Date: 9 August 2015
Time: 1:40:46 (Gerry); 2:21:42 (Wouna)
If you do any significant amount of distance training, you invariably end up running out of new routes in your region. And most likely, to simplify your daily routine, you end up regularly re-running the same routes day after day. In our case, our daily runs usually include Massey University and/or the Bridle Track along the Manawatu River.
As a result, lining up at the start line of the Manawatu Striders Half Marathon which covers, you guessed it, Massey University and the Bridle Track, I was not exactly breathless with anticipation about the course. Which is not to say that it is not a nice route – we just get so used to it that we forget that it’s actually quite special. Spoiled ay? On the bright side, I was aiming to improve on my time from last year, so that will keep things interesting.
The start at the Massey Recreation Site is perfect, with loads of parking, good facilities and enough toilets. Running through the Massey campus is cool too – it is certainly one of the most scenic university campuses in New Zealand, with massive trees, expansive lawns and very little traffic. The stretch from Massey to the Manawatu River is run on a walkway away from the road, so no traffic issues, and then you hit the Bridle Track, a very pleasant pathway hugging the riverbank. The course follows an out and back section running upstream first, turning around at the 8km mark, and returning towards the Manawatu Bridge. Passing under the bridge you do another out and back stretch, downstream this time, turning at 15km before returning to the bridge and back along the walkway to the finish at Massey. A good run indeed.
To mix things up a bit, we decided to make this the one race in the year where Wouna and I don’t run together, but rather each set our own pace and see how fast we can go. This year Wouna was still suffering from a cold, so no chance of a record breaking run there. Instead she decided to rather just cover the distance, opting for a slow run/walk strategy. I, on the other hand, was looking forward to a hard run, hoping to improve on my time from last year.
The turnout for the race was smaller than last year, with many people possibly put off by the bad weather in the weeks leading up to the event. The mid-winter months certainly make training difficult. Across the 5, 10 and 21km running and walking events, there was a total of about 650 participants, with almost half of those lining up for the Half Marathon.
Setting off at a brisk pace, I soon appreciated the cool air keeping me from getting too hot. Apart from a bit of a head-wind along parts of the river path, the conditions were really good for a fast run. I managed to maintain a 4:45 min/km pace fairly comfortably for the first half of the race. Not knowing how I would feel later on, I decided not to push too hard. Things got a little tougher as the kilometres passed, and it became more and more difficult to keep my pace below 5:00 min/km. The race has a nasty little sting in the tail, with a 1km uphill near the finish, just to keep you honest. But end good, all good, and I was happy to finish over two minutes faster than last year. I didn’t quite reach my (secret) target of sub 1:40, but was still very pleased to achieve my best time in many years. Wouna met up with Cheryl, a friend from the running club, and they opted for a relaxed, if rather chilly, cruise around the course.
After our run, we had a quick change of clothes before setting off to help with the post-race clean-up, and then it was off to the prize-giving. In addition to prizes to the top walking and running finishers in the Half Marathon, a good range of spot prizes were also handed out. I was, however, quite surprised that the 10km and 5km events were altogether left out of the proceedings with no mention of the running or walking winners at these events, and these participants were also not eligible for the the spot-prize lucky draws.
Aside from this rather strange decision, we had a really good day, with decent weather and another professionally run event from the Striders.