Cracker by Damian Christie


Oma Rapeti!

After making a bit of a song and dance about having a crack at the half marathon last year, and then never managing to run it due to lack of training and unfortunate injuries, I thought I'd be a bit quieter this time around. Probably advice I should follow more in general, but anyway.

So this year, I entered again, along with my sister (so I'd have a training buddy) and have been pounding the pavement over the last few months. We didn't follow our prescribed training regime to the letter, and the planned month of temperance leading up to Sunday's event never quite happened (in fact, it was replaced with a succession of boozy weekends in celebration of the early arrival of summer), but I was reasonably confident we'd done enough.

Despite being sick all week, I resolved I couldn't back out again. So at 5am on Sunday morning, still in the midst of the feverish night sweats I can't seem to shake, I rolled out of bed, into my running shoes, and down to the ferry.

The massive queue (from the ferry buliding to Provedor and back again, for those who know the area) for the boat across to Devonport was made bearable by being able to laugh at the drunks fighting, pashing, and in one case diving into the disgustingly polluted harbour. It struck me it wasn't so many years ago I was staggering out into the daylight, laughing as the Auckland Harriers jogged past.

Despite arriving at 6am, we didn't get on a ferry until after 6.30, didn't get to Devonport until just before 7am, when the starting hooter sounded. We crossed the start line at five past. Fortunately the chips tied onto each runner's shoelaces mean everyone has a precise start/finish time to judge their results.

The first few kilometres were spent trying to get past groups of walkers - good on them for giving it a go, but large-bottomed folk waddling six abreast create a fairly major impediment, and there seems to be no "walkers to the left" rule or what-have you.

The weather was perfect - light cloud but not gloomy, slightly chilly but almost no wind. As the race progressed the sun came out, meaning spectacular views as we crossed the harbour bridge into town. Short of joining a hikoi, the Auckland marathon is the only chance most of us have to tred the bridge, and was a big factor in me doing the race. In running terms though, it also represents a decent hill about 13km into the race, and I was glad we'd done a bit of hill training as we plodded past those who'd slowed to a walk.

All along the route, people had come out to cheer us along. Perhaps they were waiting for friends, but I think many were just turning out to offer general support, and it was most appreciated. There's nothing like a complete stranger yelling encouragement to put a smile on your face, and a spring in your step.

Upping the pace for the final kilometre, the finish line on Fanshawe Street was a welcome sight. First half marathon, done. Not the biggest achievement in the world, I know, and we certainly didn't break any land-speed records, but for the boy who hated running (especially after 3 years at an army school where PE consisted of nothing but...), it was a proud moment.

Next year I'll try for a decent time. Just as soon as my knees are able to bend...


(I know there's still been no announcement about the winner of the t-shirt competition. I've been trying to pin down the judge in question, but whatever happens winners will be announced by the end of the week.)

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