T’was a rainy day in Palmy when we left around two in the afternoon, heading for Auckland. Gerry and I decided to make a wee bit of a outing of it and packed the tent for a halfway sleep-over.
We took the road over Wanganui and onto the SH4 to drive a section that we haven’t driven before. New territory – hilly and curvy roads between farms, a beautiful area in the heart of King Country. About 20km from the Waitomo Caves, we stopped to overnight at Te Kuiti. Should the caves entry fee be affordable and time allows, we would make a trip in the morning, to see amongst others, the glow worm cave. However, neither turned out in our favour. So, off we were to Auckland, to Willie and Alida who kindly hosted us for the weekend.
We arrived in a hot and humid Auckland in the early Saturday afternoon, when Willie, Alida and her dad took us back into town to register and fetch our race packs. Afterwards they took us on a scenic tour of the city, showing us all the new buildings and shops that were built for the Rugby World Cup. Roads were closed off to become walkways and the recent win still tints everything rose-coloured (or is it black?).
Before returning home, Willie drove the marathon route, which gave me a bit of a fright, to again realise how far 42.2km is! Alida and her dad prepared a lovely chicken-pasta dish before we went to sleep at around eleven.
It was an early start having to catch the bus at 5:05. We got up around four, had some yoghurt, banana and tea, and were off to the “Park and Ride” at Constellation Drive in Northshore where Willie left his car. We caught the bus that took us to Devonport, King Edward Parade (at Windsor Park), to the start of the race. Across the harbour, Auckland city is visible in a distance, with the bridge that connects Northshore to the city centre.
It was still dark outside as busload after busload of runners were dropped off in the street at the start of the race. Some also arrived by ferry from the Auckland waterfront. We were fairly early and although the weather was near perfect, the cool breeze was a bit on the chilly side for me. Luckily we had the option of wearing warm clothing until shortly before the start – these we left in our participant bag, (labeled with your name and race number), which we placed into specially marked containers, to be transported to the finish by the organisers.
The fact that we were about to run 42.2km still hadn’t sunk in and as the sun started to light up the sky, we made one last pee stop before lining up with 3 262 other runners about to embark on this mind-over-matter, crazy, lovely, challenging, gruelling, tough, long, beautiful adventure.
The half marathon run attracted some 7415 participants while the remainder of the 15 500 field were made up of walkers (42.2 and 21.1km events), quarter marathon and 5km runners.
At 6:10 the horn sounded and we were off, trotting along in the early hours of the morning in Devonport’s lovely olive tree lined streets. The first half of the race is on the hilly side of undulating (although the organisers describe it as “rolling”) and it wasn’t long before we hit the first little hill. A lonely trumpet player was entertaining us runners as we passed him. Apart from the footfall of hundreds of people and some birds greeting the new day, it was fairly quiet in the suburb.
As we meandered Northshore through Devonport, Takapuna and Birkenhead suburbs in the first couple of kays, I still couldn’t get my mind around the fact that after a first half marathon, a second one awaits! In SA we were used to (spoiled by?) running a 32km event before a marathon as build-up. But this time, we only did a couple of 21km races, forgetting all about how going longer and further, felt.
At the 10km mark, Alida and her dad treated us with Coke and snacks. Always very exciting to meet friends while on the road, while “suffering” through kilometre after kilometre. Thanks Alida and uncle Esra!
A few more twists and turns before we reached the Auckland Harbour Bridge at around 14kms. The bridge could possibly be considered as the biggest hill on the course. It is about 1km long with an elevation of 33 metres. A drumming session by a bunch of musicians next to the road gave us extra inspiration for the hill that lay ahead. Having prepared for the worst, the “hill” was over before I knew it, leaving me to think that some of the other hills were worse.
The western/right-hand-most lane of the bridge was closed off for the runners. Being a big city marathon, the organisation involved around managing road-closures must be cause for many headaches. But to our delight, all the roads were closed for traffic and nowhere did we have to negotiate vehicles. Absolute bliss!
Once over the bridge it is just a couple of kays before we reached the finish for the half marathon. By now, I could feel both my ITBs and generally some niggles in my knees. Maybe because of the humidity? As we passed the finish line for the half marathoners, I wished for the short while that it was rather me. We could hear the jollification going on as the 21.1km runners entered the finishing shoot at Victoria Park.
We took a left turn into Viaduct Harbour Avenue to start the second half of our run. From there we followed the waterfront all the way to St Heliers Bay to turn around at the 31.5km mark to run all the way back. Being a out and back course for the second half, makes it very social. By now I could feel the sun nibbling my ear, but the cool breeze was enough to keep us cooled down. Although we were now well and truly in unfamiliar terrain (having last run that far in May this year), I was still doing okey. I was very sore, but could still shuffle on, taking only a few short walk breaks, mainly at the water stations.
The course layout is such that you can see all the front runners. On the 21.1km, they come screaming past from behind if you’re not too fast, and on the full marathon they come from the front as you start with the out and back section.
Twelve water tables with at least water and Powerade are en route. Most of them also had Coke which really is a rare feature in NZ races (at least the ones we’ve done thus far). This is really a great event that is excellently organised – one that might just become an annual fixture on our running calendar.
We finished in 4:45, still feeling okey. And for the very first time in all our NZ runs so far, we received medals. 🙂 We fetched our race bags with extra clothing and caught the bus back to Constellation Drive to get Willie’s car. After a lovely lunch at Willie and Alida’s, they took us for an outing to Piha – a tiny beach on the west coast of Auckland – where we enjoyed a celebratory bubbly. All in all a wonderful weekend.