Bright and early on Saturday morning, the keen and the hardy gathered at the start line. The other competitors all looked very fit and experienced, and I mentally prepared myself for finishing in last place and a long time after everyone else. I never enter races with even the vaguest hope of a podium finish, that is not why I run, but there is always a bit of me that wants to be better than last, and not embarrassingly slow. I want to feel that my training and fervor count for something akin to athleticism.
The starting horn sounded, we trotted of up a hill, and the pack spread out. I passed a few runners on the first uphill stretch, (and was passed by several more), and felt pleased that I was even able to run up a hill (nearly all of my running has been on the flat). The 7km leg, was full of lots of short quick climbs, descents, and different terrain. At the half way turn around point, I was pleased to see others were still coming behind me. Everyone was very smiling and encouraging, and I think I smiled throughout the whole race (though my running face may have translated the smile into some sort of Stewie-like grimace). I was having a brilliant time. On the return trip I marveled that I had run up some of the slopes that had seemed quite steep as I ran down them in the opposite direction. The finish was down a hill (a glorious thing), and I powered into the finish in 46:47.
The 15.42km started in the pouring rain. We all gathered in the farm shearing shed before the race began, and I heard one of the seasoned runners telling a younger competitor that this leg of the Kahuterawa Classic was the most challenging of the three, "its the most scenic, definitely the hardest work, but its well worth it". Oh joy I thought, and besides, how much of the consolatory view will be obscured in the grey of the weather? The race started off up a different hill, with a gradual but noticeable gradient. Well fueled for the afternoon race, my legs felt energetic and powerful. I was soaked and the driving rain was forcing the sweat into my eyes. Mostly my eyes were on the road, but at one point I glanced up: I could see distant figures bouncing up the side of a small mountain, dear god, I was going to have to run up there.
I toiled upwards, lungs burning, and the up some more. It was such hard work, but, slowly I was doing it. I reached the summit, and let gravity do its thing, legs propelling me down the other side as my lungs stopped bleeding. After a couple more, slightly more civilized hills, I plunged into bush and mud. Each challenging up hill stretch, rewarded with a wonderful charge downhill. After a few true off-road kilometers, the bush gave way to road, and a blessed drinks station. I neatly deposited a large cup of water down my front, mostly managing to avoid my mouth. Then followed a long stretch on tar-seal, before struggling up the final really steep uphill section. The last 3.5km of the course followed, the return section of the 7km race. This part of the run was brilliant because I knew how far I had to go, and the sort of terrain I had to cover, and consequently could allocate my energy, so I could put in every last effort to the finish line. I crossed the line at 1:42:37. I was so thrilled to have finished in under two hours.
The Kahuterawa Classic taught me three things:
- I really love running up hills. I love how I can really feel my legs working. I love how hard and challenging hills are and I love that every up hill leads to the glorious down hill afterwards.
- I find running in the rain refreshing and enjoyable
- That I want lots more training over challenging and interesting terrain.
Now I want more.
More hills, more trails, more training, more muscle ache.