Date: 30 April 2016
Time: 5:05:07 (or as one friend suggested, our time was 4 hours and 65 minutes :-D)
The Rotorua Marathon in conjunction with Athletics New Zealand ran a leap year competition where, if you entered for the marathon on 29 February, with a mate, you stood a chance of winning back both entries, and also receive a goodie bag from Asics (containing a technical T-shirt, socks, a cap and a backpack). We were going to enter anyway, so Gerry grabbed the opportunity to enter us into the competition, and we won! It was fantastic news, as our stint of 5 marathons in 5 weeks (starting with the Rotorua marathon) was turning out to be quite a costly affair for two people from the same household. Very chuffed with our entries and a gift pack from Asics to boot, we were eagerly looking forward to the marathon.
We drove through on Friday to pick up our race packs and have a look-see around the Expo, which I recalled to be quite nice the last time we were there (at the 50th anniversary). The weather was playing its part and everything looked set to be a good day to be out on the road around the lake.
With an accommodation offer (thanks Kathleen!) we spent the night in Taupo at a friends place and were also fortunate to travel with Rachael (another big thank you!) to Rotorua on the morning of the event. On our way there, I reminisced about our little endeavour. As mentioned before, we came up with the 5-in-5-in-5 challenge to celebrate all the marathons in our region over the course of five weeks, as well as setting ourselves a goal. I don’t know about you, but I like having a goal, something to strive for. It keeps me going, otherwise, I get lazy and whenever the weather is not particularly good I stop training. Which we all know is not good.
In the bigger scheme of things, our challenge really is nothing. A lot of runners I personally know could easily do 5 marathons in 5 weeks in 5 hours each. When thinking about some local heroes: Perry Newburn who ran the 3000 miles across America in 51 days, 16 hours and 40 minutes, covering roughly 90km per day, and Mal Law who did the 50 peaks in 50 days, covering almost a marathon each day, the Greek American, Dean Karnazes who did the 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states, and American James Lawrence (aka Iron Cowboy) who did 50 full ironmans in 50 days in 50 states (!!), to name but a few, our marathon stint pales in comparison. Lots of people undertake incredibly challenging endeavours which really puts our personal wee challenge to shame.
Having said that, even our challenge turned out to be more difficult than I hoped. For starters, you have to train a little – even if you only cover the bare minimum mileage without focussing on any quality sessions. I was hoping to do roughly 70+km per week for the final two months leading up to the start of the 5 marathons. However, a rather expensive ultra (which would have had us out of pocket if we forfeited our entries) for which I wasn’t nearly ready when we did it, being sick for the majority of my training, set me back much more than I hoped. So instead to continuing on a good base from January onwards, I was knocked back a few months by doing said ultra in February. It was as if I started from zero after that. Mind you, I should rather say that I started below zero as the ultra left me fatigued and the distance covered sat in my legs for a long time afterwards – issues I first had to overcome before I could start normal training from the bottom up. The result was that we could only ramp up the miles to about 60km per week, and only for the final three weeks before our first marathon. Not nearly enough. At least not for me.
Needless to say, I didn’t make the 5-hour time limit on the very first marathon (and Gerry decided to stick with me, so we both didn’t achieve our goal). We missed it by 5 minutes. Five! On hindsight I can think of quite a few stops and walks that I should have skipped to shave off the five minutes. But that will only buy me some time, as I am 100% sure that I will not make the next marathon in five hours either. It will take some serious commitment and dedicated training to make the T42 in five hours.
At the risk of sounding like I’m making more excuses, I just have to say that in my defence, I have also picked up some sort of stomach bug. Battling through diarrhoea and stomach cramps since Thursday, it made the run even more challenging. My intestines were on fire, feeling worse every time I took a drink of water or Powerade. After about 24km I started getting nauseous, and at the same time quite dizzy and off-balance. And I was cold for most of the way, felt weak and pale and at one point thought that maybe this was what overhydration felt like? But this was highly unlikely as the drink stations were sometimes quite far apart and only once did I felt the need to make a loo stop. Thinking back at that loo stop where I could squeeze out but a few drops, as well as the few times I felt so buggered and energy sapped that I had to sit in the gutter, I can’t help but thought if it weren’t for that, I might have reached the 5 hour time limit we set ourselves.
In terms of the course, Rotorua is not that hard in my humble opinion. Undulating for the most part with a hill or two thrown in for good measure. Compared to some others which are almost completely flat (Wellington, Palmy and Auckland apart from the harbour bridge), Rotorua might rate as one of the toughest in NZ? But to classify it as ‘difficult’ is not true. The camber on the road sometimes proved challenging and the traffic on the second half is just terrible. The cones were right in the gutter and not on the shoulder of the road as one would expect. Every time you pass someone or being passed, you have to negotiate oncoming traffic, which was a pain if not dangerous.
Rotorua is a really big event, iconic on the running calendar. This year it boasted a field of nearly 3300 participants across all events (42.2, 21.1, 10.5 and 5km run and walk). But truth be told, I didn’t find it particularly enjoyable. Maybe it was my state of mind (or maybe the fact that on both occasions I lined up being sick), but I also felt that the local support (which was absolutely fantastic last time) was lacking a little this time around? The expo was also smaller than our previous running of the event, with the exception of the main sponsor, Asics, who made up about a fifth of the expo and had lots of goodies on sale.
But, as they say, you win some you loose some. And who knows, I might be back to see if there is such a thing as third time lucky.
In terms of our challenge, we might have to rethink things a little. I will still be pleased if I could complete all five marathons on consecutive weekends, and maybe try to aim for a 5 hour average on the marathons? Or included a sixth marathon the week after, making it a 6-in-6-in-6? Time will tell. But for now, my main goal is to get through them all in one piece. 🙂