Mardi Gras to the Mountains

This weekend was a marathon, figuratively and (almost) literally, from the crowded streets of Sydney to the endless trails of the Blue Mountains.

With people lining Oxford Street hours before the four hour long parade would begin on Saturday night, pride and excitement was high throughout the evening and late into the morning. The 38th annual Mardi Gras parade, which is also the culmination of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival is one of the biggest Mardi Gras celebrations in the world.

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With hundreds of floats and over 12,000 people dressed in ornate costumes and dancing to choreographed dances, organizations covering all sides of society, culture, and the political spectrum were present. This year was especially significant as Olympians and government officials attended, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the first prime minister to attend the parade.

Many area sports teams and big companies including Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Qantas Airlines also had groups participating in the parade, dancing alongside some of the more elaborate floats.

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With over 300,000 people in attendance, this was a great way for the community to come together and showcase a variety of groups from the greater Sydney area. After spending about three hours at the parade, I walked back to meet up with some fellow Basser residents for the rest of the night.

Just a short time later, following a late night, I was up and ready before 5am to take a bus to the train that would be taking me, and some other runners, west to the Blue Mountains from Central Station in Sydney. Though easy to access, the train ride was not without excitement as we were entertained by the company and conversation of two groups of girls heading home (at 6am) from a late night of partying and celebrating at Mardi Gras in the city.

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Arriving at the Wentworth Falls station around 7:40, I was joined by three other members of the UNSW campus running society, each who is involved in ultramarathons, trail running, and biking to a different degree. While this was not the first time I had run 30km it was certainly the most difficult and, combined with the lack of sleep, the mountains definitely took their toll on me throughout the morning.

Our run took us through varying terrain including fire roads and single track trails, beginning in the clouds and finishing with a trek up the 951 Furber Steps.

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There is definitely something to be said for the degree of difficulty on some of the trails we ran, and even two days later I am still feeling sore. This was a great introduction to the trail running and ultramarathon scene, in a way that I have not yet experienced, as we saw many friendly runners along the way, training for different races throughout the mountains in the upcoming months. This welcoming sentiment speaks not only for the people we encountered on the trail, but also everyone I have met, who has been so hospitable, throughout my short time in Australia.

Following a significantly less lively train ride back to Sydney, on which I definitely fell asleep for a bit, and a quick dinner, it was time to finally rest and recover. After more than 12 hours of sleep I am ready to take on the upcoming week and start planning for next weekend!

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