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I Ran A Marathon

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I entered Rotorua Marathon early back in 2019, choosing Australasia’s oldest and iconic marathon event as my first because of the nearby Bay of Plenty location, I had Mt Runners club mates who had entered and was a marathon my father competed in back in 1989 on its 25th anniversary at the very age I am now (21 off course).

My training plan like most was completely blown out of the water due to COVID-19 postponing it, I was ¾ of the way through my marathon training plan with several kilometres under my belt, feeling great, injury free and all set to smash out my first marathon when it all came to a sudden holt.  It was postponed and rescheduled for 26th September therefore I had to take a back step in my training plan to then build up again to the new September date.  Standing at the start line I felt like I had been marathon training for a year … I pretty much had!  I experienced training in ALL seasons and weather; summer, autumn, winter, with the big marathon day in the springtime.  I trained in rain, wind (takatimu drive is unforgiving), searing heat, early mornings (5.00am my earliest) and late night running (8.30pm my latest) in pitch black with my head lamp, and off course lots of blood sweat and tears (added in for effect), I endured it all!  There I was, standing at the start line feeling like I had already endured a marathon (in the sense of a word), yet about to run another, but this one would be the longest run at any one time of my life.  I gave birth to a baby in less than what it would take me to run this marathon, I wondered if this physically was actually going to be the hardest thing I have ever endured.  I had no idea what it was going to be like running for 4 ½ hours (or 5 or 6 + or 4 … who knows!?). 

I was grateful to be under the guidance of a coach Rob who trained me with a focus on “time on feet” rather than to kilometres, running to a “relative perceived effort” (RPE) rather than running to a pace, and training with back to back runs (backing up), rather than running long kms at one time.  My training included running medium slow and long slow distances, (MSD or LSD … without the high),  speed training (track Tuesdays), negative split runs (slower then faster), hill repeats (HURT) and recovery runs (where you truly never recovered), running around 4 times a week with 2 running specific strength and conditioning sessions at  the gym per week.  I foam rolled 3-4 times a week, had sport massages, magnesium baths, ice baths, met with a nutritionist, listened to a running podcast on how to avoid bonking in a race (cough cough), purchased running gear going through 2 pairs of shoes (cause if I failed at least I looked good doing it), and chatted with heaps of previous marathon finishers receiving much appreciated advice (especially those telling me that getting to the start line was an achievement! (Were they implying not to worry if I didn’t finish?) …. Well what have I forgotten? Yup this qualifies me to run a marathon, right?! The deed had to be finalised, just a mere 42km away was my medal and title of ‘marathon runner’ that I could add to my name (or headstone).

The most amazing experience was at the start line, standing alongside others with an unspoken comradery knowing that we had all achieved something special to get here.  It was also the New Zealand’s first mass gathering since shifting from NZ’s Covid alert level 2 (with Aucklanders unable to participate due to their level 2 staying the same), so to even take part and finish this race felt significant to me, like a two fingers up to Covid significant!   As the start gun went off, the sound of the haka bellowed out, sending chills down my spine like a sense of encouragement for the battle that lay ahead and form a blanket of protection over me to ensure I finished safely.  I looked at my running watch a bit in the beginning to make sure I was running at a pace I could maintain and speed up at the end if I could.  I always have a tendency to run out too fast on my fresh legs then burn out early, so I was like one of those funny GIF memes constantly looking at my watch before I finally got into the groove. 

All my training and hard work paid off and from the start line to the finish you could barely wipe the smile off my face, I soaked in the experience the whole race;  the cheering spectators, the pit stops where they cheered my name (I felt famous then realised at the end my name was on my race bib, ha!), the cow bells ringing from passing cars, the lady who rapped some encouraging lyrics as I ran passed her (that I accidently high fived her hand … then realised I needed to sanitise it, what to do with my hand now!!? whoops!).  And then there was that view, that gorgeous lake and perfect weather conditions.   I loved seeing my family who drove past me multiple times, stopping, cheering, then drove forward a few kilometres and pretty much did that on repeat till the road ran out before heading to the finish line.  The road closed to vehicles was both the best and worst part of the race!  This was the really hilly part, not just one hill, but heaps, how many? …  my memory fails me but felt really long, winding, and isolating, particularly because I had separated from other runners.  As a special mention, It was wonderful to see a fellow Mt Runners club mate Graham on bicycle through those winding hills, giving words of encouragement, a huge boost when I most needed it, and snapping photos.  I’m grateful to have this awesome distant shot of me looking a whole lot better than close up, ha!

For the most part this section of the race was just me, the open road, the gorgeous view of the lake and the roadkill; birds, cats, possums, a gigantic rat, AND A KANGAROO!!! … I thought that was hallucinating but I kid you not, it really was! …well close, it was a wallaby!  There was a sense of relief when I came out of the bush and past the roadblock to an aid station, finally spectators and the last long slog. 

My parents strategically placed themselves on this last long straight road by the airport which my father remembered as being one of the mentally toughest part of the race.  He was not wrong; this was about where I started to really truly feel like I’m actually running a marathon and started to unravel.  It was around the 35km mark, so close to the 42km finish line that I was visualising the end, and that was the problem … it was nowhere in sight, it was so near, yet so far and I had already taken my final gel at the 30km mark and needed something else to give me the extra boost I needed, yet didn’t calculated for. 

Running through the finishers shoot with cheering spectators either side was next level awesome and the sense of pride washed over me at what I had achieved.  I had no time I wanted to run it by, it was to just finish! I achieved my goal and everything else paled into significance.  I fist pumped the air just before going over the finish line … and just like childbirth 4 hours and 39 minutes, all was forgotten, and I got to the end holding my baby … I mean medal.  

Looking at the medal now, which I didn’t realise on the day, there is one significant everlasting reminder that I ran a marathon in 2020 … the ribbon is printed with the original race date of May 2nd.  This was more than just a medal, it represented pushing through what has been a challenging year, overcoming obstacles and not just seeing the light at the end of a tunnel, but going down the end to grab it yourself!

Now the question is, do I go back for more? My answer is yes! I now have a time to beat! The next marathon will be a flat one, who’s with me!!??

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