Walking on an empty winter beach at dawn like I am prone to do sometimes I get a little philosophical. Just this morning it occurred to me that there is a simplicity about running. A type of magic that causes a feeling of release, just from the mere fact, that the body is moving like it is designed to.
Sure we can complicate it with other things that remove us from that feeling; to get fitter; to loose a few pounds; to go faster.
But when you get past all of that you rediscover the pure joy of what it should be. That first memory. When you were not trying to do anything, except exalt in the freedom only going as fast or as slow as the moment demanded. Just existing in that exhilaration, running barefoot across wet grass with your friends.
Speeding, straining, all jostling elbows before pausing breathless, then dashing forward again.
There are times when I run now where i get close to touching the ghost of that feeling…when I crest the top of a hill with speed still in my legs, and begin the roll down the other side, just a little bit fast, just barely remaining in control.
We recently added another little bod to the chaos in our house a rescue pup called Toby. I say “little” in a very limited sense, he is a 10month old huntaway cross. His feet are huge and in the short space of time we have had him, he has gone from a skinny bag of bones to a relatively sleek looking mischief maker.
Having a new addition has limited my running somewhat in the short term; but based on Tobys current progress I am sure he will outrun me in no time.
It was also a way for me to process all of it… it allowed me some normalcy over a period when nothing else was normal. I mean there is nothing more normal than going for a run. Right?
… Running is about as familiar to me as breathing….
As I’ve said, I rarely run fast. But I love the rhythm of going for a run…
The rare moments when you get a flow on and the only thing that your mind is occupied with is the steady drumming of your feet as they make contact and spring you forward…
The white noise of breathing, as your lungs pull life into you…
The pulse of the terrain, as you trace the topography…
My Dad was a runner too, a moderately good one in fact..
Our family grew up with the stories of him running. First in his younger days, when running was only being done by a few crazy individuals, and it was common to have less than 10 entries in a marathon field.
And after us kids came along, he continued running. There are pictures in the family photo album of Dad, crossing the finishing lines of event, holding onto at least one of us 3 kids.
But he has a different way of describing the feeling of running, in his own desert dry humorous way that he has.
“…. it’s like banging your head against a brick wall. .. it feels best when you stop..”
My Dad and I don’t always agree on everything but we do both understand running … and he taught me the value of family… it is definitely because of him I know how to be a good dad.
And one day I might even be be a moderately good runner.
As I sit at home with a slightly sore left ankle and very tight legs, I am still trying to process all that happened yesterday.
It started at 7.40am, and in another way it also started 8 months ago when I cooked up this trilogy. But it really started close enough to a year ago (19th November) when I actually became Fat Dad.
So much has changed over that year, and yesterday was the third and final chapter of the trilogy. But it was really just another day… a VERY long day.
Stage 1- Waotu to Waipapa.
It was a misty start at 399 Waotu South Road, where I had my own support crew to see me off.
The course ran briefly along to the end of Waotu South Road, climbing to the highest point and the first vista of the river.
And then went very quickly downhill from there… but the view of the river improved.
The track ran along the lake heading upriver to the Waipapa Dam, a shortish section of around 16km.
The scenery along this section and indeed the whole track is world class, with one of the highlights being the first of two impressive swing bridges.
The next highlight was seeing the dam that marked the end of this stage.
I am lucky enough to have an amazing assortment of crazy friends and family, who have turned out in various combinations, to support me at each of the events, and this time was no different.
My sister-in-law, her hubby and two of my very good mates ably reinforced my chief support crew, with their own style of cheer-leading. For which I am most grateful, and became aware of, at the end of the first stage.
Stage 2- Waipapa to Mangakino.
After a quick restock of liquid, food items and with cries of “keep running!!” ringing in my ears, I headed off again.
Looking back on it now, I enjoyed stage 2 the most, except the actual finish. Stage 1 I was still settling into something like a rhythm (a shuffle), and stage 3 was still to come. But Stage 2, is where I did my best work, and despite the size of the hills, by the time I made it to halfway I was definitely in a good head-space.
A lot of this stage was either climbing up big hills or coming down them, the track did go past the lake a couple of times, and it did have me wondering whether I would’ve been better off going fishing instead.
Throughout the run there was both the official run distance markers and the trail markers, against which you could measure progress. On this stage there was one that I had in my head to look out for as it was where I knew it was all downhill into Mangakino from there. I had run up to this point a few days before. So in my head I knew what I had to look forward to.
Along this section, the old construction site around Lake Maretai has become all overgrown and otherworldly, and served as a nice distraction before the short run down the road to the end of stage 2 and the Beginning of stage 3.
Stage 3 Mangakino to Whakamaru (aka to hell and back).
Only a short section, a mere 12 kilometers…
The course brochure describes it as..
“The next 12km from Mangakino to Whakamaru Dam is a highlight of the day. You will enjoy the rolling gravel track as you hammer it through pockets of bush with farm land and friendly cows to your right and constant views of Lake Maraetai to your left – stunning!”
The view was as described, and the second suspension bridge was definitely a highlight.
But for me this section is best forgotten, the combination of short choppy hills with the warm afternoon breeze made it feel like running into a hair dryer on full while attempting to “hammer it along the rolling gravel track”. By this point I was rolling more like a hammer…
I dragged myself to Whakamaru Dam, and at the aid station threw two cups of water over my head before drinking one. I felt like I was burning up. My support crew cheered me onward, with larger signs and bigger noise makers, and a few jet planes helped too…
50km done only 10km to go.* (definitely not a sentence I ever thought I’d say).
Stage 4 Whakamaru to Hikurangi Island (Dunhams Reserve).
The distance markers changed from every 5k to every 2k and that helped somehow make the distance go faster. 8km with 80mins till the 9.5hr cut off, 6km with 60mins till the cut off, 4km…
Through the last drinks station.
Where the volunteers, absolutely golden, had hung around longer to make sure I had some supplies and to give me an extra cheer, along with my now officially equipped supporters club.
2km still shuffling.
1km out of the bush and a final “burst” across the causeway to the finish..
Ahh the finish….
I have so much to be thankful for, to everyone who has offered me support along this journey, I have always known, I have a wonderful bunch of crazy friends and family. Everything I have experienced on this wee adventure has just confirmed it.
It’s less than a week to go before the third and ultimate event in this challenge. Yesterday as part of the final lead, in I was able to play support crew for my wonderful amazing wife. Jules has just quietly been chipping away at the training to complete the K1 cycle race.
A 100km ride from Coromandel town to Tairua. With a tough head wind and 3 massive hills she toughed it out with her usual grit and determination. And even finished with a smile on her face.
The lady is amazing!
Mum and daughter both inspire me in so many ways and this Saturday I know it will be these two giving me all the support and inspiration I need.