Now that I’m lying in bed back in Dunedin (and do not plan on getting up for some time, as it is cold out, I am tired, my legs hate me, and there’s nothing anybody can do to make me move), I guess it’s time to tell you about the race.
After a quick run across the street to get ice cream the night before race day, I went back to my accommodation and went to bed at 8:30. There was nothing else to do, anyway. I did worry, however, that I’d be woken up by the arrival of guests 2-5 because I had booked the cheapest room I could find, which contained 5 bunk beds for 5 people from potentially different parties. Luckily nobody joined me.
The morning of the race, I woke up at 6:30, packed my stuff up, quickly stuck my head under the shower (I reasoned that wet hair would keep me cooler during the race), and put my hair up in a French braid. I’m getting darned good at those. I ate two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and downed a strawberry flavored protein drink. Don’t ever do that. It was gross. But I didn’t know what else to eat that might sustain me throughout the run that wouldn’t be too heavy.
I’d booked a taxi for 7:30 in the morning. This company charged half as much as the previous one, so I guess I lucked out.
When I got to the field where they were holding the event, I attracted a number of stares. Amidst all the runners and their families was this weirdo (me) carrying a huge hiking pack on her back and a full school bag on her front. I guess I would have stared at me too. But I found a place to leave the bags (thank god) and walked around for the next 40 minutes before I had to be at the starting point.
At 8:45, the runners were called to the start. Elite runners were in the front. I didn’t see any of them until during the race as they were on their way back. But anyway, I situated myself around the marker for those aiming to run about a 2:00 half marathon time.
When the guy with the mic spoke before the race started, he told us there were 4500 people there. People across the country are attracted to this particular race because it’s so flat. He also said there were internationals. He called for the Aussies: Aussie Aussie Aussie!! And expected a solid “Aye Aye Aye,” but he got just a couple of weak ones. I guess the Aussies were nervous to be in a crowd full of fit Kiwis?
Anyway, the race started. I found my pace a few minutes in, as the crowd dispersed ever so slightly. I noticed a couple of team runners. There were families in it together, women’s groups, friends… I think that’d be a great way to run a marathon. I might suggest it to my family. They’ll laugh at me, for sure. There was also a man completely barefooted. I don’t understand that. But hey, whatever floats his boat. The winning shirt, I think, was the one that said “Stop Forrest, Stop!”
For most of the days I trained, I ran 6 miles, separated in the middle by a minute or two walk. Once a week for the last month, I did a long run, about 10 miles. Every half hour (three miles), I’d stop to walk for two or three minutes. I told myself I’d break this run up the same way. It seems a whole lot less daunting to run in 30 minute shifts than in 2 hour blocks. But by the time 45 minutes had passed and I hadn’t needed to stop, I told myself to just go until I reached the halfway point and then take a five minute break. Around the 45 minute marker, I started to see the elite runners turning around. Some were running the 10k, and some the half marathon. The guy in the lead was this crazy Kenyan guy who finished the half in just over an hour. He must have been running near 13 miles per hour! So impressed.
Anyway, I made it to the halfway point and still felt ok. My toes were a little sore, but my legs felt fine, and I wasn’t out of breath. So I kept going. Kept telling myself I could stop anytime now, I had passed the halfway point and deserved it. But how cool it would be to tell people I’d run the whole way…
At the drink stations, I walked for about 15 seconds each time in order to drink. Twice, I walked maybe 30 seconds in order to drink and swallow this gross carbohydratey/electrolytey goo I’d bought to sustain myself. But then I started running immediately again. So I don’t consider that walking at all.
A half marathon is 21.1km. At the 18km mark, I felt like walking. My toes were hurting and my legs were a little tight. But then I looked at my iPod, on which I’d set a timer. It said 1:45. My goal of running in 2 hour was real, I could do it. So I kept going. Until the 19 km marker. I needed to stop. I stopped really quickly, touched my toes, and then did some kinesthetic stretches in order to keep making progress. High knees and butt kicks and lunges. That lasted about a minute, maybe two. I had two km to go, just over a mile. I could do that in 13 minutes. So I took off, speeding my pace up ever so slightly.
And then I saw the tents, the finish line. It was beautiful. I sped up more, anxious to get the best time I could. And then it was done. I had finished. 13.1 miles. Done.
Why did I run it, you may ask? Well, I like a challenge. I’ve been playing sports my whole life. But I quit lacrosse after high school, and I no longer play competitive tennis. I needed to compete in something. In the beginning of my stay in New Zealand, I started running as a way of touring the city, learning my way around. Then running became less a form of exercise and more a mode of transportation. I ran when I could because it was faster than walking. I was feeling pretty good about myself. And I wanted proof that I’d accomplished something great. A marathon was a foolproof way to do that. Once I’d paid my dues and booked transportation and accommodation, there was no backing out. I had to run it.
Now that I’m done, I am sore from waist down. I woke up several times last night and had to rearrange myself into a different position because my legs hurt too much. But I’m proud of myself. I did something amazing. That’s a lot of miles to run.
And you know what? For all the pain it caused me, I think it caused me more happiness. Which is why I’m going to keep up with the running. Hopefully there will be more events over the summer. But even if there aren’t, there will be eventually, and I’m going to run them.
So what happened after the race? Well I packed my stuff up and walked out. Attracted more stares and even a pointing finger.
My bus was going to pick me up at the Antarctic Center down the street in 3.5 hours. What to do, what to do?
Easy. Chill at the Antarctic Center, of course. Tickets were on sale because it was marathon weekend, so I got mine for $30 discounted! In the center, I went on a ride on one of the vehicles they bring to Antarctica and I learned about transportation over the hills and crevasses. Then I watched a 4D movie, which was actually just film footage of the wildlife and environment with some moving chairs and water squirting out. I wish there’d been narration, but it was still pretty cool.
Then I saw Little Blue penguins. How cute!! I walked around a little more, reading some of the exhibit descriptions, and learning about the history of travel and research in the Antarctic.
And then I went outside to the bus stop.
YOU WILL NEVER GUESS WHO WAS THERE.
Yeah, Perfume Lady from the day before!!! But she didn’t really acknowledge me. I sat down and ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, only to be joined by a balding man wearing black jeans and black underwear on the outside. Immediately, he started talking. He asked me if I was a Kiwi girl, and I shook my head. Egyptian? No, New York.
He sat down too close for comfort and started talking. I didn’t understand much of what he said. I don’t think he had teeth. Lost them at 21, he told me, 40 years ago. I looked in the opposite direction, acknowledging him only when truly necessary. Looked to Perfume for support. She gave me a pitying smile and turned away. Thanks a lot, lady. Talks when uncalled for but unwilling to open her mouth to save a sistah.
Another passenger came by and sat. And another. The homeless man got into a conversation with them about going to Australia. But he had no passport. Wanted to make one under a name that was not his birth name, or something. I dunno. Said something about how the government could know your DNA with your passport. Said something about how he had 44 claims of assault against him…. the fuck??? Finally another bus came and he got on. Thank the lord.
My bus was a whole lot less crowded than the previous one, only 6 people this time. I got my own seat (yaaay) and slept a little. Later, a couple of the passengers and I talked a bit. One asked what it was like living in New York, was it really dangerous? Could you get shot at for walking around wearing the wrong gang’s colors? I swear to you, she asked that. Also asked about metal detectors in schools. I told her I wasn’t actually from New York so I couldn’t speak to that. But I told her it was only dangerous in some parts, like Spanish Harlem and parts of the Bronx. Not in the main touristy parts. I dunno if she believed me.
The conversation progressed at some point to the difference in Kiwi and American clothing, if there were a lot of teenage pregnancies in the States, and whether or not you could climb Mt. Cook. I found myself, an American, teaching a few Kiwis about their own country. Coolio.
I got home late, around 8:40. Went to bed at 10:30. And I’m still tired. Or maybe just lazy. I think I’m going to go back to sleep. Why? Because I can. I’m taking the day off from exercise, maybe tomorrow too. But then I’m back to my usual crazy self. Finals are this week, so I’ll need a destressor anyway.