Date: 22 May 2016
And just like that, it was winter. When Gerry and I woke up to get ourselves sorted and head over to Massey to do the set up for our run, it was three degrees Celcius. When we started at 8am, is was only five degrees and at the warmest point during the day, the temperature reached 13 degrees. As luck would have it, this day also marked the start of the first snowfall in our region.
As part of training for an ultra event earlier in the year, we decided to do a 32km long-run around Massey’s ring road. The decision was simple really – we wanted access to hydration and nutrition on a regular basis without having to carry it all along with us. Parked at the bottom of the ring road, and stopped for a drink and a bite every second lap. And during this long day out with lots of time to think about stuff, the idea of an actual event around the ring road was conceived. A few laps later it dawned on us that roughly 21 loops would be a marathon and I thought naming it a 21-marathon had a nice ring to it. No pun intended. You know how sometimes people talk about a 10km or 21km or any other random distance as a marathon? Well, this was meant to take the mickey out of any old distance being called a “marathon”. Later on still, as we continued to circle the ring road, the ring idea morphed into ‘Lords of the Ring’, and the Lords of the Ring: Massey 21 Marathon was born.
We arrived an hour or so before our planned starting time, to set up camp en-route at the bottom of the hill, with a clock, gazebo and water table. Rachael arrive shortly after, helping us to set up, and also to be our volunteer at the water point for the day. Driving around the ring road to put out signage and cones at street crossings, I realised how familiar I was with that piece of road, getting to run it most days of the week, every week, year in and year out. It is just an easy, no-think, route that our feet automatically knows their way around.
The darkness was only starting to light up as Rob, Pete, Bobbie and Graeme arrived, all ready to start the big day ahead. At 8am we were off, first around the Bledisloe car park area to make up for the few hundred metres that we were short on the ring road, before starting to loop the ring road 21 times. We didn’t want to take any shortcuts with our own marathon so had previously borrowed a measuring wheel to accurately measure the 42.195km (plus a bit for good measure) distance.
Soon after reaching the ring road, Graeme and Rob took off ahead of us. I didn’t realise that it can happen so easily, but we never saw Rob again until the finish. We caught up with Graeme on the last couple of laps, but for the remainder, we were oblivious to the presence of our fellow marathoners. We were fortunate, however, to be accompanied by other friends who also came along to do a few laps. Besides Pete and Bobbie who did the first half of the run, Cheryl arrived about an hour into our run to do a few loops with us. And later on, Marian joined in on a few laps and we also briefly saw Perry around the course. The Striders’ Helpers Half (a race for the helpers who would be unable to run the official Striders event next week) was taking place at the same time as our run, and since it passed along part of the ring road, the occasional presence of fellow Striders runners and walkers further added to the social feel of the day.
The laps (as well as the kilometres) were ticking over nicely, and with six laps to go, Cheryl arrived back with her boys (who ran two laps with us) and a flask of hot chocolate. It was all timed so nicely that Gerry and I only had a couple of laps near the end without company. We even got to do one lap with our 5-in-5-in-5 partner in crime, Graeme. So all-in-all very social and quite a nice change from the usual event where everybody just goes off on their own.
I was very cold for most of the way and on the last few laps it really turned nasty. An icy cold wind picked up and rounding the road at the top running into a headwind with each lap, chilled me to the bone. I wanted it to end. But I also wanted it to go on for as long as my legs could carry me.
We ended up chatting and socialising so much, that we didn’t make up any time for our 5-hour average. But we had an absolutely fantastic time out on the road and never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that running a marathon with just four official participants could turn out to be so “easy”.
Which brings me to our water point. Earlier on, shortly after we created the official unofficial event (with branding; logo, medals to boot, just for fun), someone asked how we planned on keeping track with how many laps we’ve done. So Rachael offered to help keep count as the official unofficial lap counter. As the time grew closer and things started taking shape, Rachael offered to also man our water point. And not just man it, but basically bringing and sponsoring all the supplies! It was hands down the best water point I’ve ever had at any event, with anything from bananas, mandarins and oranges, to jelly sweets, homemade cookies, chocolates, chips (my favourite!) and even cake! With water, Coke and Powerade also supplied by Rachael, and our own electrolytes, we were well on our way to gaining a few kilos. 🙂
We could not have done this event without the help and support from a lot of friends. So herewith a huge thank you firstly to Rachael, for all your effort, encouragement, help and motivation – you are an absolute star. To the Manawatu Striders for the clock, gazebo, cones and signage which helped to turn our unofficial event into a “real” event. To everybody who came along for a few laps or just to chat and offer words of encouragement. We really appreciate it and cannot thank everybody enough. To our 5-in-5-in-5 partners in crime – Rob and Graeme – thank you for being part of this adventure. Hope you are having as much fun as we are.
Now just to manage a 4:51.57 or faster finishing time at the Palmy Manawatu Striders Marathon next week and we can claim our sub 5-hours average for the five marathons in five weeks. 🙂