friends.
You don’t have to be the fastest, you don’t need to be aiming for the Olympics.
You just need to lace up your joggers and head out the door.
Put one foot in front of the other and eventually the finish line will present itself.
And with that last line, a standing ovation is deserved.
As the curtain closes on the squad’s third camp, they will spend the next 10 weeks rehearsing for their final script – a 30km run in Alice Springs.
Six months of dedication, sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears will be run out in the heart of Australia in the hope of being rewarded with an encore performance.
The world famous – New York Marathon.
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Jesse Thompson, Mt Druitt (NSW) – 51:54
Zibeon Fielding, APY Lands (SA) – 56:20
Wade Mongta, Bodall (NSW) – 1:09:30
Wayne Sloane, Condobolin (NSW) – 1:13:18
Billy Bell, Heywood (VIC) – 1:13:19
Saliman Bin Juda, Thursday Island (QLD) – 1:15:42
Tahnee Sutton, Adelaide (SA) – 1:16:26
Kimberley Benjamin, Broome (WA) – 1:16:58
Kristika Kumar, Wreck Bay (NSW) – 1:32:59
Megan Highfold, Broome (WA) – 1:34:14
Candice Love, Murray Bridge (SA) – 1:36:21
Jacinta Smith-Robins, Bourke (NSW) – 1:39:19
Charlie Maher (2010), Port Macquarie (NSW) – 52:10
Nathan Riley (2014), Dubbo (NSW) – 57:14
Raymond Ingram (2014), Sydney (NSW) – 1:02:00
Eileen Byers, Casino (2015) (NSW) – 1:48:46
Tali Tabuai (2013), Sydney (NSW) – 1:27:29