Doing a double

The rules of running a good marathon are pretty clear. Train consistently for a long period of time, gradually increasing your intensity and distance before tapering off for the final two or three weeks. Don’t try anything new on marathon day.

Yesterday I ran the Dunedin marathon, my 20-somethingth marathon – I really have no idea how many I have done.

I was blase about the whole thing, treating it more as a supported training run preparing me for a bigger goal, back to back marathon distances I am running in February as part of the High 50 Challenge, a fundraiser for the Mental Health Foundation.

The final three weeks leading up to yesterday, normally the taper, I ate crap and logged weekly distance of 100k, 100k, and 80k. My final run was a 15k beach rub at tempo pace on Wednesday.

Oh and a hilly 10k road race in which I logged a PB on Saturday.

What??

This was my plan. To run the two events back-to-back but not worry about the time. I wore my Garmin but taped the screen. I could hear the kilometres tick over but not see the time. If I looked I would see average pace but my plan was to run by feel.

Governor’s Bay to Lyttelton is a handicapped race. I was setting off 21 minutes after the slowest and 10 minutes ahead of the young gun men. I felt good and probably ran at an intensity of about 70%. I couldn’t believe it when the results were published and I was 10seconds faster than last year. For some reason I consistently set my 10k PB on this challenging hilly course.

My running buddy and I “iced” our legs in the sea for a few minutes, donned compression tights and drove back through the tunnel to pick up another runner. Then it was a five hour drive to Dunedin.

We arrived at our motel, blobbed a bit and walked into the city centre to a nice Italian for a pasta feed. This place had gluten free pasta as an option with all dishes. It was delicious.

We all piled into the one bed in the lounge to watch the All Blacks just beat the Spring Boks and then it was bed time. I had an early start having to be away from the motel by 6:30. Mike and Rodger were only running the half.

It seemed a long night. I don’t sleep well before or after a marathon.

After the usual breakfast of toast, peanut butter and banana plus two cups of coffee Rodger drove me to the start. His achilles was playing up, tweaked the previous day. He didn’t think he would be a starter. It was a stunning morning. Cloudy with the rising sun lighting the cloud and glassy sea. The harbour drive was picturesque. I was looking forward to a scenic run and quite relaxed about the journey ahead.

We kept driving. It was a long way. Finally we found a parked car or two and a row of portaloos. This was the start. Quite an understatement really. Rodger abandoned me. The cloud had dropped. The sun has vanished and it was drizzling. What view!

I made friends with a man and his mum who had ab empty back seat. Three buses arrived and disgorged the other runners. People had a lot of clothes. I had left my gloves in the motel, had not thought about a thermal layer or arm warmers, but did had a sexy black plastic bag to keep me dry-ish.

But eventually it was time to line up. I took my plastic bag off and joined the other 194 people. A man said go and we were off.

I still had tape on my watch. I was to run again by feel. Obviously i was feeling good going through the first 2k in just on 10minutes. Someone was calling time. We settled into a rhythm. I was with a group of about six. I tucked in behind them. It was drizzling quite steadily but there was no wind to speak of and my hands soon warmed up.

At 5k time was called again, 24 minutes something. I still felt good. I stayed with my bunch. We were running in our own zones. Everyone was quiet, you barely heard breathing except for a stocky young man who was lumbering along. I had met his friend in the toilet queue and knew they were uni students in their final year and this was their first marathon.

We had a few hills. At 10k I took my first gu. My time was 49 minutes something. And we hit the head wind. The dizzle changed to light rain. It got hard. Our group was still running together. We heard that our uni student was called Bruno as he had supporters on the course.

We were also picking off other runners. One by one reeling them in and cruising past.

It is a long way up that harbour. The wind was relentless. I felt ok but wondered how long I could keep a sub-5 minute pace. Soon it was just Bruno and me running together. I have to admit that I photo bombed most of the photos his supporters took of him!

Half way and time was called again 1:44:06. I had my second gu at 20k. At 26k we finally turned around the head of the harbour. Having the wind at our back was a huge boost.

At 28k we joined up with the half marathon runners. Psychologically this is inspiring as we passed so many. Round some industrial areas and then along a cycle-walkway up the other side of the harbour. My third and final gu was at 30k.

I was tired now. But the end was in sight, literally and figuratively. Every so often I caught a glimpse of the cranes at Port Chalmers, my destination.

I dropped Bruno here. He did really well for a first marathon, finally finishing 5minutes behind me.

I knew I had a final hill to climb. It never seemed to come. And there it was. Short, sharp and steep. I put my head down and just got over it!

Less than 2k to go. One final rise. Someone sprinted past me – it was the first person to pass me since about the 5k mark. I had nothing left. Down the hill round the corner and where the hell is the finish line.

Another person sprinted past. Whatever. I could see the line. I crossed it. 3:28:38. One minute off a PB. I was spent.

Another soak of the legs in the sea. A shower. Compression tights and lunch – mince on toast and a pint of cider!

We spent the afternoon at the Sports Museum and then went to prize giving. I was fourth woman overall. Third in the masters category and first over 50.

I won a massive bag of chocolate (it is the Cadbury Dunedin Marathon), a bag of sports gear/clothing and a cheque for $200. Best. Haul. Ever.

Then another five hour trip home.

It was a great weekend. I can’t believe I pulled off two awesome back to back runs. I am tired today. My feet ache – racing flats do that. But I am not very stiff at all. The soaking in cold sea and compression tights does make a difference. My club buddies did well too. Iain, Mike and Dave all finished the half. Rodger was a DNS with his achilles and Dave’s son Liam pulled out at about 18k. It is fun to spend a weekend with likeminded people.

Next up is the Greta Valley relay this weekend. It doesn’t stop.

PS I am running in the High-50 challenge to raise money and awareness for the Mental Health Foundation. Please support me by donating here.

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Remembering

Four years ago my home town was hit by a massive 7.3 earthquake. Unbelievably no-one was killed. But the city was damaged.

It was a massive shock. I was woken from a deep sleep with no idea what the hell was happening. The actual quake lasted 30 seconds and I think it took all of that for me to register it was an earthquake. All my energy was concentrating on staying in bed when the house was trying to throw me out.

I remember the noise. It was incredibly loud. It was the earth moving, rumbling and roaring. The house being twisted in all directions. And furniture being flung over. China and glass smashing.

Afterwards silence.

That was almost worst. I could not hear any other people. I was so scared for them. But like me they were just dazed. I was scared. The kids were not.

But it didn’t stop. Aftershocks kept coming. We had no power. The floors were covered in broken glass and china. It was dark. I was cold.

Andrew and I sat huddled together under the door frame in the downstairs hall, away from glass windows and broken glass. The kids sat in the car listening to the radio.

And slowly the day dawned and we realised how lucky we were.

Four years. Who knows how many aftershocks. And of course the deadly 22 February quake which killed 170 people and really did destroy the city.

Four years of living in a house which noticeably drops downhill, where spilled drinks leave juice rivers across the lounge, where the water drains off the kitchen bench into the rubbish bin, where doors don’t open or shut, and where they have been planed allow the cold winter air to course around the house. Four years of a giant crack in the lawn and under the house, of cracks in the foundation slab which makes the house feel cold and damp.

Four years of waiting for our house to be rebuilt. Four years of extra car repairs as the fine liquefaction dust stuck in the driveway shingle causes havoc with all things mechanical. Four years of roadworks, road cones, hi vis, bureaucracy.

Four years of not sleeping, of being so tired most of the time, of feeling like a moaning minnie.

Four years of being alive. A survivor. Of realising that actually possessions don’t matter, but people do.

There is no point wondering what if. This is my life now. I have to live it as best I can.

Christchurch. My home town.

Cover photo – the shops at the corner of my street, less than 100 metres from my house.