The thing about Alfie, is that he likes to involve himself in so many things. Our community hosts lots of events and in the weeks leading up to each event, signs appear in the streets letting everyone know it’s time to sign up. Alfie reads those signs.
For weeks he’s been on the countdown for the Balmoral Burn. Have you heard of it? Have you experienced it? Did you survive it?
I’ve never entered myself in ‘The Burn’ and before now, had never even spectated.
The Balmoral Burn was created 14 years ago by local resident, Phil Kearns who is one of Australia’s best known and most-admired ex-Wallaby players. He represented Australia in rugby union 67 times and was Captain of the Wallaby’s on 10 of those occasions. Kearns created an event where one of Sydney’s steepest streets is closed to traffic and becomes a running track where for 420mtrs (460 yards) competitors race from the bottom to the top of the hill.
The aim of the Balmoral Burn is to raise money for the Humpty Dumpty Foundation, a charity that donates vital equipment like respirators and humidicribs to children’s hospitals. At this years event alone, more than $70,000 was raised for this charity.
The Balmoral Burn has something for everyone with races for school children, corporate teams, disabled athletes, parents with prams, and there’s even an ‘owner and pet’ race where you can chase your dog up the hill.
This year more than 11,000 people ‘did the burn’, some of those who entered were highly competitive, and others; they were there for a day of fun and to raise money for a great cause.
The night before the race, Alfie and I were at Vivid. Then we came home and ended up going to bed late. My mobile rang at 3.30am and it was Arabella who was on her way home from the night club she’s been working at and this was her final shift. (Thank God that’s over). ‘Mum, I’m in a cab and I’m five minutes away but I forgot my key. Can you get up and let me in?’ Standard.
I got up and waited and no, she was about 15-minutes away. By the time I went back to bed I was fully awake and unable to get back to sleep. Sleep must have hit me at about 6am and when I finally woke I had 30-minutes before the start of Alfie’s race. Honestly – no time for a shampoo and blow-dry!
I don’t know how we did it but we made it. After sticking his bib onto him I raced him around to the marshalling area. The barricades were closed but an official quickly re-opened them for us. He made it but he was at the back of the pack! Standard. I left him at the starting line (in the back row) of his Years 3-6 race and hurried up the hill to the halfway point where I hoped to cheer him on.
A 420mtr race doesn’t sound daunting and from the starting line, it doesn’t look terribly challenging. But after the first few metres the incline rapidly increases by as much as 30% and that’s where you feel ‘the burn’. Over the 420mtrs (1400ft), the course rises by 70mtrs (230ft). Many are unable to run the entire course, mostly because the closer you come to the finish line, the steeper it becomes.
Alfie managed to run the whole way, even in stiff denim shorts he had insisted on wearing and with no breakfast because there wasn’t time. As I wasn’t at the finish line I have no idea of his final result but I’m guessing he finished in the middle of the pack. And he loved it! And is keen to do it again.
We stayed for the rest of the races; watching just down from the finish line. We saw some inspirational performances from elite runners (current world champions, Australian champions, Olympians) who gave it their all to the point of one even collapsing on the finish line.
We saw the para-burn race where world champions and ex-Olympians battled the course in wheelchairs and because of the incline, they had to traverse the course rather than attack it head-on. The strength in the arms of these wheelchair riders is staggering.
Phil Kearns won his race in the male, 40-49 age group. But he was entered in another race that’s become a bit of a tradition. Every year, one of Kearns’ personal trainers takes up the challenge of fireman-carrying Phil all the way up the course. Not only is this incredible in itself, but the personal trainers tend to weigh 70kgs (155lbs) yet the man they’re going to carry weighs around 104kgs (230lbs). It doesn’t seem possible. I saw the personal trainer before the race and both his knees had been heavily strapped and I’m not surprised.
Alfie and I watched this race and were transfixed. As the course entered its steepest section, the trainer stopped now and then and put Phil to the ground for a few second’s rest before carrying him again. There was clapping and cheering from the spectators right along the course, not only because they were witnessing an incredible feat but also to acknowledge Kearns for the event he created that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for medical equipment for children in need.
And as we walked home, Alfie asked me if I would ‘do the burn’ next year. I promised him that I would. You have to be in it, not only to prove to yourself that you can make it to the top, but to join in on raising money for the Humpty Dumpty Foundation.
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