As the 1982 Commonwealth Games marathon edged towards its climax along a crowded Coronation Drive in Brisbane, Robert de Castella began to get a sense of how the race had gripped the city.
"I felt like Moses, I was running headlong into this crowd and they would just part," de Castella joked when he recently spoke to Grandstand.
As he battled Tanzania's Juma Ikangaa for the gold medal, de Castella would have had no concept of how this epic duel was not only captivating Brisbane but also the rest of Australia.
Millions of Australians put their lives on hold for a bit over two hours early on an October morning, as they watched one of most memorable moments in the nation's sporting history.
Many crammed around television sets, while others listened to updates on radio, keeping track of de Castella as he clawed his way back from the brink of defeat to win what the late Ron Clarke described at the time as "the greatest marathon ever".
The Australian was the gold medal favourite, courtesy of running the second fastest marathon in history the previous year in Fukuoka, Japan.
But as the field made their way to the start line on Brisbane's Stanley Street at 6:00am on a sultry day — humidity having already hit 94 per cent — few would have predicted the outrageous pace that was about to be set by Ikangaa and his countryman Gidamis Shahanga.
'Huge concern' at halfway point
Ikangaa and Shahanga were ahead by 40 seconds at the halfway point of the gruelling 42.2-kilometre contest and by this stage de Castella had already switched to "race mode", having been given a scare when he made his way through Brisbane's CBD in pursuit of the Tanzanian duo.
"I think around the Town Hall or something I remember seeing my coach Pat Clohessy and the look on his face was one of huge concern," de Castella said.
"It gave me a bit of a shock because the two Tanzanians were out of sight."
As the race moved along Coronation Drive for the first time, with a crowd estimated to be as large as 3,000 on each side of the road near the iconic Regatta Hotel, Ikangaa and Shahanga ploughed ahead to establish a lead of 58 seconds over de Castella at the 30km mark.
Humidity had reached 100 per cent by now and de Castella responded by picking up a quicker pace than Ikangaa and Shahanga, as they progressed through the University of Queensland campus in St Lucia.
"I didn't know if I was running fast enough to close the gap before I got to the finish," de Castella said.
"But I had this incredible rush and this incredible realisation that at least I was running faster than what they were."
Four lead changes in final kilometres
Diarrhoea and a stomach cramp began to unsettle de Castella but he ignored the pain when he saw he was making ground on Shahanga, who he roared passed at 37km on the return journey along Coronation Drive.
Eighty metres ahead was Ikangaa, whose lead was so quickly eaten up that de Castella moved in front with just over 3 kilometres to go to the finish line much to the astonishment of his rival, who turned to his right to see the hulking Australian motor past.
What followed went down in this nation's sporting folklore, as the two exchanged the lead on four occasions before de Castella assumed control to the delight of the frenzied crowd.
"I felt good, I felt strong … there was no way I was going to over commit myself or over-celebrate," de Castella said.
"I loved it, it was a wonderful duel, it was a wonderful battle."
He powered through the final stages and with thousands of spectators screaming wildly as they crowded the finish line on Stanley Street he raised his arms in triumph, stopping the clock in 2:09.18, 12 seconds ahead of Ikangaa and only a minute outside the world best at the time.
"I was able to celebrate over that last 50 metres or so because once I did break him I knew that he wouldn't be able to catch me again and I was able to relax and really embrace the jubilation of almost totally a win that came out of the bag," de Castella said.
The performance was lauded not just throughout Australia but also internationally, with revered US magazine Sports Illustrated reporting on his victory via the headline of "Crowned on Coronation Drive".
He won the marathon at the inaugural world championships in Helsinki the following year and finished fifth at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics when he was favourite for the gold, before defending his Commonwealth Games title in Edinburgh.
All were incredible achievements as part of an outstanding career, but to so many Australians the highlight was when de Castella stopped the nation on the streets of Brisbane.