Justin Langer: When that drunken challenge with mates becomes a memorable moment as he completes City to Surf

Justin Langer
The Nightly
Vowing to see through a physical goal can push you into the pain barrier, but the sense of achievement lasts forever.
Vowing to see through a physical goal can push you into the pain barrier, but the sense of achievement lasts forever. Credit: Supplied/Supplied

Princess Diana died on August 31, 1997.

The night before, I was having a dinner party with my three best mates and their wives.

Having just returned home from an Ashes tour, I was having a great time with my friends. By midnight we had had a few beers and wines, and it would be fair to say, through the laughing and joking, we were growing bolder and bolder by the minute.

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For some reason, on that evening 26 years ago, the City to Surf was mentioned, and boys being boys, we decided — and then committed to — running the event the next morning.

Amidst the alcohol that was consumed that night it sounded like a great idea, but by the time my alarm went off five hours later — and my hangover was kicking in — my regrets were growing by the second.

When the taxi pulled into my driveway at 6.30am, all four of us were looking at each other questioning just how stupid we had been to agree to this craziness. I am sure you have all experienced a similar misery in your life.

Before our dinner party disbanded, we had set the rules. Or, at least, the one rule. That one commitment we had shaken hands upon, was that we would run every step of the course together. And of course, that meant crossing the finishing line together.

Hangover aside, I was in the height of my cricket career and as fit as a fiddle. But I also wasn’t very well trained in dealing with hangovers.

My mate Vlad, a fireman then and now, was super fit and built like a two metre-tall, rippled thoroughbred. He too, was less attuned to a night on the grog, but 12 kilometres was a walk in the park for him.

On the other end of the spectrum was Fig and Bealey. At that moment in their lives, it would be fair to say they weren’t exactly fitness fanatics, and a long run from the CBD to City Beach was as foreign to them as hangovers were to Vlad and me.

In a sense this balanced the team out. Vlad and I were dusty from the night before. Fig and Bealey were fresh as daisies, but knew they would be feeling the pinch by the time we ran through the finish line.

Before the start of the race, I saw a friend from primary school, Vanessa Lowth, who I hadn’t seen for nearly 15 years. We wished each other good luck and away we went.

Vowing to see through a physical goal can push you into the pain barrier, but the sense of achievement lasts forever.
Vowing to see through a physical goal can push you into the pain barrier, but the sense of achievement lasts forever. Credit: Supplied/Supplied

We began our journey from St George’s Terrace not breaking any records. By the time we reached the bottom of the Oceanic Drive hill at Floreat, the four of us had honoured our plan to stick together, but we were running at a snail’s pace.

From behind us came a voice I half-recognised: “Keep going Justin.” Vanessa Lowth ran past us with ease, and I could feel her laughing at how our clumsy quartet must have looked as she motored up the hill, leaving us in her dust.

Ego beaten, Vlad and I dragged Fig and Bealey up the killer hill, before rolling down to the finish line.

Later that day, we were sitting down feeling sorry for ourselves in Bealey’s spa back at his place.

When my wife Sue arrived, she was carrying four iced coffees but she had tears in her eyes.

It’s one of those moments in your life when you will never forget where you were. She told us that Princess Diana had died in a car accident.

That moment is still tattooed into my brain, and it’s why whenever the City to Surf comes around, I always think of Princess Diana tragic passing as well as that crazy challenge of four great mates.

And in 2023, 26 years later, I ran the City to Surf in another foursome last Sunday morning.

Grace Langer with Jack after completing the City to Surf.
Grace Langer with Jack after completing the City to Surf. Credit: Supplied/Supplied

This time there is no history-changing moment to record, but rather, just another brilliant memory of one of a great community event.

With my youngest daughter Gracie, and two of my unofficial sons in law, Jack and Richie, we jogged and walked our way from St Georges Terrace to City Beach. There were no hangovers, no egos, but just the four of us having a great time doing a fun run that I would recommend to anyone.

Again, we had committed to running the course together and, I am certain, running with others makes the challenge so much easier.

Gracie had never run more than four kilometres in her life and yet she got through the 12km with a smile on her face. It was awesome and I was so proud of her.

I loved watching her ‘big brothers’ encouraging, dragging, pushing her through to the end-goal. A great lesson that anything can be achieved if you have others helping you out.

I had committed to the event as an ambassador for Mineral Resources months ago. Back then it sounded like a brilliant physical goal and a fun idea. Unfortunately, through events and a virus, my preparation was about the same as Fig and Bealey’s all those years ago.

Although I wore the tough-guy mask leading up to the event, and at the starting post, my mind was telling me all the reasons this was a dumb idea: “You are going to do a hammy or blow a calf. You are going to embarrass yourself in front of your daughter and the boys. People are going to laugh at you for going so slow.”

The list of dark thoughts flowed like a flooding river. The mind can be a monster as we all know. But, like facing fast bowling, the lead-up is usually much worse than the event itself.

Thankfully, and unsurprisingly, none of those dreaded thoughts came to fruition. In fact, it was the opposite. I loved every single minute of the event.

The energy when the starting gun sounded was an adrenaline rush. Watching so many people of all shapes, sizes, ages, races, was simply inspiring.

The encouragement from those running, walking or watching the event made you feel 10-feet tall. The camaraderie of my team was so much fun, and we helped each other through to the end.

Even the sense of achievement as we ran through the finish line, made us all feel like winners, even though we hadn’t broken any records.

The hugs and high-fives at the end of the run were warm, and the bacon, eggs and hot dogs in the Min Res tent were a treat.

Tight as my calf’s and hips were when we were walking home, the rest of the day was filled with a sense of achievement and a job well done.

I was buzzing all day, and even during this week — when it has been a bit harder to stand up from a chair — my mind has been filled with nothing but happy memories of a day with good people in the best place in the world and knowing it was for a great cause.

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