Saturday 18th January
A few weeks ago I was’t going to do this event. My knee was pretty painful just walking up a few steps, let alone trying to run a hilly half marathon course. But when your physio (and race winner) reckons you’ll be able to manage it, I couldn’t say no.
I was still debating it, as I wasn’t convinced I could make it round the tough course on such little run training over the last few months, but then an even better reason to run came up. Samantha Gash, ultra runner and advocate for change, decided to organise a Relief Run for the Australian Red Cross to raise funds for those affected by the recent horrific bushfires raging across Australia. Being part of the MX Endurance community allows you to make friends all over the world, some of which were being affected by the bushfires. Its hard to comprehend just how devastating the fires are, but first hand accounts, along with actually being able to see the smoke all the way over in NZ, I knew I needed to do something. It just so happens that the relief run required participants to run/walk 21.1 km over the weekend 18-19th January. That’s it. I’m signing up for the off-road half.
Normally on a run and especially a course I have done before, I like to try and beat my previous time. But this run was all about getting though without aggravating my knee injury, having fun and being part of the local running community. Even if it took me 5 minutes longer than last year, I reckon I achieved my goals pretty successfully, definitely the having fun part! I would have maybe liked to have pushed a bit harder, but I know I have another solid week of training coming up and a race I definitely will be pushing myself in next Saturday… more on that next week!
I had the usual pre-race rush and gitters happening this morning, but thankfully Ryan was milking the cows, so I could get ready and get there early for a change. Its a good job I did get there a bit early as there were SO many people and cars. Its great to see, as this was going to be the last year of the event if they couldn’t get enough entrants.
I chatted to a few people, did my social media obligations and started to line up. I bumped into Sarah, from the FrontRunner shop and we agreed to run together. On a good day we are a similar pace, and it would have been a good race, but today we would need the extra support to get us both through.
And we’re off. A mass start of 580 people charging up the gravel road. Gravel is probably my most hated surface to run on and this was dry, loose and full of big rocks. I was conscious of my ankle and not getting in peoples way, but I managed to get up and over with out issues and settle into a rhythm. The first bit of single track is mostly you trying not to trip over your feet, or anyone else’s, but after a few more pinch climbs the runners spread out a bit more.
The course took you across the lake dam and around the walking and bridle trails first, before heading back to the start/finish area for those doing the quarter distance, and those on the half carry on around the mountain bike trails. The horse tracks are steep and chopped out, with some horse ‘obstacles’ to avoid as well! It was tough going, but the views of the mountain defiantly made up for it! It’s kinda weird to be running around the trials that I usually ride. But thats what makes this event so special, as you are running where you’re not supposed to and the tracks are in excellent condition. I was using my rope climbing technique for the steep horse hills and was stoked to find an actual rope to help you up a bank on one of the mountain bike tracks. It was too funny not to stop for a photo!
We stopped for quiet a few photos actually, but we were out there having fun and doing our best to make it back in one piece. Up the last hill, photo, then along the gravel and down the hill we started up to the finish. The photographer yelled out “only 900m to go”. I looked at my watch and I was still a good 1500m away from the 21.1km need for the relief run. Well this is going to be awkward! I tell Sarah to keep going, as her watch seems to be more accurate and I zig-zag my way back to the finish desperate to get more meters in. I get to the line and I’m still a few 100m short. HOW?! I quickly turn before the timing mat, heading along the other side of the barriers, so I don’t get in the way of actual finishers. I run along a bit further, frantically trying to calculate how much further I need, before turning round and heading to the finish for real this time. My maths pays off and I cross the line exactly at 21.1km. Phew!
Yeah I was a bit slower than I would have liked. Yeah we probably stopped and talked way more than we should. But my knee feels ok, if a bit puffy and I’ve helped raise money for charity. The medal feels a bit hollow, as I know I can go better. So maybe next year I’ll not get injured and actually train for it!
The Taranaki Off-Road Half Marathon is an excellent event, with a challenging and interesting course and Matt and the team at Cut a Trail do an incredible job organising everything. Thank you for making this happen again.