I had a great night sleep on Friday night, I tucked into an energy packed bowl of porridge for breaky followed by some brown rice with a variety of other energy packed ingredients for lunch just on 12 and then headed out to Bethells. By 2:00pm I was standing at the start of the 16km leg waiting for the gun (Don’t tell the organisers, but I was actually late and was just walking over from the car park when the start gun went off). Saturday was the day and overall it went off without a hitch. Tick, done, finished.
The race itself went pretty much how I thought it would. I think I made the mistake of being too far back in the pack (my own fault for arriving late) and got caught up with the walkers/walk runners which made it hard for me to start running with limited passing opportunities however this probably also worked in my favour ensuring that I was held back a little and allowing me to save my energy for the second half of the run. The killer was Devil’s Staircase at the 10km mark but after that I found my pace again and cruised to the end for about 2 hours. I didn’t have a time goal but this is what I thought it would take me.
So being my first off-road event what did I think?
One thing I did notice is that you can’t help but run looking down – and you have to if you don’t want to fall off the track however the downside of this was that you don’t get to completely take in the scenery around you. Every time I looked up the view was slightly different but equally spectacular. Because you really get to see so little I get the feeling that I could do the run a hundred times and be surprised by the scenery every time.
I loved how technical the terrain was to run on. I’m really used to road running, which by comparison feels boring now. I loved the need for agility and generally speaking different types of movements while navigating the terrain.
I’ve done a fair few road based events and in my experience any event is social to a degree but I couldn’t help by being blown away by not only the friendliness but the genuine care for other runners. I exchanged pleasantries with almost everyone I passed or who passed me and even had friendly conversations with some. If anyone slipped or stumbled the first response of those nearest was to turn and check their fellow runner was ok. Everyone was encouraged and the energy, especially from the volunteers, was awesome.
I also loved seeing the runners that were on the 34 and 80km events. Whilst I was there with my own challenge in mind you can’t help but be inspired by those on the bigger events. For the ones who I saw running you have to admire the level of effort and commitment that has gone in during the months prior for them to be moving the way they are. There were some who were struggling and you could see the challenge in every step but in my mind at least it was even more inspiring to see people who seemed to have nothing left but still found enough to take another step, and then another and another – When you see people committed to not giving up it’s a powerful thing.
I loved the challenge that the event provided me. It wasn’t a hard and fast running experience. It was a physical and mental challenge navigating the course and about 10 x more fun than I have had running in the past.
I think one of the favourite parts for me as well was Muriwai as a finishing venue. Many of us had friends and family waiting for us and I think the venue enabled them to make a day out as well. I saw so many supporter families building sand castles on the beach waiting for their runners to come through. For me one of the best bits (besides the Kohu Road Banana ice cream with chocolate sauce) was going for a swim at the end. The water was definitely fresh but arguably the perfect finish after a hard run.
All that said the question that remains – is this the start of a love affair? After this, given the choice between a road run and a trail run I’ll take trail every time. I’m realistic about how much of my life I’ll commit to off-roading but I’m definitely keen on another couple of events this year. I think though that the goal I came into this event with, that is primarily to have fun, will be what drives my selection of events in the future. That said I’ve already found two events that might fill in the rest of this year for me being the Double Rainbow run in Rotovagas but in particular the P6 which I really like the idea of as it is a team event. While a year is a whole 12 months away I’d also like to think I’ll be back for the next Hillary and if so perhaps doing the 34km event….. But we’ll see when next year rolls around.