I am not a natural runner. I don’t long to hit the pavement and get some miles under my feet. So adding a half marathon to my #Year of 30 list seems like a good idea right?
I’ve read this quote a number of times and I really try to use it as inspiration. My body is an amazing thing that can do so much that others only dream of. One day I will be an old fart and won’t be able to walk far, let alone run….but today is not that day.
Initially I’d planned to enter the 2016 Round the Bays half marathon and I even entered myself into a 10km race in September to prepare for it, however getting bitten in the leg by NZ’s only slightly venomous spider took me out of action for a while, then work got it a bit crazy, then it was summer holidays, then work just stepped it up a whole other level! So I managed the 10km race at Round the Bays with no training and resolved that entering myself into the Wellington Marathon (which is after my Year of 30 is over) would have to do. That was until I had dinner with a friend who was entering the Hawkes Bay Half Marathon on 14 May. After watching this promo video below, I was sold!
Over the Easter sales I stocked up on some extra pairs of Nike running pants, scored a hydration pack with a brand new bladder for cheap off TradeMe, officially entered myself in the race and booked ourselves an AirBnB room 5mins walk from the house our friends had booked.
I only had 8 weeks to train, which isn’t ideal but I figured running through vineyards in the Hawkes Bay would be much more preferable than running running into a Wellington Gale in the middle of winter. Besides, it finished at a vineyard and as a friend pointed out, anyone can run that far for wine right?! Luckily I found this half marathon plan that didn’t seem too ridiculous and aimed to stick with it – which I managed to do for the most part as you can see below.
Some cool videos from the major sponsor Air New Zealand helped to keep the motivation and excitement for the race high.
We took our sweet time getting up to the Hawkes Bay on the Friday before the race, stopped at my parents place for lunch but managed to make it to the registration in the Napier Soundshell by 6pm. The queue was long enough but moving efficiently so I had my race pack in no time (must have got some tips from Air NZ check-in crew!). We decided to have a low key night so picked up some fresh pasta for some last minute extra carb loading (I’d been carb loading all week) and I made sure I had all my gear laid out and ready for the morning.
I slept terribly the night before – a combination of nerves, being petrified I was going to sleep through my alarm and dreams/nightmares of race day. I was up before the alarm and attempting to eat my porridge and banana for breakfast. I say attempting to because I had the worst case of nerves I’ve ever had in my entire life. I felt like I was going to throw up eating breakfast but somehow managed to force it down as I knew I needed it for fuel.
With Paul as my #1 support crew for the day (on photography and discarded clothing duty), we got to the start line easily enough and found our friends Phil and Aaron who were also running the half marathon. Before long it was 8am and we were in the starting pens with the starting gun going off. I knew I wasn’t going to run a particularly fast race as I’d been managing about 7mins/km to keep myself at a steady pace and not puff myself out too early, so I put myself in the 2:30-3:00 time slot. Once we finally crossed the start line I found the majority of people around me were all walking and found it frustrating trying to get around them and into a decent run. I knew I was probably going to be walking at some stage towards the end of the race but I didn’t want to START OUT walking!
Finally I managed to get into a steady pace and could take in the scenery as we ran through the bush, along the river and past apple orchards. At 7kms I passed another lady from work and managed to keep a fairly steady pace with little walking (apart from to take a drink) until about the 11km mark. From then on it was a bit of a struggle. My lungs were struggling (and I’m pretty sure it was lack of fitness rather than asthma) and my legs were starting to feel the burn. The terrain underfoot was a real struggle as it went from road to uneven soil with big rocks through the vineyards, followed by very sandy conditions, then loose gravel. By the time I got to about 15/16km mark, the wind had started to pick up and was blowing the sand from the vineyards into my face. To top this all off it was a gloriously hot 25 degrees. I’d obviously not fueled properly (despite having an energy gel pre-race) as it felt as if my stomach was eating itself – so I was regularly snacking on the skittles in my pocket and grabbing the energy drinks as I passed the drink stands.
With 3km to go I messaged Paul so he knew to keep a look out for me and I struggled on trying to balance my energy exertion so I at least had enough in my to run across the finish line! The last km seemed to be the longest and part of it ran along the road edge before turning into Selini Vineyard for the final few meters. Lots of the 10km and half marathon runners had already finished and were walking back along the same track as us, as well as spectators who were dawdling along which was a little frustrating as I wanted to yell out “MOVE – some of us are still running here!!” but I restrained myself.
As I turned into the final stretch I kept my eyes peeled for any friendly faces and I finally spotted Paul 200m from the start line. Thankfully he saw me in time to get some snap of me coming in. As I got closer to the finish I saw our friends Leah and Jase cheering me on and got an extra boost of energy as I high-fived them on the way to the end. My official time was 2hr 41mins 43sec.
I managed to find Leah, Jase and then eventually Paul and after a quick catch up and race debrief we decided to head back to the car as it was pretty crowded and we were keen to check out more of the Hawkes Bay. It was a long painful walk back to the car as Paul had to park a fair bit away but we headed to Abbey Cellars to have a celebration drink and some food.
After freshening up at our accommodation, we caught up with Jo, Phil, Aaron and Renee for a drink in the sun before meeting our old London flatmates Leah and Jase for dinner at the local favourite pub, The Duke of Glouster. It was a great night catching up on what they’d been up to and plans for the future.
In the morning we brunched at Cappadonna Cafe, before heading to The Crab Farm vineyard for one last wine tasting. We stopped at my cousin’s place for a quick catch up on the way out of town as I haven’t seen him and his family for quite a few years so it was nice to be able to do that too.
My thighs were in a world of pain on Sunday and Monday but by the time I managed to cash in a massage voucher for East Day Spa on the Wednesday after the race they weren’t too bad.
It was a great weekend all around and it felt good to tick the half marathon off the Year of 30 list. Thanks to Phil for encouraging me to enter the Hawkes Bay half marathon and to Leah (from Naturally Leah fame) for getting me into running way back in London and continuing to encourage me along the way. Of course lots of thanks to my support crew Paul for encouraging me in my training and being there as race day support.
I think I want to get a lot more confident with just casually running 10km before I enter another half marathon but it’s not completely off the cards.
Have you completed a half marathon or started training for one? What’s the best half marathon you’ve competed in?