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October 28, 2018

They say there’s a first time for everything, and this weekend was a first in so many ways for me. Much of this was certainly not limited to….

The Sky Tower that dominates the Auckland Skyline in all it’s glory on a Sunday Morning

– First Trip across the ditch
– First time going over the standard marathon distance outside of Australia (Comrades of course is an Ultra Marathon)
– First time having to try to get a qualifying time at an event outside of the Melbourne Marathon (More on that disaster later)
– First time I’ve worn multiple tops for the duration of a marathon (OK, I’m getting into content filler mode now!)

For this trip I’m thankful for work to get me onto shifts allowing me to depart and return to Australia without having to take any leave from work, even if I had to organise someone else to work my Sunday shift for me. I’m also glad I got a performance bonus from work in order to pay for the trip, for there wasn’t any way I’d be able to do this given the other races I’ve been doing and are planning to do. It wasn’t all plain sailing though, the flight over had arguably the roughest turbulence I’ve ever experienced on a flight and that’s saying something considering I’ve held the highest frequent flyer status with Virgin Australia for a number of years.


The initial plan for Saturday was to stake out a Parkrun somewhere in Auckland, then collect my race bib before chilling for the afternoon. It turned out I had to adopt plan B after sleep got the better of me and a 6:30 alarm rapidly became 10:30, not that I was all that concerned. Instead I got word that the provincial Rugby final between Auckland and Canterbury was on with free admission at Eden Park, so naturally I jumped at the chance to tick off another venue off the list of venues I’d been inside. A combination of rain just before half time and the game going to extra time though didn’t help my cause, even if the locals mainly went home happy. Got back to my motel in time for a late 8PM dinner (where I was thrilled to discover the sauce for my macaroni was actually a pasta bake base) and barely any sleep eventually getting little more than 2 hours shut eye. Normally I wouldn’t be panicking but where I was staying was 20 minutes from where I needed to be to be transported to the start, the ferry terminal.

Start line for the Auckland Marathon

Eventually get to the ferry in time for a prompt departure, taking much shorter than expected (about 15 minutes from Auckland City to suburban Devonport) and arriving to showery conditions. Frustratingly some of my warm up left me with a little mud on the shoes which was tricky to remove, but I was organised well before the start hooter at 6AM. The game plan was to run 58 minutes for the first pair of 10 kilometre splits, before reverting to 51 minutes for the next couple of 8 kilometre sectors leaving me with trying to cover the last 6 kilometres in close to 39 minutes to nail the sub 4:20 which was the initial aim. Of course the original plan was to just run this for enjoyment and pick up a medal but Melbourne put paid to those plans. Yet when the start was approaching I found myself behind the 4:15 pace runners, meaning that I could easily just use their pace to guide me through.



To say this course wasn’t easy was the understatement of the year. I was warned before the start through facebook contacts that this course early was going to be undulating. It turned out that the first 17 kilometres would probably be as good of a training run for the Point to Pinnacle in 3 weeks time, such was the number of rolling hills that greeted over 1000 starters. Add the elements to the equation, for the drizzle took a few kilometres to abate causing my sunglasses to fog up, and to be able to keep with the pacers through these stages and not take a walk break to complete the climbs is decent enough. Sure I took the time to walk through the drink stations as the pacers did and took on board watered down Powerade at most of the stops, but to get through the tough section in good time was a relief. In hindsight I perhaps should have taken a little extra time to walk up the steeper parts of the Auckland Harbour Bridge and recovered on the downhill and the nearby drink station to catch up to the pacers.

As it turned out I was able to stay with the pacers until 25km into the run, when the quads and thighs were screaming enough. Fortunately I had both a watch I had purchased a couple of years earlier back in operation (found the right type of battery) and a wrist band detailing the times I need to get to the 4:20 goal I had set. Sadly that went out the window just after the 30km marker when I had to revert to a walk/jog strategy, even if the efforts I was able to put in were quicker than the pace I desired as the course flattened out. But in the end I calculated that I was dropping approximately 20 minutes over the last 17 kilometres, a task made harder when the marathon field started getting mixed in with the 5km starters. I must admit I was a little surprised that some of the kids had expended so much energy too early that I was able to trot past a few as my race was winding down.

Thankfully the end of the day came at the right time for me, and it was bang on the schedule I needed to get into what would be the G batch at Comrades (their qualifying times were adjusted as the overall standard to qualify was tightened). There was a little hump type bridge leading into the Victoria Park finish zone, and a little fist pump saw me clock in a few seconds below the G batch cutoff. That’s not to say that I may entertain thoughts of going quicker to either solidify the Q-Time or even move up into the F troop for Durban, but it was suck a relief following Melbourne that I was able to nail the qualifying time, pick up a 16th finishers medal (the first outside of Australia) and most importantly to feel pretty decent after the flatness of a poor time in Melbourne. It was probably the gladdest I had ever been to use the Burger King WiFi to confirm the details of the day to tell the organisers I had qualified.

So where to now after Point to Pinnacle? Wangaratta is certainly on the agenda, but at this stage I’m yet to decide whether I’ll be doing 21 or 42 (it may even depend on if I can use it as a qualifying race, the fact that it has an AIMS certificate will help the cause but training may determine what I’m doing. Then it’s onwards to probably Port Macquarie (pending work) and Canberra but that’s many months away. For now I’m just relieved and glad I’m getting another crack at an elusive Comrades medal!



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