The Kahuterawa Two Day Classic race (27 and 28 November), organised by the Manawatu Striders, is a marathon broken into three stages over two days. Stage one is 7km long and started at nine in the morning. The 15.42km second stage started at one in the afternoon of the same day, and only the following morning at nine, saw the kick-off of the last leg of 21.57km. 42.2km in total. It’s a great way to get a feel for covering the distance of a marathon, while being broken down into manageable stages. In our unfit state, we sadly only managed the first short stage of 7km.
The race takes place south-east of Palmerston North on beautiful farmlands. A real country-style event on farm roads with only a short section on tar. Still in the mindset of SA events, which boasts fields of 1000+ runners, we arrived early at the Dransfield Woolshed to find parking, register and make our way to the starting line. Well, what a surprise to find only about 40 runners hanging around at the starting banner! In SA, these off-the-beaten-track small-town races with 200 or less entrants were always our favourite type – not having to park 3km from the start, arrive at least an hour early and elbowing your way to the registration desk, amongst thousands of other sleepy runners at five in the morning – deep heat and other eucalypt and mint ointment smells too familiar in these situations.
Just before nine, the organizer (Alister Martin/Phil Pirie?) quickly explained the course assuring us that it is well marked, and no one would get lost. This was good news as I was certain I would quickly fall way behind, and not being able to see the other runners, get horribly lost. After a countdown from the organizer (three… two… one… GO!), we were off on a steep little climb of about 200 metres, just to sort out the pecking order early on. And as expected we were already amongst the last five runners.
When we reached the top of the hill, the path flattened out a bit with a magnificent view of Palmy in the distance. The weather also held up nicely and it turned out to be an absolute stunning morning for a run in the countryside.
Gradually we made our way down the other side of the hill before going through some farm gates and eventually reaching the tar-road. A few hundred metres of running on the tar, before we reached the halfway mark, with me in the 40th and final position. I’ve often jokingly referred to myself as the “sweeper”, being at the back end of the field, but this time I was really dead last.
While this might be an embarrassing moment for some, I couldn’t care one bit. I am there, running/walking 7km in the beautiful kiwi countryside while hordes of others are not. And while I’m not currently the fastest kid on the block, there is an upside to the situation: there’s ample time to enjoy the scenery and take a few snapshots.
At the halfway mark you turn around and follow the same road back to the start/finish. The race is undulating with nice scenic variety including trees, grasslands, cattle fields, farm roads, and sealed roads. And what is really great about these out and back races, is that there are always other people around (except when you’re last at the halfway point of course!), and if you’re that way inclined you can count how far your are from the front or back. You get to see everybody at least once coming from the front, including the winner.
By all counts a great race that’s well organized. Would love to try the full marathon next year!