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.

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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.

Roy Lamberton Memorial half marathon – Feilding

Date: 4 November 2017
Distance: 21.1km
Time: 2:10.36
Previous: 2011

The previous time we did this half marathon (in 2011), the event started at the swimming pool and ran out of town in more or less the opposite direction than the current event before you turned around and ran back the same way. It was, still is, a lovely, small town, out-in-the-country-type event on an out-and-back course.

 

Leaving Palmy for the 35-minute drive to Feilding, we were pleased that the weather was playing along. It wasn’t too cold, although a cool nor-westerly of 21km/h was a bit of a nuisance. We arrived just in time to register ($50 for the half marathon) and catch up with some friends before race briefing and the start of the event. This was meant to be our weekend long-run, and would also be our longest week in ages, totaling 64km.

We started off on a faster-than-planned pace, but felt comfortable, so we just kept going. At 3.2km, we passed the first water point, which was on the other side of the road. After I grabbed a cup of water, I suddenly felt uncertain/bad as I thought it was probably only to be used on the way back. Being an out-and-back course meant the same water points on the way out doubled up as the water points on the way back. Although there were only two water points, we thus actually had four (at 3.2km, 8.6km, 12.4km and 17.8km). But, having said that, the water at the second/third water point was literally just a sip (less than a third of a cup). And with the heat and humidity on the day, this was not nearly enough. I should have read the race details beforehand, (which I didn’t – my bad) so was unaware that you would have been better off carrying your own hydration pack to supplement what was on offer. Luckily, I always carry a bag of jelly sweets with me to keep the sugar levels intact.

We were going well without many aches or pains, at a comfortable pace. With the marathoners starting an hour and a half before us, we got to see the front runners as they came speeding back at about the 8km mark. The half marathon front runners had all passed us from the front by then. After the turn-around point, we started catching up with some runners as we, by hook or by crook, managed a negative split overall. Okay, all right, 30 seconds faster over the second half hardly counts as a negative split :-D. So, let’s just say we kept an even pace throughout. But, with most people going slower in the second half, we managed to pass quite a few.

And then we got lost. Don’t ask me how. Actually, it is not that difficult if you don’t know a town well, if you haven’t studied the map and if there’s no signage to indicate which road to take in the event of a fork in the road. Yes, it is an out-and-back course, but have you ever noticed how your usual trot around the block in the opposite direction looks so different that it may as well be a new course altogether. So we had to stop and ask for directions. Luckily the runner behind us was a local lad and knew the way, so we were on course again in no time. As it turned out, chatting to others after the event, we were not the only participants trotting down the wrong road!

This was the 63rd running of the Feilding Marathon (organised by the Feilding Moa Harrier Club), the oldest in the country. It was the 21st running of the half marathon and to commemorate this achievement, all Roy Lamberton Memorial half marathon finishers received a medal. Sorry marathoners, you only get a beer, banana and the slice of orange. 🙂

With prize-giving more than three hours away, Gerry and I opted to go out for some salad, chips and a beer/bubbly. By the time we got back to the sports grounds, the hall was packed and proceedings were under way. Both Gerry and I received a spot-prize (a pair of socks and a frying pan), which was great.

It is a lovely event and well worth supporting. Next time I will bring additional hydration and make sure to familiarise myself with the course. With the roads all open, and fairly busy, just a word of caution to be mindful of the traffic. There are some maniacs out there. Oh, and to put a positive spin on the lack of water, being a bit dehydrated worked in my favour as there are no toilets on the course – always a bit more tricky for us girls to find a decent spot.

With thanks to Rob Dabb, the Feilding Moa Harrier Club and all the sponsors and volunteers who help make these events happen.

 

Creatures of habit – Hatuma time again

Date: 17 September 2017
Distance: 21.1km (+11.1km)
Time: 2:25.28 (+1:16)
Previous: 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016

For our fifth running of the Hatuma Lime Half Marathon, we decided to add a few kilometres before the event start to get to 32km. It might be partially psychological, but I like to do a 32km long-run three or four weeks out from a marathon. Luckily the event was on so we only had to add 11kms to make up the distance.

Since we entered for the Tauranga International Marathon (happening on 7 October) ages ago, I’ve been trying to get myself on form, up the kilometres and generally just be half decently prepared. Unfortunately, it hasn’t materialised. By now I would have preferred to be on 70kms/week, but life got in the way and the best we could do was to get up to around 50km weeks, and only for the past month or so. Which brings me to the 50km per week mileage: it is only once I start to run at least 50km per week consistently for a couple of months, that I can actually feel improvement in terms of my fitness. Anything less, and it remains a slog to get through every run.

The weather was yet again atrocious leading up to the event. It was raining consistently, the wind was fairly strong, and Palmerston North even saw some hail the day before – the second time in one week. The weather prediction for the day didn’t look too flash either. But, on the morning of the event, things couldn’t be better. Cheryl joined us for the outing, and by 6:45 we were on our way to Waipukurau. This, if memory serves me well, this is the event we’ve done the most times of all events over the past 16 years. I can’t tell you why. It is just one of those things. Maybe because it is really cheap ($15 and you get a free T-shirt if you enter early)? Maybe because it is familiar? Or maybe we’re just creatures of habit. Who knows.

After registration, we quickly dropped our new Ts in the car, took off some layers, and were off on our 11km “warmup” run with seconds to spare before the walkers (and slow runners) were sent on their way. They started at 8:30. The “speedy” runners officially started at 10:00. I can’t remember it being this way in previous years, but the event now only allows 2:30 to complete the half marathon.

It seems to be the norm these days to have different starting times for fast runners, walkers, slow runners, fast walkers, other runners, the different distances and so on. Which I think is unfortunate. There’s something about a starting line and the masses of people, the chatter, banter and the sense of belonging – the “we are in this together”, no matter how fast or slow your are. With the separate starting times that start-line vibe is slowly dying out.

Our first 11km went by uneventfully. The idea was to take it really slow and just get the distance on our feet. We basically ran to the first water point and back. On the way back we saw all the walkers and early, slow runners. John Stuart was doing his 50th half marathon and a few of the Manawatu Striders members were walking with him for support and camaraderie.

Back to base, we had 14 minutes to take a drink of water, have a pee, and tape a hotspot on my foot before setting off on the half marathon. We were still trying to start the GPS on Gerry’s phone, and make a FB post (don’t ask) as we watched the field of runners disappear out the gate on the first out-and-back stretch in front of the race course. We were way behind everyone else (we could have been the official Tail-end Charles’s!), and it remained that way until about the 10km mark at the second water point. We passed four participants, one of which overtook us again a few kilometres up the road. It was only in the final few kilometres that we passed a few more. And it was only at these rare moments, as well as at the three water points, that we were not by ourselves. For the most part, it was just the two of us on a Sunday long-run.

The last seven kilometres tuned into quite a challenge as it was “virgin” territory again. Since my regular running excursions came to an abrupt halt about a year ago, we haven’t done much more than a few half marathons, and those were few and far between. My legs got that “lack of oxygen and blood flow” numbness/pain and the struggle was on. All I can think was how on earth was I going to get to the finish, let alone through 10km more in three weeks time!

We met up with Cheryl at the finish and saw the Striders gang who was having a wee celebration for John’s 50th half marathon. Prize-giving was short and sweet and unfortunately no lucky spot-prizes for us. Damn – I was looking forward to winning that fertiliser!

[Hip update: it has been nearly nine months since I started my self-help rehab and I can honestly say that my hip is in a much better place than what it was before. My core is getting stronger and I can now manage to spend very long periods of time on a foam roller. My hip mobility is probably the best it has been in 20 years. I’m extremely aware of my body’s movements, tightness, weaknesses and am constantly focused on that aspect of my life. It is literally all-consuming. I’ve spent hours and hours reading articles on hips, all the muscles in that area, ligaments, fascia, and watched endless amounts of videos on YouTube. I’m obsessed about getting to the bottom of it. It’s been proved over and over – running is good for your joints. I just need to sort out the mechanics: mis-alignments, tight spots, and weak spots, before I can really move forward.

We’ve slowly built up our mileage during this time, going from about 20km per week in January to 50km in September. My fitness levels are picking up nicely. Although I’m not where I’ve hoped to be by this time due to lack of proper planning, being scared and uncertain whether I’m doing the right thing (because that is what doctors manage to be good at – instilling fear), but I’m really looking forward to see what is going to happen at the marathon.]

 

 

 

Hilder, honey and a half marathon

Date: 9 July 2017
Distance: 21.1km
Time: 2:17.26
Previous: 2014, 2015

 

The first time we did the Norsewood to Takapau half marathon, it was with family, who at the time lived in New Zealand. I will never forget the box filled with pots of honey that was handed out as spot prizes. Two out of the four of us received a pot of honey. When prize-giving rolled around the following year, I was audibly disappointed for not getting honey again, at which point the Hilders gifted us theirs. Last year the event was first postponed and later cancelled altogether, because of inclement weather, so definitely no pots of honey to be had.

In 2014 I was physically in better shape than any of the subsequent years, but this is one of those lovely, affordable events that you shouldn’t miss. And walking is always an option. Which brings me to this year. This was my first half marathon-length long run in a while and I was keen to see how my hip would behave. At the Great Forest Events, I walked most of the time, and when you take your time, you can do almost anything. So that one doesn’t count. These days, anything faster than a 7min/km pace I consider to be quite all right.

It was again very cold and wet underfoot with lots of rain leading up to the event and snow-capped mountains, but the weather was otherwise not too bad. One tends to forget the hills on this course! Just as well, or you might not come back for more.

I couldn’t help but thinking about Marian. It is a year since Stuart’s passing, and Marian will no doubt be reliving this very sad time. This event will, in one way or another, always make me think of Marian and Stuart. If not for Marian running, then the gifted honey, or Stuart’s passing. I do hope we will see Marian again on the course at a future event.

[Hip update: I had little to no complaints from my hip. Regaining strength if you neglected it for so many years, is really hard. It has taken a very long time for me just to be able to spend some quality time on a foam roller. That is how non-existent my core was. It is still no good, but at least I can stay on the roller for a bit longer than what I could a few months ago. I still do strength exercises very haphazardly, focussing mainly on rolling the knots out, which has helped my mobility and range of movement with leaps and bounds. Maybe it will be easier to join a gym for the strength exercises, but I’m hoping to find a solution that I can do anywhere and anytime on my own. Having entered for the Ring of Fire event scheduled for April next year might get me off my rear to start doing more, as I’m scared senseless just thinking of what we’ve signed up for.]

The Great Forest Events – Waitarere

Date: 8 April 2017
Distance: 21.1km
Time: 3:30
Previous: 2014, 2016

A few months ago, a friend of ours won an entry for the marathon of this event. She has been keen to do a marathon for such a long time, and what better motivation than to win an entry. It was going to be her very first marathon and Gerry and I thought we’d like to join her. But, life had other plans, and we couldn’t get the miles done in time for a full marathon, so decided to join only for the second half of her run.

The marathon is a double-lapper, so it was easy enough to just enter for the 21.1km and join in on her second lap. Unfortunately, the full and half marathons started only an hour apart, so we thought we’ll wait and start an hour late for the half marathon. But, as it turned out, Cheryl opted to start another hour earlier with the walkers, so she was already two hours in by the time our race started. Not sure at what pace she was going (I was thinking she might be able to do the first half in about 2:15), we started off on a very slow walk, thinking she might catch us in the first 10-20 minutes.

But let me just take a few steps back. Apart from being unfit, I also landed myself the migraine of the decade. We had a very hectic week, some very late nights, including a 150km work trip in the middle of the night in stormy weather, and all the stress just started to add up. For two days leading up to the event, my head felt like it was being pelted with a 10-pound hammer and all I could think of was how not to barf my lungs out. When Friday rolled around, my only thought was to die – the sooner the better. Not keen to take pills in any form or shape, I finally succumbed to Nurofen. That didn’t do anything, so a few hours later I took a codeine tablet (leftovers from a dentist prescription). Still, no improvement and a couple of Advil’s later without any change, I realised the problem was more serious than any pills we had in the house. By then I was convinced I had food poisoning from a function we attended on Wednesday night, as that was the only day Gerry and I ate different things. Since he was fine, I reckoned that must be it.

When the alarm when off on Saturday morning, I would much rather have been laying in my coffin than having to get ready for a run. But, I really didn’t want to miss Cheryl’s maiden marathon (ah, the euphoric first), plus we had entered and paid already, and all I had to do was turn up and do it. I suspected it might be a slow one with lots of walking, so the pressure was off to try and run much on unfit legs, while my pounding head was in a universe of its own. Besides, I thought a run was the only thing that might fix my upset tummy and exploding head. I couldn’t stomach anything, so didn’t eat much on the Thursday or Friday, but managed to get a grated apple down as my pre-run meal on Saturday morning.

We drove the 40km to Levin, parked in a paddock and got ready to start our slow meander through the forest on a gorgeous Saturday morning. A bit chilly at the start, but the air warmed up soon enough as we strolled down the forest roads. It was quite liberating to see everybody speed off into the distance, while we were having a nice stroll down the road. After a few kilometres, we (first heard! :), then) saw Cheryl and Steph (who kindly offered to run the full marathon with Cheryl so that she won’t have to be on her own for her first marathon) coming from the front a few metres to our right on a different road, nearing the end of their first lap. We knew then that they were about 3-4km behind us, and would catch up with us soon enough.

Having lots of time on our hands in the first 6kms (at which point they caught up and we started to run bits) we could really appreciate the forest and just being out there in near perfect weather conditions. Not something we had much of in the days leading up to the event with the remnants of Cyclone Debbie creating havoc in the region. Unfortunately, my head was still pounding, so at the first water point, I decided to have more pain killers (which again, I might add, didn’t help whatsoever). Slow learner, eh.

To entertain himself, Gerry started taking pics of all the fungi in the forest. There was quite a variety and I was very pleased to spot a basket mushroom – not something I’ve ever seen in real life before.

When Cheryl and Steph caught up, we started to jog bits. The four of us were by ourselves for huge parts of the run and being out in mother nature, was good for the soul. But, truth be told, I don’t have a clue how I managed to get around the course. Being nauseous with a pounding head is definitely not the way you want to spent making your way through a half marathon course. Luckily, Cheryl was in such high spirits, I couldn’t help but feel better. I was amazed at how comfortable she looked, despite having a stress fracture which was obviously causing her a lot of pain. But she was happy and seemed to be in seventh heaven. Isn’t that exactly what running should be about? I’m sure she could have done another lap if she wanted to!

Spending some time with friends at the prize-giving (I have to apologise for being rude and for the most part, ignoring everyone), I couldn’t manage anything other than laying on the grass, holding my head. I haven’t had this much pain from a headache in a very long time.

On the way home, Gerry went past a pharmacy to try and fix his broken wife. Back home and with pills for nausea and pain in my tummy, I crawled out of the car and straight into bed – dirty as one can only be after having done an off-road half marathon. I could not face standing up, let alone try to shower. Luckily the pills (and maybe spending the next 20 hours in bed) worked a charm. By midday Sunday, I could almost face life and food again.

Needless to say, I don’t remember much of the event. What I do remember is that they’ve changed the venue, and also the course (slightly, to compensate for some muddy patches and logging in the forest), and also to go in the opposite direction from before. The parking area was a bit disastrous having to squeeze cars and pedestrians through the same narrow gate, with a constant flow of both cars and pedestrians continuously going in and out. The sound system really wasn’t up to it, and prize-giving went by in the background.

A somewhat morbid and self-centered take on the event, but I just had to put it out there as a reminder to my future self (for when I feel doubtful about something): just drag your sorry arse out there and make a start. It may not seem possible, but it will be. Just do it.