Just over a month has passed since I ran my fourth half-marathon, around the bays of Wellington. This is such a fun, community supported event, with Cigna Insurance as the principal event partner. The event’s charity partner is the amazing ‘Achilles International New Zealand‘ (a 100% volunteer organisation), that supports Kiwis with disabilities to participate alongside able-bodied athletes in mainstream events.
I was so pleased to wake on the morning of the event to a calm day, with slightly cooler temperatures than we’d been basking in for much of January and February (turns out February was the hottest on record!).
My training runs hadn’t been much longer than 13km, due to feeling totally wiped out in the heat (and not rising early enough in the morning to beat the heat!). However, I had put in plenty of hilly jaunts with my dog, Cocoa, which helped build up my overall strength and stamina.
The half-marathon is on flat terrain, starting on the waterfront of Wellington city, by Frank Kitts Park, and winding along Oriental Parade, Evans Bay, Cobham Drive and onto the Miramar Peninsula.
I started out behind the 1 hour 50 minute pacer and the runners around me set off to the sound of the gun with great enthusiasm (and the beeping of Garmin watches – hubby’s present to me on my 40th Birthday, just prior to my first half-marathon, was a Garmin Forerunner 220). The cooler morning, and promise of a gentle southerly breeze (GENTLE was what I was praying for – and thankfully received!), made running conditions perfect. I sprang along feeling strong, with my Hoka One One ‘Clifton’ ‘clown shoes’ doing their usual best to give my toes plenty of room to spread out with my mid to fore-foot strike, whilst simultaneously supporting my next step with fairy like lightness.
Whilst I’m on the ‘gear’ I must mention ‘Kori Kita‘ who made the awesome running short I’m wearing (my black tank top is from Kathmandu – with a useful pocket for my car keys and a couple of energy bars!).
I was feeling pretty strong for the first 12km, running at a strong pace (for me), and even managed to respond to a fellow runners friendly chatter (which admittedly surprised me – though I enviously noticed her smooth ability to roll out longer sentences than me, without gasping for breath!).
The first section of this run, along Evan’s Bay and up to the Meridian Wind Sculpture Walkway, is really fun – with households turning out to cheer on the runners.
There were some amazing Japanese Taiko drummers around the 5km mark, (which I could still hear at the 15km mark on the other side of the bay!).
“Your heart is a taiko, all people listen to a taiko rhythm ‘dontsuku-dontsuku’ in their mother’s womb. It’s instinct to be drawn to taiko drumming.” – Grand Master Daihachi Oguchi
There were also a few radio stations and folks with water pistols and hoses turned on to cool down the runners – even a Jedi on roller blades armed with a gigantic water gun! After the half marathoner runners set off there’s a 10km run and a 6.5km run – which are all timed well to finish around the same time as the half marathon runners in Kilbirnie for a post run ‘festival‘! I keep telling my children that I’ll rope them in ‘next year’ and meet them at the finish line.
As I made my way on, past the 10km ‘turn around’, I started to sink into a rhythm (that didn’t involve as much chit chat with fellow runners!). There were fewer supporters on this stretch of the run, so it was refreshing to reach Shelly Bay where there was music and a few friendly folk cheering us on. It’s amazing how much extra zip my legs will give me when there’s a water pistol aimed at me!
After passing the Chocolate Fish Cafe I started to feel my energy levels deplete a little (it takes this Latte loving lass so much mental strength to keep running past a cafe!). I reached into my back pocket for an energy snack and tried to keep running, whilst chewing (hence the reason for not giving a wide toothed grin as I encountered the next photographer on the course!).
At this stage the first of the professional runners had started to zip back past, having reached the turn-around point and now on their final 5kms. I managed to call out some appreciative sounds of support (well, they were intended to sound supportive – but my vocal chords weren’t on top form at this stage).
As the turn-around point drew closer I made a quick port-a-loo visit (damn bladder isn’t what it used to be – giving birth to three babies takes its toll!).
I exited the loo with a bit of a sprint on, making up for lost minutes, before quickly sinking back to my regular pace.
With 5kms left to go, and a slight southerly head-wind, I started to feel – dare I say it – sleepy! I haven’t ever experienced this feeling on a run and it was hard for my brain to keep telling my legs to move, when a part of me just wanted to take a Sunday stroll and admire the scenery in a Zen like state.
The monotony of the road was getting to me and the wind was filtering out the beat of the Taiko drummers on the opposite side of the bay. My fellow runners were quiet and keeping one with the rhythm, making me slip into a hypnotic state of being (much like the final stages of child birth, before the big push!).
I was relieved when the call of ‘MERGING’ reached my ears from up ahead. The 10km runners were all reaching their turn-around point and merging with the half-marathon runners, to complete the final 2km together. We all squeezed our bodies into a narrow formation and the different paces and confined space gave me the wake up jolt I needed. I suddenly had to engage my brain to make sure my legs didn’t trip up a fellow runner. I wanted to keep my pace going, but it was hard to do this and dodge the bodies. Part of me was begrudging having to manoeuvre around so many people, when I was feeling so tired, but the other half of me realised that this was just the mental challenge I needed to keep my focus and finish toward the finish line with my legs still moving at a half decent pace!
The last kilometre of the run was cheered on by supporters. I tried to spot my hubby in the crowd (he was aiming to be there, with at least one of our three daughters, to meet me at the finish line), but to no avail.
I crossed the finish line with a feeling of relief and satisfaction (and perhaps an over zealous thank-you to the person that so graciously gave me a banana and a bottle of water!).
I was delighted with the medal (always like a bit of bling!) that had so many of Welly’s fabulous land-marks on it; but more delighted with the banana in the first few minutes after finishing.
I found a space on the grass to stretch down, wondering if hubby had made it after all, when all of a sudden my youngest daughter jumped on me with a shout of ‘Boo!’. I was so, so happy to see her and my hubby.
They had spotted me on the final leg of the half-marathon, but weren’t close enough to call out, and seeing them a few minutes after finishing was just what I needed to get my bounce back (actually my bounce wasn’t really restored until I’d had a shower and a nano-nap… after all, I was scheduled to take my youngest daughter to a children’s Birthday party later that afternoon!).
I do love this iconic event in Welly. It was the second time I’d ran the half-marathon round the bays, but next year I reckon I’ll try to get my daughters along and do the 6.5km family event with them.