We started off bright and early for the drive to Petone, the weather looking grey and menacing. I hadn't done any running in the week leading up to this half marathon trail run because I felt an inkling of a cold, and didn't want to invite the full-blown sickness by stressing my body. This lack of training made me feel a bit nervous and under-prepared.
The small contingent of runners for the half marathon leg piled into the shuttle to transport us to the start line. During the ride, my per-race nerves set in stronger than ever. The other entrants looked wildly fit and streamlined, and I had to remind myself over and over again that I was running this race against myself. I even found myself wondering if, with my weeks gap in training, I would still even be able to run, would my legs still work?
A few more runners joined us at the start line, and we stood, stretched and warmed up in the freezing morning wind, cheering the marathon and ultra marathon runners from the same event as the headed past. Eventually we counted down to the start, and set off. I found myself running next to another young competitor, and we started chatting, laughing that we were only just keeping pace with the race walkers.
My new companion had an impressive running CV, having completed the London Marathon (among others), several races in the UK (her home country) and was running three races this weekend (including the one we were enjoying). She told me that she was planning to enter a 90km ultra marathon in South Africa. WOW. As the race progressed we talked about life, the universe and everything, mostly laughing. It was a new experience to share the run with someone else, and to be able to keep up a conversation along the whole route. Our running pace was rather similar, but my companion could have kept going all day I think and had heaps in reserve to boost it to the finish line. The trail itself followed the river, which was mostly obscured by trees, and was flat with some gentle undulations.
The good company and the conversation meant that half the distance was completed before I even noticed. The other competitors were friendly and encouraging as we passed, and I really enjoyed giving the ultra marathon runners a cheer as they powered past - heros every one.
I carried my Camelbak, and guzzled down plenty of water and a couple of GU chomps as well as a gel towards the final 5km mark. I had a lot more energy for this race (compared with the Three Bridges Half), and ran the whole distance without a single walking break. I started the race wearing three layers, but as the race progressed the weather improved, and became quite hot and humid, so I shed a couple, much to the humor of my companion, who couldn't believe I was wearing so much.
We picked up the pace with only a couple of km to go. I was starting to fade, but my friend urged me on, refusing to let me give an inch. I pushed harder and, feeling like I was going to puke, forced my legs to keep pumping all the way to the finish, receiving the obligatory post-race banana (delicious) and lift plus (revolting). After lying on the ground and regaining control of my breathing and vomit reflex (without chucking, I proudly add), my new friend and I guzzled chocolate milk (much, much nicer than yucky lift plus, and a much better recovery drink). She is also planning to run the Tussock Traverse next weekend, and I am looking forward to seeing a familiar face at the next race.
Having running company was really nice, and confirms that I should join my local running club - it is so nice to be able to share like experiences, advice and stories, and very nice to laugh my way through a whole half marathon.