The Great Forest Events saw its 18th running this year and boasted a whopping 3243 finishers over all 8 disciplines: 42.2km run and walk, 21.1km run and walk, 10km run and walk, and a 5km run and walk. With the Rotorua marathon only 3 weeks away, we decided to do back-to-back half marathons as our weekend long run.
Waitarere Forest is near Levin, some 45km from us, which meant we didn’t have much traveling to do before the event. It was the first run on our weekend agenda and we were fairly relaxed about it. But with Murphy at play, we ended up having at least one item too many on our weekend plan. Morcheeba, a British band we liked quite a lot during their heyday, was playing in Wellington on the Friday night, and we decided it’s something not to be missed. As is often the case, gigs tend to carry on till late, and having to make the two hour drive back to Palmy, we only got to bed around 2am. And to top it off, we had a couple of glasses of wine as carbo-loading.
Never a good idea to underestimate a half marathon. Yes, its not that far, but it certainly is no walk in the park.
With less than four hours sleep we arrived a little lethargic at the start at Waitarere Forest. Collected our race packs, donned bibs and timing chips and could take a leasurely stroll back to the car and around the start and finish. Huge trucks with portaloos were available, lots of food stalls; hot dogs, chips, coffee, ice cream etc were for sale, and generally everything was quite festive in anticipation of the thousands of runners and walkers that entered the event. This must count as one of the bigger races in New Zealand.
With 20 minutes to go, we were taken to the start a couple of 100 metres away from the finish area. Although it was raining on and off in the week leading up to the event, race day weather could not have been more perfect. Overcast, no rain, fairly warm and if there was a light breeze, we were completely sheltered from it in the forest.
The whole race is on forest roads, hence off road, but being so close to the beach, there’s also lots of patches on sand. We were warned prior to the event that this run could be very muddy in rainy conditions. Luckily this was not the case, but with tree debris, roots, small stones etc, it is fairly tough on calf muscles.
It is a lovely run in a beautiful area, and the organisation could not be faulted. Water tables every 3kms and some also stocked with energy drinks. Although the whole run is in the forest, where apart from trees you don’t have much of a view, you reach the Manawatu River at around the 13km mark. Just a quick sighting of the river before you head back into the forest. After a short while, you get another quick glimpse of the river. Being amongst tall trees leaves one quite disoriented in terms of north and south.
The marathon is two laps of the 21 course and a few of the front runners passed us on their way to the finish. They started an hour earlier, while the 10km event started an hour later than us. The staggered starts helped a lot to avoid stampedes on the narrow roads. With about 4km to go, the 10km runners linked up with us, and boy does it play tricks with your subconscious mind when heaps of runners pass you in the final stages! Although tired and a little shot after 19kms, the fact that so many runners came past just multiplied the feeling ten-fold.
We managed a time of 2:11.28, which was faster than planned, taking into account that we had to run another half the following day. Prize-giving was at 1pm after which we drove home for a lazy afternoon and some much needed rest and recovery.
This is a great event and a must on any running calendar – even if just to walk the 10km. The third event in NZ where we received medals. 🙂