Running a marathon 6 days after the Thames Path 100 mile, oh and it’s 12,000 miles away in New Zealand, go on then! It was a pretty crazy notion, but when the opportunity came up to travel to one of my absolute favourite counties on earth, to run a race in such a scenic landscape amongst the vines and orchards of Hawkes Bay, I got my entry in quick start and jumped aboard that Air New Zealand flight in a flash!
The race takes place between the two main towns in the Hawkes Bay region of Napier and Hastings. Starting on the shore, before winding its way down the coastline and heading inland towards the vineyards and orchards that make this region so famous.
We had to get to the expo pretty quickly, as our travel had been delayed slightly, so after checking into the hotel we headed straight to the Napier Conference Centre. All extremely efficient, the volunteers were super friendly. For a marathon only in its third year, this was really impressive. I was given bib 445.
Luckily I only had a short walk from the hotel to the start line, which was enough to get some stretches in and a few K’s of easy running to warm up. I hadn’t ran a step since crossing the finish line in Oxford 6 days earlier, so the race was going to be a big unknown, plus I had no idea how the jet lag would affect my body. As the sun rose over the ocean, hundreds of fellow runners gathered on Marine Parade, with a huge 70% travelling in from outside the local area.
Standing on the start line I could tell that something wasn’t quite right, I was so tired, which was a very strange sensation at 9am. We hadn’t even been in the country 24 hours and the whole of the afternoon before I’d been in bed at the hotel asleep. But it hadn’t been enough to get any life back in me that the long haul trip had taken away. Still, we weren’t here to set any records, simply to run a marathon in a beautiful part of the world, meet some new people and explore a fascinating place on planet earth.
The hooter went off at 9am and I quickly set in with a small group of runners, one of whom was local favourite, Nick Horspool, with a PB of 2:20, so I obviously let him go off into the distance. We were averaging 3:45/km, which was quite a bit faster than I wanted to be running, but hey.. I was here for some fun and was enjoying running in a group with a bit of banter going! One of the other runners likened us to The Inbetweeners, in that we weren’t that great, but also not that bad either.. that middle ground! It got a few laughs!
5k came up in 18:43, nice and steady. The second 5k was quicker, by a whole second.. 18:42! Haha! We were running along some raised cycle tracks, so there was gravel underfoot. It was fine to run on and I think my legs were grateful for running on anything other than tarmac for a bit!
As we approached 20k my tummy was starting to make a few noises it shouldn’t have been and a few strides later I was searching around for bushes! There were none, luckily for me I was pretty much alone at this point, so had to drop the shorts at the side of the road. TMI again, but this is the truth!
I was starting to slow pretty rapidly by now, the relative suicide pace from earlier was taking its toll. Running all alone, I couldn’t see anyone ahead or behind, there was nothing for it other than to grit my teeth and see what result I could grind out.
I was carrying my GoPro to film parts of the race (the video will be up shortly) which surprisingly took my mind off the pain in my legs. Not pain in the usual sense, just tired, no energy and general lifelessness. Hardly surprising given everything, but it wasn’t a sensation I was used to at this stage of a race.
The volunteers at the aid stations were super friendly and I’d always look forward to getting to the next one. As we entered the vineyards around 30k I’d started to overtake the half marathon runners, so the usual ‘keep going’, ‘you’re doing so well’ etc was getting exchanged back and forth every hundred meters or so. Such a friendly bunch these Kiwi’s are!
40k was up in 2:45 and barring a complete disaster I knew I’d manage to scrape a sub 3, which, let’s be honest, isn’t so bad. I’d be pretty miffed if that happened in the UK, but given the circumstances, I’ll take it!
Crossing the line in 2:58:11 was great, medals waiting from the Air New Zealand staff, smiles everywhere and it wrapped up one of the most beautiful marathons I’ve ever ran. Air New Zealand and Hawkes Bay tourism, you’ve done yourself proud with this one!
Going forward I really need to do some research on jet lag and the role it plays in racing, plus anything that can be done to combat the effects. I’d obviously never run a target race in this way, so it’s not that important, but it’s all good knowledge to add to the bank.
Next stop Liverpool for the Rock n Roll marathon on Sunday!