Auckland Marathon

A marathon: the perfect mix of pleasure and pain.

As we walked out of the door of our friends’ apartment (who very conveniently live just 500m up the hill from the starting line!) we were surprised to find that it wasn’t too cool to hang out pre-race in our singlets and shorts. As nice at that was, it meant that things were going to heat up quickly as soon as there was light.

A gorgeous pre-race sun rise in Devonport with Rangitoto Island in the distance:

The gun went off promptly at 6:10AM and we were off to conquer the next 42.2 kilometers. The course began on the north side of Auckland City in the town of Devonport (green pin on the map), it followed the coast for about 8k before heading inland, up and over the big bridge (mile 10), through the docks and town center and then did an out-and-back along the harbour to the finish in Victoria Park.

The hills on the course were mostly concentrated within the first 10 miles, basically always going up or down. I like hills and all of our training was very hilly so I felt quite at home here. It was the flat section past the Auckland Harbour Bridge into downtown Auckland that was more of a shock to the system.

The day started well. I felt strong and running felt light and easy. My 5K splits were consistently ranging between 23:35 and 24:18 minutes (7:32-49 min/mile pace) through the 30K mark. This was my pie in the sky: a 3:25 marathon finishing time. I just had to hold on to it for another 6 miles…

From 30-35K, my average pace began to drop. The sun was shining brightly and I was starting to feel its effects. I took 2 honey stingers in this section and downed 2 cups of powerade. Unfortunately, my electrolyte levels were hitting a dangerous low. In the next 5K section (from 35-40K), I began to feel my quad and calf muscles twitch. I pushed through the threat with determination and still on pace to hit my “A” goal : a 3:28 finish.

Unfortunately, the twitching intensified and started to spread into my arms and neck. I knew this wasn’t just fatigue from the miles, it was severe dehydration. I shook out my arms, rolled my neck around, tried to relax my body and focus on the finish line: just 2 kilometers to go. I kept on telling myself: “Less than 10 minutes to go!! 10 minutes! That’s it!” Just 2 km to go….

And then it happened. Just steps after the 40K mark, my entire left leg seized up in one sudden and simultaneous convulsion from my calf up to my quad and hamstring. I groaned and grimaced and pounded on my revolting legs. “STOP IT!” I yelled out loud to them. I lost my balance and found myself half on the ground. The slightest movement reinvigorated the cramping. I could hear the seconds on my watch tick away… I tried to take a step but couldn’t. I cursed. I thought to myself in a panic: I can’t even walk! How am I going to make it to the finish?!

A runner passed me and gave me a sympathetic pat on the back and an encouraging “come on, girlie, you can do it!” I took a deep breath, fiercely massaged my legs and started walking. After a few steps, I mustered the courage to break into a run. I hoped and prayed that my legs would hold out. I hate running drama and did not want to collapse again in the final stretch in front of everyone.

I put my head down, pushed through the stiffness and shooting pains in my leg, and ran the hardest single mile I’ve ever faced.

The final 100 meters. Covered in pain. Drenched in sweat. One word repeating over and over again in my head “push. push. push.

I made it. A bittersweet 3:31:46 and a huge, huge, huge sigh of relief. Now, I told my legs, cramp all you want!!!!!

Although I’m bummed that my race unwravelled in the final footsteps, I’m extremely proud of myself and pleased with my race and finishing time. I set an 18 minute personal best (NYC 2007) or 12 minutes if you count the Timberline Trail Marathon (2009) and definitely proved to myself that I’ve got some road speed. The second thought that crossed my mind at the finish was: “Now you’ve got to do it again and grab that ‘pie in the sky’ by the horns!” I’m gonna break that 3:30 barrier next time!

Ryan’s race was tough as well. We saw each other on the out-and-back section of the course and I yelled at him that he was in 31st place overall. He just looked at me and shook his head “no”. He didn’t have the speed in him today to hit his goals. He finished in a 2:59:23, happy to have at least broken the 3-hour barrier on a not-so-good day.

Post race brunch in Auckland; my sunken-in eyes tell the whole story….

Many thanks to Iain and Jenny for moving into such a well located apartment in anticipation of us running this thing, cheering and photographing us on the race, and humouring our ravenous appetites and hobbling afterwards!! :-)

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