This has got to be our race of almosts. Firstly I yet again missed the two hours mark with less than a minute (39 seconds, to be exact – too many photo breaks, perhaps?). Secondly Gerry’s name was drawn as “first back-up” to the winners of the major spot-prize (7 days’ accommodation at Rarotonga), meaning that, unless one of the actual winners decided not to take up their prize, we only just missed out on a great island holiday. So close. On the plus side, if any of the actual winners decides not to use their prize for whatever reason, we’re up for a cool holiday – fingers crossed!
We fetched our race packs on Saturday afternoon, before heading to Johann and Nettie for a great evening of rugby (NZ v SA) at Westpac Stadium, beer and pizzas. It was raining on the way down from Palmy and was still going strong through the night. Luckily we only had the occasional drizzle during the rugby, but that all changed during the night when it really came down. We were secretly hoping it might clear up, but unfortunately it was still drizzling in the morning as we drove around the Wellington harbour towards Lower Hutt where the race headquarters was. We arrived early and while we savoured the warmph of the car, lots of runners were warming up in the cold windy drizzle.
Just before race briefing, we braved the weather to join the crowd of other 21.1km runners. We were still taking shelter next to the building, but soon the countdown started and we were promptly on our way at 9:00. The course is fairly flat, only doing ups and downs crossing or going under bridges, or getting up or over the stop bank next to the river. After a short section on sealed road, we headed over a grassy patch, onto the pavement, and down onto a wooden pathway going under a bridge, back on the road, pavements etc, which indicated early on already what the course would be like. It is quite scenic and varied, passing through an industrial area, suburbs, and finally following the Hutt River on both sides.
We started off conservatively, but after the first couple of kilometres picked up the pace a little. I was feeling okey and thought to myself I will just push it as far as I can. It was cold, wet and windy and really not the greatest weather for such a lovely event. Lots of marshals were out on the course directing runners with a friendly comment or word of encouragement. The first approximately 4.5 kilometres are run between buildings and houses, sheltering us a bit from the wind, but as soon as you reach the walkway next to the river you are quite exposed. With a tail wind heading out, things were going great. A few kilometers before the turn-around point at 11km, we started seeing more and more participants making their way back. Runners and walkers of all shapes, ages and sizes where passing each other on the out-and-back section.
We reached the turn-around at 11km in 1:03 and a two hour half marathon seemed reasonably achievable. That is, until we turned and started heading back. A terrible headwind nearly stopped me dead in my tracks. I still pushed on for a few kilometres, but out of breath (and steam!) at about the 15km mark, I slowed down considerably, giving up all hope of making it home in under two hours. With regular walk breaks, the last six kilometres ticked by very slowly until the finish line was in sight.
Reaching the “1km to go” sign, Gerry mentioned that I might still make the 2hr target if I could do the last km in a bit under 5:30. I gave it a go for a few hundred metres, but the windy stretch had been too much, and I soon realised this was not going to be my day. Gutted about the near miss, we headed home for a warm shower before returning for prize-giving.
This event is very well organised and great fun to do. I would happily do it again. It’s well worth the trip down to Wellington and if you’re in the area, why not give it a go next year? You might even walk away with an island holiday!