When Monday morning rolls around and the alarm goes off, I spring out of bed with a huge grin spread across my face. Well, there may be a slight bit of exaggeration in that sentence but the general sentiment is true enough. I like Mondays.

Because come Monday evening, when the first day of the working week has been put to bed, I sneak into the men’s toilets, change into my running gear (Kevin 87 t-shirt, swimming shorts and a pair of well-worn sneakers covered in drips and drops of old paint) and head down through Darling Harbour and Pyrmont to Wentworh Park for a jog with Paul. As well as being my running buddy, Paul is a dear friend, prayer companion, former work colleague and mentor, whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for the past five years. He’s also the editor of a magazine about trucks. Each week we greet each other with a hearty handshake.
“How are you going?” one of us asks.

“Great/OK/Worn out,” the other replies. “How was your weekend?”

“Great/OK/busy/relaxing,” the other replies back. It’s a nice ritual.

Before we start off on our customary 10 laps (approximately 1km each), Paul does some stretches and I pretend to join in. Then I give up and wait for him to finish.

We always start from the same tree and in the same way, taking a few tentative steps before one of us lurches into a trot and the other one follows. The sky is usually getting dark but the park is lit up for the Oztag competition, and there’s a slight breeze. It might be cold but we’ll soon be warm. We push up along the western edge of the park towards the public toilets, where the Oztaggers are beginning to gather, and the greyhound track, where the pure bred dogs are cooped up inside their trailers, barking. The whir of the mechanical rabbit only seems to stir them up more.

Whirrrrrrrrrrrrrr. WOOF, WOOF. Whirrrrrrrrrrrrrr. WOOF, WOOF. And on it goes.

Turning the corner, we leave them behind and head along the eastern perimeter, past the stagnant traffic and under the light rail overpass, looking ahead to the Anzac Bridge. WAAAAAAAAAAAAH! The hooter goes off, the refs blow their whistles and the Oztag games begin. We trudge over the mulchy area in the corner of the park we arc around and align ourselves with the rows of giant fig trees the frame the northern perimeter.

“G’day,” we grunt to the dog walkers as they throw tennis balls for their labradoodles and terriers to go fetch.

“G’day,” they yell back.

I concetrate on maintaining the rhythm of my breathing: in through the nose, two, three, four. Out through the mouth, two, three four. There’s no science behind what I do but I’ve convinced myself that it helps my running.

Finishing off the first lap, we jog back underneath the light rail overpass, past the homeless man tucked up in his swag. He’s suspicious of everyone and he once accsued Paul of stealing his possessions so we tiptoe over the gravel as we go by, keeping as wide a berth as possible.

For laps two three, four and five we continue in an anti-clockwise direction. The Oztag games pick up a notch and the last greyhounds are released from the trailers to go and chase the impossibly fast rabbit. More whir but less WOOF.

At the halfway mark, we loop around the starting tree and start off in the opposite direction. Clockwise and like clockwork. Around this stage, I often feel a stitch coming on, but because I’m running with Paul, I ignore it and focus on my breathing. In through the nose, two, three, four. Out through the mouth, two, three, four. Suck it up! It’ll be gone in a couple of laps.

Then I find a new burst. The conversation has died away and I leave Paul behind. The relentless pursuit of rhythm is stronger than the need for companionship but we’re both OK with that. Besides, I can’t help competing. Each time I pass a dog-walker or a team of Oztaggers, warming up by the side of the field, I lift my head and quicken my step. It’s silly but I can’t help it.

About 50-55 minutes after we began, we reach the starting tree which has now transformed into the finishing tree. We gently walk off our run and then head back to Paul’s car – or whichever brand new car Paul is driving this week. It’s just one of the perks of being a motoring journalist. The only problem is that sometimes those perks turn out to be Skodas or Ssangyongs.

The traffic has now eased off and we shed the city, heading west. This is when the real conversation begins. We talk about our weeks. Our joys. Our frustrations. Our hopes. And then we pray, sharing it all with our heavenly Father and thanking him for the answers to prayer form the week before. It’s a holistic work out: body and soul. And in what seems like no time at all, we reach Meadowbank. I hop out of the car and Paul gets ready to continue on his way.

“See you next week.”

“Yeah, see you then.”

That’s why I like Mondays.

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