On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me …

The Big Christmas Feast – A Greatest Virtual Run Challenge, raising money for kids on the spectrum

Date: 1-12 December 2017
Distance: 200km
Previous GVR: 2017

My middle name is procrastination. And Gerry’s first, middle and last names are procrastination. Maybe it is just a severe case of student syndrome? But, it only took us until well into the first of December, the day the challenge started, before finally entering. It might just be a classic case of an already out-of-hand hectic life, with work, this time of year, and all that jazz that the fun things in life tend to be ignored and end up falling by the wayside. Luckily we had two minutes of sanity to quickly enter.

Named after The twelve days of Christmas, a Christmas carol dating back to the 1700s, this Greatest Virutal Run Challenge is intended to keep accumulating kilometres to reach a certain target over a twelve day period. Whether you choose to do the Rudolph’s challenge 12km, the Great Santa Marathon 42km, Running with the Elves 60km challenge, or the 200km Big Christmas Feast, you are sure to “bank” some burned calories for the festive season. 🙂

Traditionally the twelve days of Christmas would start on Christmas day. The Christmas carol is a cumulative song, and was probably meant to be from a children’s memory and forfeit game. So on the first day, “my true love” would sent me one gift, on the second day it would be two, on the third day three gifts, and so on. The gifts would remain the same, except each day a new (different) gift will be added.

To go with this theme then, and to reach 200km in twelve days, we should have done the runs in a cumulative fashion as well. Starting at 11km the first day, 12km the second day, 13km the third day, and so on, you would reach 198km after 12 days, with the biggest final day being 22km. Not quite the correct distance, but what’s a couple of kilometres between friends. And if you’re a purist, you should keep to the same course and just add another kilometre each day. 😀

However, being a particularly difficult time of year, things don’t always go according to plan. We knew when we signed up that it was going to be hard, with Gerry’s working on weekends and week nights, just to reach the right amount of kilometres (it roughly boils down to about 17km per day) let alone follow a strict cumulative plan. Allowing flexibility, we sometimes had to almost double the daily average to make up for days when it was really impossible to get out the door. We also couldn’t (didn’t want to) run all those kilometres, and opted to walk at least half or more to make up the distance. Being pressed for time walking isn’t really the best way to add kilometres, especially if your walking muscles haven’t done much in the last year. But we just had to make it happen as running it all is not an option (you cannot jump from 60km/week to 120km/week – that would be stupid).

Here is how it panned out in our case.

1 December 2017 (Friday) – 20km
“Bunking school” so to speak, we decided to start off with a run/walk of 20km. It was a perfect day, sunny and just a slight breeze, and to make the most of it we chose to do our favourite course up in the wind farm on North Range Road. We parked our car where the 4X4 section starts, and ran out for 10km (down to the power station) and walked back. We knew it was going to be hot, so we slip, slap, slopped. Unfortunately, some of my sloppy sloppping were wiped off by my hydration pack, and other spots on my legs I’ve just applied the sunblock too half-arsed, therefore getting rather sunburned in spots. The result was something that resembled a vanilla and strawberry marble cake later that night. Roasted lobster anyone?

Overall it was a most enjoyable outing. Since we’ve been doing 60km+ weeks most weeks the last few months, these outings are not as daunting as before, and definitely much easier than when we were only doing between 30 and 40km weeks.

2 December 2017 (Saturday) – 15km
Gerry had a five-hour training session in Wellington, and with the four plus hours on the road, some preparation and packing up afterwards, it always turns into a very long day. One where the only thing you want to do when finally back home in the evening, is pour a glass and sit with your feet up. We knew the weekend was going to be a challenge, so we decided to do the Porirua parkrun on the way to work. Meeting Gary there, meant that we couldn’t bail last minute, even though it resulted in a very early start, having to get up before 5am. But, If all else fails and we only manage one run for the weekend, we would at least have 5km in the bank.

The course is a steady climb to the halfway mark, which makes for a relaxed and easy downhill back to the finish. A huge-ish field of 129 parkrunners and perfect weather to boot.

When we got back home at 6:30pm, we off-loaded the car and changed clothes, before heading back into the suburbs for a 10km walk. It was 7:30pm by the time we started, and at a 10min/km average pace, it took about an hour forty minutes to cover the distance. This was already turning into a huge challenge and it was only the second day!

3 December 2017 (Sunday) – 10km
Another working day in Wellington, so another ten hours of the day allocated to work and travel. We decided to leave half an hour earlier (to be sure to find parking in Wellington close to Te Papa on market day), and go for a walk around the bays on Oriental Parade before work. Apart from a strong-ish wind, the weather was good, so we managed to fit in a 4km walk in the morning.

Back home early evening, we forced ourselves to go out for another 6km walk. It was a good change from all the sitting while traveling and working on a laptop all day (in my case). It also was a pleasant evening out, although very muggy, but I’m glad we could manage to fit it in.


We came, we ran, but we were still some way from finishing…

4 December 2017 (Monday) – 0km
What can I say – we’ve gone from bad to worse. Life got in the way and we could not find a single minute in the day to go out for a run. Two days (Monday & Tuesday) of First Aid training for Gerry, while I’m catching up on photoshop work that has fallen behind due to other work commitments. And still three hours photography training in Whanganui in the evening. What was meant to be a late night, turned into an early morning only making it to bed after 12am.

5 December 2017 (Tuesday) – 22km
With only 45km in the bank after four days, we were well and truly behind schedule. We still had 155km to go by the next Tuesday, meaning only eight days to get it all done. Fortunately, we’ve been having the most gorgeous weather with no rain and only light wind. Unfortunately, this drought also means our water tank is down to only a third and with no rain in sight, we will soon have to pay for showers at the pool or library! And with all the running and walking we’ve been doing, the laundry pile was also taking on monstrous proportions. Not good for our limited water supply.

And as if the water crisis isn’t enough, our laptop decided this was a good day to kick the bucket! Total meltdown and panic stations all round. It’s been a bad year for computers in the Le Roux household. First the Big Mac in June and now the laptop. Everything we do is on the laptop, and although we’re both fairly diligent with backing-up our work, we have been too flat out with bucket loads of stuff to do every day, that we’re about two weeks behind on backups. That’s many hours of work potentially gone. Including this story, that was an ongoing process…

For a few days we both went through the five stages of dealing with loss: denial (not even looking at the damn thing, let alone think about what to do next), anger (stupid stupid laptop, stupid stupid me for not backing up my work), bargaining (maybe just tell the client everything is gone and there’s nothing any one can do about it – a good, solid two weeks of work), depression (pour another tipple, please) and acceptance (shit happens. Walk it off).

A day later Gerry took it to the doctor, who diagnosed the hard drive to be buggered, installed a new one, charged an arm, and claimed they couldn’t retrieve any of the information. Another round of denial and anger on my side. Luckily Gerry has a colleague who is just amazing with technology. He has a wee gadget he created for just such an occasion, and thankfully Gerry could retrieve everything through Thursday night, even in the same folders and structure everything was before! Disaster averted. We owe said colleague big time.

Back to Tuesday’s run; one would think that a day off would make a huge difference as to how capable you feel physically, but boy o boy, stress takes it out of you. With nerves in a knot and having to fit in a longish run, we tried to find a course with a bit of everything while still being still being close to the car at any given point, just incase we needed to bail. We did the 4km Summerhill trail first, and from there on it was flat all the way, up and down the river on both sides. After 12km we called the running bit quits, and walked the remaining 10km.

6 December 2017 (Wednesday) – 20km

Still stressed about the laptop and all the potential lost data, we did not feel like having to think about anything (where to run, where to find water, toilets, the burden of taking a hydration pack), so we went for our usual 2km ring road circuit on Massey campus. It remains one of the easiest ways to get the job done. We could only fit it in in the evening, and with the car parked on the course, so to speak, we could hydrate and fuel every two kilometres. And, if at any point we needed more/less clothes, a change of shoes, whatever, we had it all right there. After 18km we were tempted to stop, but figured we might as well do another lap and get to 20km.

The intention was to run one lap, walk one lap. But, being constantly pressed for time, we ended up running most of the laps and only walking small bits.

7 December 2017 (Thursday) – 33km

Being in catch-up mode, and physically and psychologically exhausted (with still no good news in terms of our data recovery at this point), we decided to just “walk it off”. Gerry could get the day off of work, as he’s accumulated quite a lot of hours overtime.

The aim was to do about 30km over 6 hours. This was also the day that Jason (the challenge creator – bugger!) was going to run 60km at school with the kids, creating awareness and collecting money for the Running on the Spectrum charity. So we figured we should roughly be out on the road for the same length of time as he would be, but we would only be covering half his distance.

Again we opted to do laps, but this time went around two of our usual loops with the car in the middle. Two toilets on course (three, if you count the one that is about 200m out of the way) and at least two water points. Having the car in the middle, again meant that we didn’t had to carry everything with us in a hydration pack.

Walking is hard. It doesn’t come natural to me (not that running is much better!) and I have to work really hard to keep my turnover high. Although I love walking, I always find it a bit tough on shins and under-utilised muscles. Needless to say, this was one of the more challenging outings of the challenge so far.

8 December 2017 (Friday) – 10km

Another late night (had to get the Christmas cake done) and another early start. Lack of sleep is the last thing you want when you up your kilometres. We all know that rest/sleep is when your body recovers, so going without enough sleep, is a recipe for injuries. Apart from some niggles here and there (Gerry’s plantar fasciitis and shins being the worst offenders on the walks), we were holding up surprisingly well. Touch wood.

Before six in the morning we were on our way to meet Ian Argyle again to help for a few hours on Nae Nae Track. This new track is progressing well, and Ian and a bunch of other volunteers has already put in a lot of effort. Between the three of us, we managed to do three hand railings and a few steps on some of the steepest parts. One of the big issues is having to carry all wood, pegs, waratahs, tools, screws, drill, nuts and bolts, hammer, you name it, up the track. And the further the track progresses, the further you have to carry everything. A good workout which, sadly, we didn’t record as that would have added a few kilometres to our tally. But, never mind.

Back home some four hours later, we could fit in only a 10km run, before heading off for another commitment. The easiest option was to just do our usual on-road Massey loop, and some. So that is 132kms done.

9 December 2017 (Saturday) – 21km

Gerry had his final session in Whanganui with the short-courses photography students, so I decided to run the local club’s annual half marathon to kill some time while we were there.

More on the event here.

As Gerry was now behind on the kilometres, he went out for a quick 11+km run down the road once we got back home early evening. Only 10km more for him to catch up.

10 December 2017 (Sunday) – 20km

Meeting up with the Striders at 8am for their weekly club run, we were uncertain what to do. Not a lot of runners pitch up at these runs, and the ones that were there are too fast for my current state. We thought of going out with the walkers, but chose the slowest group, which I was led to believe would go at a 6km per hour pace, but it soon proved otherwise as they were clearly out on a very leisurely stroll.. So a few hundred metres into the walk, we decided to just do our own thing. Initially we thought of walking 10km in the morning and run another 10km or so in the evening, but once we got going, we just kept on going and managed to run a bit more than 15km, and walk back to the car (about 5km).

Back at the car, Gerry decided to run another 6+km to get closer to where he’s supposed to be. That left him with only about 3km still behind schedule. At this point I was on 174km and Gerry on 171km.

A bit more windy and cooler than any of the other days so far, but happy that we’ve done our bit for the day, we went home to get a Sunday roast in the oven and pour a glass of red.

11 December 2017 (Monday) – 21km
Hard to believe we are on the second to last day of this challenge. Being on the home-stretch, I feel like a horse that smelled home – I just want to get there already. Before Gerry had to clock in at work, we went out for a 15km run. The plan was to run 15km and walk another 5km or so. But, being in no state to make it out of bed early enough, we could only fit in the run.

After work (and my dental hygienist appointment) we had another nice walk of 6km around the duck pond and through the Esplanade. By the way, did you know that running is actually bad for your teeth? “’The triathletes’ high carbohydrate consumption, including sports drinks, gels, and bars during training, can lower the mouth’s pH below the critical mark of 5.5,’ Cornelia Frese told Runner’s World Newswire. ‘That can lead to dental erosion and cavities. Also, the athletes breathe through the mouth during hard exercise. The mouth gets dry, and produces less saliva, which normally protects the teeth.’” Read more.

But that’s a worry for another day. The bubbly is on ice. Only one more sleep. One more run.

12 December 2017 (Tuesday) – 7km
With only about 5km left to complete the challenge, we went for the easy way out. And what is less arduous than just covering our familiar Massey ring-road. But, unlike we usually do, we decided to go out the back of Massey and straight back to the car. Being only 5km, it took some serious motivation to get going. Why bother with only 5km? 😀


Still warm, but with some cloud and light wind, we managed to finish the whole 12 days without a single minute of inclement weather – and not a drop of rain. As it turned out, NZ is in the midst of one of the biggest droughts we’ve seen in ages (as can be seen from the brown grass in some of the photos).

And so another challenge is done and dusted. We weren’t always equally excited about having to go out for long runs, but after a few days it started to get easier. And as is always the case, once you go long, your mind grows strong.


These are the shoes that carried us through the 200km challenge. Evidently, I’m a bit of an Altra fan.

Thanks to Jason, Shona and the Greatest Virtual Run-team for dreaming up these challenges. It is a great way to get going and a good motivator. If I make the next 100km event, I will think back on some of these days and the word, Ultreia! It loosely translates to onward/forward. Which bring to mind the tale about this old man who lived in a very small village, and who was extremely lazy. One day the town folk decided he’s not worth the hassle anymore and they would bury him alive. Pleased with the decision, the old man was laying in his coffin while the bearers carried him to his grave. One old lady was particularly concerned about the decision to bury the old man alive and asked if there wasn’t maybe something the old man could do to pull his weight in the village? A small task like chopping wood or something? At which point the old man shouted from his coffin: “On-with-the-corpse!”, “On-with-the-corpse!”.

On ultras, this will be my new mantra – Ultreia! On with the corpse!





Three bridges and three ditches

Date: 9 December 2017
Distance: 21.1km
Time: 2:12.20
Previous: 2010, 2014

The Whanganui 3-bridges event was only the third event we’d done in NZ (in 2010) and I still have fond memories of the day. We only did the 10km back then, but having done the Mountain to Surf marathon in 2008 during a visit and tour of the country, and the Kahuterawa Classic 7km also in 2010, we were starting to get a feel for NZ events.

This year the event day was Gerry’s final day with the 10-week short course photography students in Whanganui, so I decided to do the Property Brokers Whanganui 3-Bridges half marathon to kill the time. NZ is in the midst of a very dry spell – we haven’t really had rain for more than a months and our water tanks are dangerously close to empty with no sign of rain in our region any time soon. On top of that, we’ve had an exceptionally warm summer so far, with temperatures in the high twenties, and scorching sun every day. Blue skies! Yay!

Not surprising then that most participants battled with the conditions, which might have impacted on some runners’/walkers’ times.

Like an idiot I didn’t bother to read the race information on their website, and just assumed that I would be able to enter on the morning. As it turned out, the organisers also made a FB post on their site (I’m not following it) stating that there will be no on-the-day entries. Thankfully, the organisers where flexible and decided to take my money in exchange for a bib. 🙂 Entry sorted. Phew.

After race briefing we all lined up in the road (Somme Parade). I decided to use my phone Strava app to track my run. So with a phone in one hand, a bag of jelly sweets and hanky in the other, we were off. I can confirm this – I’ve run with bags of jelly sweets plenty times, but a phone is just a pain in the butt. It’s a clumsy stupid thing to hold onto, while making sure not to accidentally press a button to turn it off, or to call someone mid-run. I was particularly concerned I might stumble or lose my grip while on the bridges and see it flying into the river!

My one other concern was that I was about to have a really huge running week, being part of the 200km-in-twelve-days Big Christmas Feast, Greatest Virtual Run challenge, and I was already sitting on 85km for the week. This event would push me over the 100km mark which we only do when we enter for long ultras. Which, coincidentally we’ve done. Grrr. So, this challenge is a good way to kick us into action as our next 100km event (Gone Nuts in Tasmania) is already on 3 March 2018 – a little more than two months away. While I’m cussing at Jason right now, I also have to thank him for creating this challenge as it is a timely reminder that we really need to do higher mileage in the weeks to come.

What I thought would be a really slow trot around the course, turned into a nice, comfortable run/jog. I started off faster than anticipated, but just kept to a pace I knew I could maintain throughout the course. Not flat-out, but not dilly-dallying either. I was feeling good and running at a fairly decent pace of about 6min/km, despite all the kilometres on the legs, Yet I was still among the last ten or so participants at the turn-around in Kowhai Park on the first lap. NZ events really need more participants!

It was very hot and muggy, but it didn’t bother me too much. Being used to much warmer temperatures, I was really enjoying not having watery eyes and a runny nose because of the cold air. The day started off overcast and remained that way for the most part, but every now and then the sun would make an appearance making things even worse of you are not good at handling the heat.

Since the flood in 2015, the river path hasn’t been fixed. But in the past week, the council got going on the footpath and managed to create a temporary path to be used so that runners and walkers didn’t have to cross the road twice. Unfortunately, three cheeky little ditches had to be negotiated with every lap. As one marathon runner pointed out on my first lap going up one of these ditches: “this is going to be interesting on 35km!”. I felt sorry for anyone thinking of posting a PB. If the tight corners passing over and under the bridges, combined with the heat on the day didn’t get to you, these very steep down-and-ups certainly would.

There were three water points on the course, stocked with water and electrolyte to keep participants hydrated. Not sure if it would be enough, as it seemed that a lot of runners/walkers where struggling with the heat. I am aware of at least one person (a fellow Manawatu Strider) who was hospitalised later that evening with heat stroke.

By the time I started on the second lap, and keeping to a fairly consistent pace, I started catching a lot of runners. Apart from passing someone every now and again, I was on my own for the most part. Hard to believe that the field can get so spread out on a 10km lap that you run all by yourself for very long stretches. Although I had an enjoyable run, it would have been much more fun if Gerry could be there too.

Prize-giving kicked off at 13:30. The event certainly have grown over the years, and it is run more professionally every year. It was great to see so many fellow Manawatu Striders club mates.

With 107km under the belt for the week so far (with Sunday still to add more), I caught up with Gerry after his class, and we made out way home with a thermos of coffee and some homemade Christmas cake.

Porirua parkrun

Date: 2 December 2017
Distance: 5km
Time: 29.27
Previous: Hamilton #1, Palmy #1, Kapiti Coast #1, Palmy #2

On another work outing to Wellington, we decided to try the Porirua parkrun, which saw its first running in the winter of 2013. We haven’t done it before and aren’t too sure when we will get the opportunity again.

After the previous night’s couple of glasses of bubbly (we had some compulsory celebrations to take care of ;-)) and getting to bed quite late, it was a challenge getting out of bed before five in the morning. Driving down to Porirua, I was still trying to wake up over a cup of coffee.

We were running late. Not sure how it always happens, but you are still well on time the one minute, and then “nek minute”, you’re late. As luck would have it, we also missed the turn-off in Porirua and had to keep going on the highway for another 5km. That happens when you start to doubt yourself and rather follow the phone’s instructions, despite weak reception and the GPS still trying to catch up!

Luckily the Porirua gang is very relaxed and it turned out we were well on time and even a bit early arriving a few seconds before 8am. They have heaps of awards for PBs (chocolate mini-slabs) and multi-PBs (jet planes for 3 or more PBs in a month), and so on, meaning that it took quite a while to get through all the formalities. On the bright side, it is rather nice to see people being rewarded for their efforts, even if it is just in the form of a jet plane or a chocolate fish.

By about 8:15 the whistle blew and we were on our way. The course is a lovely off-road track in Bothamley Park in Cannons Creek. With the lack of rain of late, it was a bit of a dust bowl in the gorge, but as the field of runners spread out, the dust was less prevalent. The path follows the Kenepuru Stream on a slow incline (40m elevation in total) until you reach the halfway mark. Turning around and running back the same way you came, meant a nice long downhill (potential) sprint to the finish. We were in no hurry, and just took it easy on the way out and back. Truth be told, a 6min/km pace to me these days does not come as “easy” as it used to, and it almost did feel like I was sprinting.

It was great that Gary could also make the trip across from his usual hangout (Kapiti parkrun) so we met up with him before the start. The three of us ran together chatting away and catching up, making the kilometres tick over in no time.

The Porirua parkrun must be one of the largest in NZ, boasting on average about 90 participants. They’re probably also be one of the oldest, having started in the winter of 2013, with the first NZ parkrun being staged in Lower Hutt in 2012.

The Porirua parkrun have a start/finish sign post, kilometre markers, as well as the turn-around point which are all permanent fixtures. This parkrun definitely feels more “inclusive” and although we were still in the back half of the field, there are lots of runners/walkers just taking it easy. Some with dogs, others with baby strollers, and others just out on a walk. Another contributing factor to the size and social aspect of this parkrun, might be that it is also used as a “green prescription”.

Coffee afterwards at the McDonald’s is encouraged.

It was warm and humid and being drenched, we stayed for a while afterwards to dry out a bit and rehydrate before heading off to work. A quick wet wipe shower was the best we could do before getting on with life.


Proprioception on a flatline

Footprints in the Sand – Foxton Beach inaugural half marathon

Date: 25 November 2017
Distance: 21.1km (we measured 21.8km)
Time: 2:29:52
Previous: 2014

When we entered for this event on the morning before the start, little did we know that it was an inaugural. Whoop! Another one in the bag. To be fair, it can hardly count as an inaugural since this event is already in its fourth year. But, previous runnings were only twenty kilometres and 2017 marked the first year that it is an official half marathon. So, technically it IS an inaugural and mind you, I only realised now that the very first one we did back in 2014, was also an inaugural. 🙂

Being the kind of event that it is – a straight, flat course on a mile wide beach – you have lots of time to think. Your mind can wander endlessly, without having to worry that you might miss a course marker, or a turn-off, or stumble and fall over something. There is nothing apart from vehicle tracks, footprints, sea to the one side, and some drift wood and sand dunes to the other side. It is almost a zen-like experience, if only you can turn off your mind and “live in the moment”. Easier said than done, with all the stresses that comes with daily life that usually occupies ones mind.

While trying to get into the moment, I thought about another buzz-word that seems to crop up everywhere. Proprioception. It has to do with your body, movement and joints and how you/your body fit into your environment. Your awareness of where you are in space. So, I started to try and become more “aware”. I would look up ahead, making sure there is really absolutely nothing to stumble over, then close my eyes and run by feel. Just listening to my footfall on the sand, the sea swooshing far to the left/right (depending whether you’re on the way out, or the way back) and concentrating on my breathing.

And this made me think about one of the “tricks” to help improve your running form. Stand on one leg and close your eyes. Once you’ve mastered that for, say, two to five minutes on end without falling over, start doing things while in that position, like brushing your teeth. Hard, isn’t it?

When running with eyes closed, I imagined one might reach a state of “flow” easier. It is not every day that you get the opportunity to run with your eyes closed (apart maybe from running on a treadmill?), but being in nature while you do it is as close as you can get to “being in the moment” completely. Away from modern life’s interference. It was difficult at first, and I didn’t “trust” myself or my surroundings, but once I recognised and acknowledged the environment to be “safe”, I managed quite long stretches of “mindless” “blind” running. Without fail, every time I started concentrating too hard on my footfall, or when my foot might hit the ground, doubt would set in making me think that the sand was closer or further away than it actually was, losing my focus (or is it intuition? mindfulness?) and be forced to open my eyes and get back to reality. And therefore also lose that zen-like moment.

As it happened then, now also here. Enough of the fuzzy, feely stuff. Ultreia!

The weather was absolutely perfect. Overcast, warm and just the slightest of breezes to keep us cool. The humidity was out of the park, and we both perspired like bulls at a yard sale. No baby seals or blue bottles this time, but heap of fish carcasses and even a wee shark. Seven water points on the way out and back to make sure all 17 participants (four walkers and 13 runners) stayed well hydrated on the half marathon course.

To make up for the extra kilometre needed to turn this into a half marathon, participants first head south towards Wellington for about half a kilometre, before turning around and running all the way north towards Himatangi Beach, make another U-ie and back again to Foxton Beach Surf Club. It has to be the straightest and flattest half marathon in the country. But, make no mistake, I could well and truly feel my calves and hammies have worked harder than on a normal road or trail run. Although it was low tide and the sand solid packed, the aftermath was still reminiscent of sand running.

The 10km and 5km events saw a few more participants and overall we were in the order of about 200 runners/walkers. Thanks to the Foxton Lions Club for staging such a lovely event. More than a hundred spot-prizes made sure that almost everybody walked away with something. I received a $20 voucher from Mr Grumpy fast foods (that’s lunch sorted), and Gerry a free WOF. At only $25pp entry fee, we got more than our money’s worth back in spot-prizes!

I’m puzzled as to why the numbers are so low in the half marathon. Fingers crossed for a better turnout next year.


Linking two towns – Ashhurst to Esplanade

Date: 19 November 2017
Distance: 21.1km (we measured 21.5km)
Time: 3:25
Previous: 2014

This year saw the fourth running of the Ashhurst to Esplanade walking and running event, which is a gem on the local calendar. Organised by the Manawatu Striders Running and Walking club it is a lovely walk linking two towns.

The long course starts at the Ashhurst Domain and finishes at the Palmerston North Esplanade, roughly following the Manawatu River. It passes through private land and as such, participating in the event is the only opportunity to experience a different part of the river track.

Being on Tail-end Charlie duties, Gerry and I decided to make a day of it. All dressed up and ready to go, we were armoured with a small backpack, stuffed with a first-aid kit, water, electrolytes, nutrition and warm clothing to last us all day. Also, we could help out a participant in need with more than just a plaster or bandage, if such a situation might arise.

Starting at 8:30am for the walkers, and 9:30am for runners, we were off shortly after the last participant crossed the starting line. As is often the case with official events, everybody is rearing to go and usually fast out of the starting blocks. But, the enthusiasm and excitement fueled by adrenaline almost always wears off within the first two kilometres. We had all day, and decided to just take if very easy at the back of the field as we knew we will catch up with the back runners soon enough. On a very slow jog, stopping to take photos, waiting for someone to tie a shoe lace, we made our way around the sports field at the Ashhurst domain, before heading down SH3 for a couple hundred metres towards the river, where you turn right onto the river walkway.

On this well maintained gravel walkway, we kept the last participants in our view while staying far enough behind so as not to unnerve them. We walked bits and jogged little bits, while enjoying the scenery. After about 4.5 kms we reached the first water point where the course enters private land. Usually, at this point one would have to turn right and follow Raukawa Road out towards SH3 (Napier Road). But, by participating in the event we could continue on along the quiet gravel path through the Higgins aggregates depot yard.

At the 9km mark we reached the second water point at the main entrance/exit gate of Higgins, which is also the start of the shorter 12km course. The course is marked every kilometre, counting down, so you know exactly where you are and how far to go.

After answering nature’s call (this water point also has portaloos), we turned left onto Te Matai Road for the next four kilometres. At this point, we were walking all the way as the slowest runner was going at a comfortable walking speed.

With the walkers starting and hour earlier, there was no chance that we would catch any of them.

At the far end of Te Matai Road, we turned left onto Riverside Drive to reach the third water point before getting back onto the River Walkway and Bridle Track for the remainder of the course. On a gentle stroll, snacking on everything we had, just because we had it, and chatting away we got to spent a lovely morning out on a beautiful track right in our backyard. The fourth water point was at the exit to Albert Street, about 4km from the finish.

Back at the Palmerston North Esplanade, we made a few twists and turns through the gorgeous gardens before the final “lap of glory” at Manawaroa/Ongley Park towards the finish line. The cherry on the cake was seeing the elated expression of the last person crossing the finish line, being cheered on by friends/family, the joy and sense of achievement. A first time half-marathoner who only started running some eight months ago.

Being a very supportive community event and a well organised one to boot, there is really no reason not to take part. Most people can walk 21.1km in four and a half hours (which is the time it took from the start of the walkers to the finish of the last person). Not having any cut-off time, means you can potentially take longer. All it takes is the will to reach your goal, and the determination to keep going even if you might experience some discomfort. Just a little bit of training will make your outing much more enjoyable.

Included in the entry fee of $30 for the Half ($20 for the 12km and $5 for the 3km events), you get free bus transport from the finish at Palmerston North Esplanade to the start at Ashhurst Domain, four water points en route and one at the finish, a sausage sizzle at the finish, and of course the course marking (so no getting lost or not finding your way back) and excellent traffic management.

Pencil in the date for the 2018 event, which will take place on 18 November. Hope to see many of you there!

For more information on next years event, please visit www.manawatustriders.org.nz or follow the club on Facebook.

Palmy parkrun #2

Date: 11 November 2017
Distance: 5km
Times: Gerry – 21.15 / Wouna – 26.37
Previous: Hamilton #1, Palmy #1, Kapiti Coast #1

When we have a weekend at home, we are like puppies that caught a car. We don’t know what to do with it. It happens so rarely that we were totally off guard when the weekend rolled around.

Luckily, running will always make the top of the list, and as if on autopilot we decided to do parkrun. Gerry opted to use this opportunity to see how fast he can go. He always runs with me which is way below his own capabilities, and would only once in a blue moon attempt a faster run by himself. On the plus side, he has never had any injuries in his life. I am convinced it is because he is always running much slower than what he is capable off.

After a 19km training run/walk the day before, I was feeling tired, lethargic and just generally not at my peak. Convinced that I would not be able to go much faster than what I managed at the Kapiti Coast parkrun (28.36), I still thought I might as well give it a go and see how far off of a 5min/km pace I am. To top it off, it was quite a chilly morning with a fresh headwind for the first half. Luckily that meant the tailwind on the way back would make things feel “easier” for the last push to the finish.

Also not sure how to really push myself, I just trotted along at a comfortable, but faster than normal, pace. Trying to run within myself, and not push myself to the maximum limit, I managed a reasonably comfortable finish two minutes faster than the Kapiti Coast parkrun. There’s hope yet to maybe manage a 25 minute parkrun some day!

I can see now why a lot of runners would use this as a time trial, rather than just a social outing. It is a perfectly measured and timed course. And you have runners of similar capabilities to pace yourself and keep things interesting. 🙂


Kapiti Coast parkrun

Date: 11 November 2017
Distance: 5km
Time: 28.36
Previous: Hamilton #1, Palmy #1

For more than six years, we’ve been driving down to Wellington on Saturday mornings for work. Not every Saturday, but on average about ten to twenty times per year. And for the past many years, we spoke about how we should leave earlier and do a parkrun on the way down. Having to work on a Saturday, is bad enough, let alone having to get up very early to drive down and still be in time. To fit in a parkrun would mean getting up even earlier, which sounded like pure torture. And with Fridays being, well, Fridays – the end of the week, time for a glass or two, movie, late night, contemplating the week and philosophising about life into the wee hours of the morning – getting up early on a Saturday is the last thing you want to do. And getting up really, really early is the very last thing you want to do.

After the inaugural Palmy parkrun, I think Gerry got some renewed energy to fit in a parkrun on the way down (there’s two on our trip to Wellington: Kapiti Coast and Porirua). It almost feels rude not to do it, especially since the Kapiti Coast parkrun is where we are registered (Palmy didn’t have one when we signed up a couple or years ago). And so finally, we made it happen. Still can’t believe we got out of bed in time.

This was only my third parkrun. Starting in Otaihanga Domain in Paraparaumu, the 73 participants followed the out-and-back course along the Waikanae River on a lovely, sheltered, off-road footpath. Although the gravel path is good for the most part, some sections are quite uneven with large-ish gravel/stone, which would be better suited to trail running shoes than Gerry’s minimalist Nike Flyknits! But, that is really no biggie – any ol’ shoes will do the trick. It is only 5km after all.

We started off way too fast. After a couple hundred metres, Gerry asked if there was anyone behind us. I was aware of one other person, and despite me running at the speed of light, huffing and puffing while I tried to catch my breath, we were right at the back of the field.

After about 2kms of panting and trying to actually be part of the field, my body finally woke up and I managed to have a more comfortable run at a faster pace in the second half. If I was a speed-demon and someone who seriously worried about my times, a warmup would have been a good idea. I’m used to long and slow, so there’s usually really no need to exert myself with a warmup!

The weather could not have been more perfect. A beautiful, sunny, windless morning for a parkrun – a perfect way to start the day (and weekend). I believe some people may have stayed behind for a post-run coffee at the coffee cart at the finish. We didn’t see or smell any coffee, but were in too much of a hurry to get going anyway. At Porirua, we stopped for a wetwipe-shower and some clean clothes to get on with the rest of the day.

Who knows, maybe we can get up even earlier and fit in the Porirua parkrun on our next working weekend in Wellington!