|(Before the run - ignorance equals happy days)|
(click on the name to see more about it)
So who does not want to run a marathon through the mountains? When Ben first started tossing around the idea with me I thought the same thing most people would think, "Um, no thank you. I appreciate the invitation but please go to the looney bin where you might find some people dumb enough to run this with you." Well Ben is quite convincing and after doing a few training runs with him I began to see the benefits of running in the mountains - mostly the views. The challenge of it is nice but to be honest it is not the biggest draw for me. It feels nice when I am done but during the event itself I can lose focus on why I am doing such a thing to myself.
|(At the start of the race the Maori did a Haka war dance to|
help inspire us on our way - pretty awesome)
|(I tried to snag some shots along the way. Sometimes it was|
too dangerous and I had to pay attention but at other times
I stole a few beautiful pics)
So who is dumb enough to sign up to do a mountain marathon with Ben... yeah. I was suspicious when looking over the registration information and finding out there was a compulsory kit each runner needed to carry. No big deal, only the following items: short sleeve thermal top, long sleeve thermal top, full length tights, seam sealed waterproof jacket, thermal beanie, gloves, and a first aid kit with - a crepe bandage, tape, ten bandaid strips, a triangular bandage, small scissors, and a survival bag. This should have been a good indication that perhaps I should just leave this run to the more experienced trail runners. "No," Ben would say, "That gear is just in case the weather turns nasty when you're up on the peaks. No worries" (oh right that makes it sound better). I managed to round up all of the "compulsory gear" and Ben let me borrow one of his running bags so that I could carry it all with me, along with two water bottles. The day before the race I went to have my bag inspected and discovered my short sleeve top did not count as thermal and what exactly a survival bag was so I could buy one. It's basically a survival blanket but bigger (those metallic looking things they throw on people when they need to be shielded from the elements). I purchased the necessary items, stuffed my bag with it all, ate some delicious dinner, and headed back to get some much needed rest before the big day. All the talk was done and this thing was finally upon me.
|(As I said, the main advantage to this kind of running is|
definitely the scenery - unbelievable until you see it)
|(Yep, we crossed several streams and rivers. This was one of|
the smallest - pretty epic shot of this guy that was
running in front of me)
|(I wanted to add a few shots that really|
captured the steepness of some of our
There were a few issues that added up to my performance - we will call them issues instead of excuses because who really cares. But over the past month or so I've been nursing a "niggle" in my knee (click here to read a previous post where I talk about this a little bit more). It was getting the better of me and in an attempt to keep my knee from exploding unexpectedly on a run I started taking off some time. Regrettably when I finally decided my knee pain was too bad to train properly this past month for the run it had passed the point where any refund was possible. And since the entry fee is nothing to scoff at I decided I would still run anyway. I think this was a good choice as the marathon was a good experience.
|(Great view but why do we have to climb it?? To be fair|
the view was better at the top!)
|(At the top of the two main climbs there was an aid station|
with a wonderful volunteer to give us water/electrolytes
and sometimes snacks like Jelly Belly beans)
It was an amazing experience overall but I cannot say that it was not without some major trials. After mile ten my body started to reject the idea of mountain running being fun. In fact, as I neared the halfway point of the run I honestly doubted my ability to finish whatever this grueling course had in store for me. As I neared the halfway point of the course my mindset had become so poor I had decided I would ask them for a ride to the finish line. The lines had already been rehearsed in my head, most likely something about my knee, and then something funny happened. As I approached the aid station at the half
|(No real trail here - just running down. I|
quite liked this part really. I felt free as
though I was just out running on
mountains like they were a playground)
marathon one of the aid workers said, "How's it going out there?" I responded with, "Rough." He almost instantly quirked back in a playful manner, "Rough day in the office aye?" I have yet to discern if it was this short conversation, the runners who came up behind me (I recognized one and knew they were good runners), or if it was just the much needed food but I found myself continuing the course.
Why? How would I finish another thirteen miles when everything inside of me felt as though I barely finished the first thirteen? I knew there were still some major climbs and I dreaded them.
Something got me moving. Somehow I managed to try and stay with that group of guys as long as possible. And slowly but surely I worked my way through the rest of the course.
The ascents were more brutal than my mind had imagined. The descents were longer and more detrimental to my body than I could have predicted. As the muscles in my body all started to revolt in their spastic seizing cramps I was forced to stop multiple times and stretch waiting for them to loosen their tight kung fu grip. It was not fun to watch as others would run on by, envying their lack of lactic acid in their legs or whatever was causing my cramps. But on we all went and up and down we all staggered, some faster and some slower. There were moments when my mind found what I was doing to be a betrayal against all of what it means to be a human, while there
|(This picture is significant to me because it is where I knew|
I would have no choice but to finish the whole race - the
halfway point where I kept going)
With such a strange confluence of emotions and thoughts the marathon became much more of a journey than a run or race. While it is true I still clung deep down to the self-centered thoughts of, "What will my wife think of me if I do not finish?" or "Man Ben is going to really make fun of me for coming in so slow." or even, "I am probably in last place and it is so embarrassing," there was another and deeper part of me that saw through all of that to the truth. None of that mattered and most of it was entirely false. Sure there is competition and pride and selfishness routed in all of what kept me going, but there was also something more real trying to uproot all of that other foolishness. Maybe a connection to something greater, older, more pure, and even utterly more simple. I grasped at it while I ran, when I could, fading out of my own thoughts and into the rhythm of the landscape.
|(Our first climb after the halfway point... it...just...kept...|
going. But don't worry, there was more for all)
But how can I explain what I barely glimpsed out there? I wish the pictures could show what it is to see these sites. I wish it was as basic as me saying something like, "The views make it worth the effort." There is something more primordial in the event. As the mystical "unicorn" so the speak, it elusively dangled its scent before me for a few moments during the run and now as I look back in my heart's eye I can almost see it. Like a dream the memory fades as I grasp for it. Yet even if I could get a more firm hold on even the concept of what was happening I doubt my words would hold a candle to what was happening yesterday.
During the last five kilometers of this run I found myself speaking to my body, begging it to relax. I had been cramping off and on for so long and
|(This might be the best selfie I have ever taken - phew)|
My left abductor on my inner leg had been the main culprit and was not happy about my wanting to finish this run. With a lot of focus, pretty much everything I had, I spoke out loud to myself, "Relax the left abductor." It's grip remained. In a stronger voice, "Relax the left abductor!" It loosened a little bit and I followed this up by calming my body as
|(I had to whip out my camera and take a shot of this ridge|
we were running up. I kept thinking we would just run out
of space - so much ascending)
There is so much more I could say about this run and I have said way too much already! A special thanks to Ben, Helen, Miriam, Gordon Shona, Cath, and Simon for waiting and cheering me on as I finished as though I had just won the race. What a way to finish! It turns out Ben was not ready to make fun of me for finishing so slowly but had only words of encouragement for finishing my first mountain trail run (I knew my mind had been lying to me out there).
I have added a few more pics because they are really the best part anyway. There will even be a video or two of the ridge line running and crossing a stream. I hope you enjoy them - maybe go for a nice long run sometime soon.
(Here is the video clip from the movie I was talking about earlier - pretty awesome)