“Yeah, I want to run a marathon some day,” I mentioned to my office-mate at work. “Why not do the Motatapu next year?” he shot back. He’s ever precise and matter-of-fact, and I had to admit that there was no real reason that I shouldn’t. It was an item on my bucket list, and one that is not likely to get easier the longer I put it off…besides, for the first time in a wee while I was neither pregnant nor breastfeeding, nor likely to become so.
When I say I “set my sights” on the Motatapu off-road marathon in Arrowtown, that doesn’t mean the same thing as it would if Jeremiah had done the same. I looked up the date. I counted back 16 weeks to when I would need to start a training program. I started the said training program. I put off signing up. I got friends’ recommendations regarding sciatic pain. I figured out the location of all the water stops on the Port Hills training runs. I decided that Kenyans didn’t become great runners on sugary goo gels, and chose granola bars as my snack of choice. I still put off signing up. I learned which blister-prone toes to tape, and decided I could make do with my old sports bra. I became resigned to pooping in the woods on long runs. Training was going well, and finally shelled out the beans and officially entered. I even booked a campsite in Arrowtown, and started worrying about the weather being too hot.
The Motatapu marathon goes from Wanaka to Arrowtown through a few high-country stations in Central Otago. Hordes of mountain bikes race the same route on the same day, and since it’s hazardous for bikers to be overtaking runners on the track, they send out the bikers in multiple waves ahead of the runners. Consequently, the run doesn’t start until 11:00 a.m. But the weather was kind–starting overcast, and peaking at perhaps 23C, it was a good running day. Especially considering the previous year had been a wash-out, with the river crossings too high to navigate. The course is on a 4-wheel drive track through classic Otago hills (barren “golden” tussock), climbing 1000 meters of climbing and, of course 42 kilometers of distance.
I saw a few good sunrises during early morning runs, but this one on race day wasn’t that early. Days are getting shorter now, and we’re headed into winter.
Here’s the Arrowtown end of the run–we came down this valley to the town. I got precisely zero photos during the run, as my well-hidden competitive streak came romping to the forefront and I didn’t want to stop. I got a good time in the end–4 hours 8 minutes–25th finisher. For about 5 minutes I was tempted to sign up for another and try for under 4 hours….but I quickly remembered what I’d sworn just a few days before–this was my last marathon. It’s not that it wasn’t enjoyable, but I haven’t hiked or even rollerbladed for the past 2 months, and those things make me happier than an excessively long run. I’m satisfied; now I know I can do it.
In thinking about this run, I hadn’t really considered that I was getting a weekend reprieve, but that is still what it was. I sat in the sun and read National Geographic as I sipped my coffee. I fed only myself. No one needed help in the toilet, or behavior “guidance.” No one cared what I did, in fact. It was nice.