“Ohhh, it’s raaaaining again, too bad I’m looooooosing a friend”. That is just the way it is. Don’t ever think you will have a dry run in NZ.
Gerry and I were thinking of doing this half, ever since we had to miss it last year. But after the wet and cold Mizuno/Taupo Half, as well as being out of town, we postponed entering (actually forgot to!) until pre-entries were closed and we had to pay the late entry penalty fee which is $10 more per person. So, to run 21.1km, we paid $50 per person … and then our South African friends complain when they have to pay R50 for a half marathon.
A very cold Antarctic blast was predicted to hit the country by Saturday night, bringing with it very cold conditions, snow, sleet and heavy rains, which were expected to reach Palmy by the Sunday – race day. We almost had second thoughts about entering, but the Manawatu events are all so very nice and well organised (there’s just something “homely” about them) that we made the trip to Sterling Sports shop in town on the Saturday afternoon to enter. The Striders had a table in the back, also selling the event T’s, which we would love to have, but just couldn’t afford on top of the entry. Maybe next time.
As usual (it really feels as if this is happening every time!), it was raining during the night. Will we ever get used to the weather? Since the race only started at 10:00 (what a welcome change to the 6 o’clock starting time for all races in SA) we could wake up at a decent time and comfortably get ready, and head to the start. Arriving at the Massey University Recreation Centre, a drizzle left me no choice but to put on a rain coat on top of two warm layers. This time we also had gloves and I’m sure the Kiwi’s might have thought us completely mad! Some were, as is normally the case, dressed in shorts and singlets, with the temperature at only 6 degrees. I really need to toughen up! But then again, if you’re born in these conditions, I guess you get used to the weather. We saw one “supporter” in a pram – a baby, sitting happily in the rain swinging his legs. No worries, mate. 🙂 That was such a nice sight – it made me think for days afterwards how protected we were from seemingly “bad” weather in SA.
When lining up at the start we spoke to a lady who rather prefers trail runs, mentioning that the rain might spruce up an otherwise boring run. If you prefer trail runs, a road race can at times seem boring. For me, just the joy of running with other people makes up for whatever the run might throw at us, regardless of how boring it might seem. Especially if you run in places and on roads where you’ve never been before.
The siren sounded and we were off. In the drizzle. It was fairly cold, but fortunately only a light wind. We ran through the Massey campus, before heading towards town, across the Manawatu River bridge, to cover a short loop in the Hokowhito suburb. At 5km, a time keeper shouted out your time as you pass – this also happened at the halfway point. What a nice addition to the race! We were on a 6min/km pace after 30min into the run, faster than I planned (this was supposed to be a slow long run), but with the rain and all, I just wanted to get it over as fast as I could.
Between 6 and 7kms we experienced our own bag pipe player! Such a nice sound, it always brings back fond memories of past SA races. From there we followed the river on the Bridle walkway, through suburbs to go around the Awapuni Race course, and all the way back. When passing the halfway mark, we were on 65 minutes according to the timekeeper.
I never realised how big a horse racing course is! 2.2kms? 2 miles? This meant it took some time for us to circumnavigate the track. When first reaching the area, the distinct smell of barnyard flavours immediately had me thinking about all the Irene Agricultural Research Centre races. But as we progressed, the smells changed as we seem to have reached the sewerage works. This was less nice, fortunately only for a brief period, and we also passed what I think could be Mount Cleese?
For those who don’t know the story: apparently Palmerston North has the reputation as the most boring town in NZ. Why, I have no idea. I seem to be missing something, because Palmy has so much going for it, with all the science centres and being a student city and only 140km from Wellington. However, when John Cleese visited NZ and Palmy, he apparently mentioned at some point that if you consider suicide, but haven’t gone over the edge yet, a trip to Palmy should do the trick! Hence, the locals dubbed the rubbish dump Mount Cleese. 🙂
Strangely enough, we also passed the “unlucky” 13th kilometre at this point. The rain started clearing up a bit and from about 6km to go there was no more rain and we could dry out a little bit. It was very cold, but fortunately there was only a very light wind which makes the world of difference to the temperature!
Shortly before the 20km mark we had to run up a little hill on the Massey campus, to follow the road to the east back to the recreation centre, to finish in a time of 2:13:33 (only 34 seconds slower than the week before).
And here’s another great thing about the Manawatu races – I know it may seem small, but believe me these little things makes the world of difference – they have chairs at the finish where you can sit to remove your timing chip! What a luxury. You cannot believe how difficult it is to bend down on sore legs to remove a timing chip, battling not to lose your balance, since you are too sore and stiff to properly kneel or bend down.
At the prize giving, it turned out the one gentleman did his 99th half marathon. He also did 27 of the 29 Manawatu Striders Half marathons, with his slowest being only 4min slower than the first one 29 year ago! That’s impressive.
I was lucky to win a spot prize! A 15 litre dry bag courtesy of Kathmandu.
The Manawatu Striders really know how to host an event! Thanks to Al and the rest of the team for another wonderful race. We will be back next year.