Monday, 3 November 2014

Karen writes: Auckland marathon...more than a tick on the list

This year I ended up, shall we say accidentally, with the Auckland marathon squashed into my annual programme, rather inconveniently between that ultra in Brisbane at the end of August, and the Taupo Cycle Challenge in November.  It only came up because the children wanted to run the kids marathon, I figured if I was going to be in town for that, why not tick Auckland off once and for all.

But after an indifferent (inadequate?) training lead-up and a tough day on the road the Auckland marathon ended up a as something more than just a 'tick'. Starting with the trip into Devonport on a ferry straight from (almost) home. No driving for hours through all of Auckland, trying to find parking, hopping on another ferry etc, this was a case of driving 3km up the road, parking by the wharf, walking onto the boat and being at the start-line 25 minutes later.  Best of all though, sitting on the comfortable seat with my thermos of coffee, was seeing all of these faces familiar from all those hours where we have run past each other on the road, plus a good number of the Te Puru runners were there as well. A very social and relaxing trip was had, great way to start.

This was followed by a beautiful short walk from the wharf to the startline which served as a warm-up.  We wandered along the softly lit waterfront, looking at the city lights across the water, then finding increasing numbers of other runners the closer we got.  It was a time to just enjoy the experience, wonder at the beautiful place we live in, but seldom get to see in such a way.

The start was like all of these things, you find a spot in the crowd near to the marker that is closest to your anticipated time, I always hang to the back of the group, everyone always goes out too fast in and I don't like getting carried along too early.  There seemed to be high numbers of first timers and lots of anticipation in the air.

Things went well for the first half but I found there weren't many people I could talk to. Some  were either too fast, too slow, or too serious, but by far the majority were wearing headphones and off in their own unassailable worlds.  I did talk to some and enjoyed their company, pacing off a few miles together until we parted for whatever reason.  I fell in love with Darth Vader and attending Storm Trooper, both in full kit, complete with weaponry with constant starwars theme music broadcasting. I played tag passing and being passed by them for most of the run.  The bridge was lovely, I'm sure someone said it was steep, didn't seem that way to me and while I had planned on walking it to enjoy the scenery I ended up running.  This was the point where the lead half marathoners raced past, we were pushed to the far left by support motorcycles so slowing down wasn't really an option anyway. Down the other side of the bridge, through the city streets and along the waterfront, it was at this point the heat started coming on.  I got slower and slower, and slower.

That last flat 10 km back was tough.  I felt lethargic, my heart sank as a stream of people shuffled past me but I had to realise that it wasn't a good idea to fight how my body was feeling and push it.  I got a graphic reminder of what can happen when I ran up behind a woman who was wobbling as she walked. I asked her if she was OK and she said yes, but her response and her eyes told me she wasn't.  I asked if she could be a bit dehydrated and she said no, she had been drinking water, and to demonstrate she tipped a bottle of water over her head.  It dried almost instantly and I noticed she showed no signs of sweating. Fortunately there was an ambulance a few 100 meters up the road and I pushed her along to that saying that a quick check was needed.  I felt guilty knowing that it was unlikely she would be finishing and I was probably ending her race a mere 8km from the end. Around the back of the ambulance all the chairs were taken, I'm guessing most were there for similar things and when I got further along the road another ambulance came through.

About 3km from the end there was a young woman with a supporter running beside her.  I asked if she wanted to run on with me and she made up the first of a small group of people we found walking who we encouraged to 'hop on our train'.  Some were too far gone when we asked and just kept plodding, some picked up and ran and we talked and ran then sprinted at the finish line.  Now this is my cheats way of making sure I run at the end, if you encourage someone to run with you there is no way you can stop no matter how bad you feel, you both benefit.

I don't actually remember crossing the finish line, I was thinking about having missed the start of the children's run and looking at the first finishers for this to see if I could pick out my girls.  Eventually I realised I had to keep moving and get something to drink and I would have to look for them elsewhere.  The ends of these sorts of children's events are a bit of a nightmare sometimes, parents tend to overtake the carefully marked areas where children are meant to be returned and you end up with great masses of adults and kids and no way of seeing where your own are.  They both finished safely though, hot and bothered, but proud of their efforts and their medals.

One excellent thing was the supporters tent for ASB customers. I had picked up a lanyard at the expo which I was told would give me access, so after the whanau had regrouped we ended up in this huge yellow tent, one lane for supporters, one lane for athletes.  There were muffins and fresh fruit and drinks, all in the cool shade.  Plus someone taking photos.  Now this photo here is for me the highlight of the event, the photographer captured happy smiling faces, it shows what this sort of thing is really about.