Like most Australians, most humans in general really, I live on the coast. I wouldn’t have it any other way. To surf, swim, squish sand between my toes, feel sun kissing my skin and salt bleaching my hair, this is what makes life worth living, what gets me up each morning, pumped for the day ahead. But about six months ago, out of the blue and with total clarity, I saw the ocean for what it could at any moment become; a tsunami, a wave of destruction destined to wipe me out good and proper, to pay me back nicely for all the waves I’ve snagged out of it over the years. Yeah, you like waves mate? Here, have a go at this bloody monster then buddy…
I’m not sure how or why this was a “sudden” revelation. I’ve spent huge amounts of my life in Indonesia, probably the place on Earth that’s fallen prey to tsunamis more than anywhere. I’ve slept like a baby in beachside huts opposite my favourite surf breaks. No wuckas. She’ll be right mate. The same locations in Indonesia which have been utterly decimated by tsunamis, where all my friends there have lost their nearest and dearest in the blink of an eye. I didn’t connect the dots then, bonehead through and through, and yet here I was, staring at Manly beach on a calm, flat day, eyeing it off as though it were the most threatening object imaginable.
Being a reasonably practical lad, sometimes at least, I came up with a modest solution; I was going to run up the hills from Manly to Fairlight every single day, to sprint up them like my life truly depended on it, to be as ready as possible should that horizon ever transform to a wall of white water. Improbable, but not impossible.
Now, sprinting up hills is no picnic. It’s intense. Your legs burn. Your chest feels fit to burst. You’re spent in no time at all really, and yet there you are, up in the safety of altitude, able to look down at whatever lies below, hopefully it’s crystal clear blue sea, one day it might not be. This daily habit has become one of the best parts of my day. It’s something that I actually couldn’t live without; pretending I’m about to be consumed by raging water and have no choice but to sprint for my life.
We live in a time where mere survival is so easily taken for granted. We have an obesity epidemic because why the hell shouldn’t we? We can buy anything with the click of a button from the comfort of our couch and stuff our face with the tastiest buckets of fried, hormone-saturated chicken known to man. Nyum, nyum, nyum. More! Give me more!! What chance has regular exercise got against the weight of lightning fast, super cheap junk? Slim, to very slim, at best.
Being able to exercise regularly comes down to two things. One, are you so vain that you can happily flog yourself senseless in the gym because looking good naked is perhaps more important to you than breathing? Fair enough. There is no shame in admitting this. You’ll have a fighting chance to survive a tsunami and most likely be fit enough to save a bunch of unfit stragglers too. And hopefully you look sensational in ya birthday suit. Nothing wrong with that. Two, you can trick your brain into believing your life truly depends on the exercise you’re doing. You can imagine situations in which supreme fitness will actually come in handy. Maybe you can be deluded into thinking that you are indeed Bond, James Bond, and sooner or later you’ll have to sprint full pelt in an Italian suit to save the Queen from a terrorist threat while a gorgeous tart in an iconic bikini looks on. You're welcome. Again, there’s no shame in admitting this either. Or maybe, like me, you can imagine potential scenarios where a touch of fitness, speed and stamina could be the difference between life and death. So why not indulge, why not be ready for the worst?
Running up hills is about the quickest, most effective form of exercise available. Sprint up. Walk down. Sprint up. Walk down. Sprint up. Walk down. Shall I go on? You get the picture. Not only will it burn the calories needed to allow you to indulge in a steady diet of ice-cold VB’s and piping hot chicken parmi’s, it might also give you the leg strength and cardiopulmonary capacity to save your life should the ocean ever unleash in the terrifying way we know it can. It's up to you.
Cheers, and happy hill sprinting or fried chicken eating. They're both amazing.
*Liam Carroll is the author of Slippery, a story about capitalism on steroids in the hedonistic cesspit wonderland of oil trading in Southeast Asia. His second novel, Sweet Dreams of Fanta, is a sentimental ride back to the Sydney of 1988, seen through the eyes of a freckly, moon-faced, 7year old Fanta addict. And his third book, Hooroo Love, in the works now.