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.


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.


Marathon number 20 – I think

I woke this morning at 3am. A little cold. Needing to pee. And wondering which snorer I would smother first – the husband or the cat. I chose to read my book instead, and let them live for another night.

By 6am I was up starting my pre-race routine of two strong cups of coffee, two bits of gluten free toast with peanut butter and squished banana. And hopefully enough visits to the toilet to empty all systems.

Just after 7am I woke the snorer who could drive and he took me to my friend’s house, within walking distance of the start/finish line of the Christchurch Marathon.

It was -2 degrees.

We went for a short warm-up then wearing just our race clothes we walked to the start. I was running in my usual club singlet and shorts. I had a kiddie’s polyprop on as a top layer and some mismatched mittens and a throwaway beanie.

I met a number of people I knew before the start. It was not long before we were called to the start line. We found other runners from our club and lined up with them. It was cold. But the air was still, the sky clear and the sun was shining brightly. Another brilliant winter’s day in Christchurch.

The pre-race briefing warned us that there was ice on the route. I realised systems weren’t quite as empty as I had hoped. Too late. We were off.

I have to admit I felt uncomfortable and looked for any tree or something I could dive behind, but with the full marathon, half-marathon and 10k all starting together there were a lot of spectators.

My club members had all agreed we would run our own race. So even though I was with them I did not feel tempted to talk.

1k down. We turn onto McLeans Island Road and there is the brilliant vista of snow clad mountains in the distance. The sight of three turquoise portaloos was even better. Dammit! They are all occupied. I waste about 2minutes here but the relief is worth it.

My club mates have gone ahead. I run my own race. Pace is a little faster but I feel relaxed. I tossed my polyprop at the start and I am starting to feel warm.

4k done. I start to see the first 10k runners heading back.

5k and the 10k turnaround. This is always run by our club. High fives. A few slaps on the back. And encouragement. I drop my hat and gloves. First water stop and my water is frozen.

We set off around the back of the airport and turn up a side street which is lined with trees.

Ice! Very slippery. I choose to run on the grass. It is harder underfoot but I am faster because I am not scared of arsing over.

8k and the half marathoners peel off to run their loop. More people I know. Vic and I were having a slightly risque email exchange yesterday which ended with him called me a tease and me calling him a cock. As I ran past him, he grinned. “Tease.” Right back at you with “cock”.

On towards Yaldhurst Road, more ice. Robbie’s old hockey club are on drinks here. More people I know. Down Pound Road and there is my brother in law out the front of his lifestyle block with Ugly, his pet sheep.

Ryans Road and here is Sam Wreford, the eventual winner, miles ahead of second place. We turn around up here and so I was counting my place. I had me sitting at fourth woman in my age group, give or take a place. (I missed one person coming in fifth). I also saw Rodger and Guy from my club who were also running the full.

I was feeling good and starting to pass a few people. In fact from here I was not passed by another woman.

The ks are ticking over quickly. I went through 21k in 1:44 which was pretty much on target for 3:30.

I signed up for Christchurch the night before I ran Rotorua. I had to do it then to get the cheaper rate. But my plan was if I ran well at Rotorua then I would just run, with no goal, Christchurch. In honesty though I was hoping to do under 3:30.

A race official car drives past. One of my club mates is driving it and has a loud hailer. Nothing like being told at full volume with your full name being used to hurry up.

We loop around a bit and had to back up Icy Road. It had not thawed out at all. The race car is back giving me a breakdown of where my teammates are. Sam runs past again on his way to the finish.

Back down to Yaldhurst Road, past Malcolm and Ugly. He tells me to run fast or he will set the sheep onto me. All I can think is roast lamb!!

Back past Vic who promises me a kiss at the end. I am still waiting! We head out to do our loop and from the turnaround can see who is ahead. I am still passing people. Those poor buggers who are walking, or stopping to grip their legs as cramp takes hold.

Past Vic for the final time. He has his camera out and I run at it making silly faces. I may live to regret that. Back down Icy Road for the third and final time. This time around the drink station the frozen spilled water is treacherous. It becomes too much for me, all this changing pace. I suddenly get very tired and sore. It is 8k to go. I can see the airport and hear the finish. I want to be there.

I keep running. The first runners pass me since 15k, a quartet of men. I catch one up further on, but I am spent. My pace drops from 4:50ish to 5:10. I push it. It hurts. My quads are tight. My feet burn. My butt and hamstrings are tormenting me.

I count down the ks.

We round the back of the airport by the nor’west runway and then head back onto McLeans Island Road. I see Rodger. He is only 500m ahead. I dig deeper. There is not much there.

I pass a friend walking her first half marathon. Well done, you!

3k to go.

We turn into the actual airport. Apparently this was a bit thrill seeking attraction. I couldn’t care less. 2k to go

I am not gaining on Rodger. I can’t.

I bump into my pal with the loud hailer. And another club mate. “Come on, Robyn. Go faster. You can catch Rodger.” I stopped. Turned around. Stuck my hands firmly on my waist and yelled, “FUCK OFF.”

Everyone laughed. And from the two comedians I could hear “DQ. Offensive behaviour. Disrespect for officials.” Idiots!

Last bend. Finish. I couldn’t sprint. I think it was the slowest 500m I have ever run.

I crossed. 3:31:03. Got my medal. Met Rodger. I wanted to puke. Lie down. Stand up. Walk around. Die. Puke. I felt awful. And sore. And stiff.

We staggered back to Rodger’s house where we were reconvening. I had a shower. And coffee. Eventually some toast and a banana.

After 90 minutes it was time to go back to the prize giving. I was surprised to find I had only come fifth. Oh well. It was all I had today. A little disappointed.

It is not yet five hours since I crossed the line. I have to get up and cook dessert for dinner guests tonight. Luckily they are members of my club. I am sure they won’t care that I am entertaining them in compression tights, ug boots, a bright orange polarfleece and a blue and orange striped beanie. Yes, I will be wearing my medal!

PS This is rough and unedited.