Date: 21 March 2015
Taihape is a bit of a drive for us, but we needed the training and truth be told, if we tried to run back-to-back 21’s on our own, it probably wouldn’t have happened. Besides it’s so much more fun doing events, even if you are last and run most of the way on your own. You have support along the route and get to run on new roads, giving your mind and body a bit of a break from your usual training paths. Plus you support a local community, so why not?
The Taihape events saw a good turnout of some 300 participants. Unfortunately only about 29 entered for the half marathon run (and another approximately 20 for the walk). Gerry and I came 2nd and 3rd of the runners! – from the back, that is. 😉 But there were still a lot of walkers out there with the last person home in 4:19.
While out on the course Gerry and I were contemplating the reasons why the numbers are so small and still shrinking year after year at these small-town events, while the city events burst out of their seams boasting mammoth numbers of participants. And the only logical reason we could come up with is that nobody wants to be last. And the smaller the field, the better your chances are of being last – a position I’ve proudly taken at many events. Just call me Charlie!
Is the running culture a bit snobbish? Do runners feel that if you’re not fast, you might as well not do it? I was absolutely amazed to learn, for example, that the average finishing time at the Wellington marathon is less than four hours! I bet if Gerry and I weren’t in the mix, the stats would have looked even “better”. So what is better – more people participating or faster people participating? To me the answer is easy – the more the merrier! Having more participants is in everyone’s favour, from the organisers to your fellow runners and walkers. The question is therefore who’s to blame for the low participation numbers? Do fast runners look down on the slow pokes, or are the slow pokes just thinking fast runners look down on them? Is all of this “fear of failure” nonsense just in our own heads? And why does it matter so much what other people think (personally I don’t think they give a shit) that we rather not do something for fearing we might “fail” in the eyes of more seasoned, faster runners? You only fail yourself if you don’t do it. You are out there doing something physical, while the biggest chunk of the population is not. If you are a 6, 7, or 8min/km runner (or slower!), feeling ashamed that you’re not faster and therefore not entering for events, you are really missing out.
The Taihape Half is again a case in point. Within 20 metres after the start, we were dead last, managed to overtake one person in the first kilometre, and that was it – our position for the remainder of the event. But who cares! I maintain, if you’re an able-bodied person and you can do these things, you should! Don’t let your own vanity or shame get in the way of achieving great things. You do this for yourself – no one else.
I found the course reasonably hard and rather hilly, but don’t let that put you off. The first about 7km is on beautiful quiet country roads between hilly farms. Sheep and cattle graze the green valleys while the yellow grass at the tops provide evidence of the dry summer that’s suddenly turned into winter. Well almost. The highest temperature prediction for the day was 14 degrees (it ended up reaching 18). Although it was probably perfect running conditions, I found the shaded bits on the cold side.
After turning onto a gravel road, the next roughly 12.5km undulating road takes you through more farms, weaving your way through rural areas that’s quiet and beautifully serene. It is on these lonesome stretches that Gerry and I started thinking that it is such a shame that there aren’t more runners/walkers at these lovely events, and wishing that more people would participate to experience the awesomeness and to prevent these events from dying out altogether.
In the middle of the gravel road stretch, a 3km out-and-back section were just about the only bit of the run that reminded us that we were not doing a solo run, but are actually participating in an official event. Just before the 20km mark, the course links up with the first kilometre again to run back as you started off, but this time going downhill, as opposed to the uphill start.
Support on the course was in the form of six water and jelly beans stations, and portaloos at two spots. Marshalls and volunteers sacrificed their day to usher walkers and runners around the course, hand them drinks, making jokes and encouraging participants along. A lot of effort goes into organising these events and I can’t help but thinking the least we can do is to support them.
A lovely event, well organised and deserving of all the support they can get.