The Revrun Report
Sunday’s first ever running of the North Shore Marathon saw a great crew of Maungakiekie runners take part in both the half and full marathon options. Todd Calkin, Charles Belcher and I were there to take on the 42km distance. We were all a little unconventional in our approach. Todd and Charles have the Auckland Marathon firmly in their sights and were using this as a long run/’dummy run’ for that. For me, this marathon was about testing the run/walk method – I wanted to finish strong and feel good.
It was a small field for the marathon (96 men). We were underway shortly after 8. From the start at Takapuna, we followed the main road up towards Milford beach. I started very conservatively, taking the first km to build up 4:20 min/k pace, in about 15th place. I was feeling really good, and the pace crept up, while the heart rate stayed low. It was great – I was running at less than 80% of HR max and getting close to 4 minute ks. I edged up, to lie just at the back of the front group as we approached aid station 1 at Milford Beach.
The front runner at this stage was a mad Scotsman. Seriously – bare backed and wearing a red wig and kilt, he was flying ahead. But the mad Scotsman got the course wrong at the first aid station and went running back the way we came, instead of running around the reserve. To my surprise every other runner in this group followed him, despite the volunteers yelling that they were going the wrong way! He was like a red-headed Pied Piper, followed mindlessly by his gaggle of scallop-short wearing friends. I of course, headed the call of the volunteers and proceeded across the park. Would they be disqualified? That would make me in first place! Or would they get a 500m short cut?
The question was quickly knocked from my mind by a deep pain in my right calf. What the?? My nemesis injury had not bothered me for most of this year, and I was sure it was under control. My mind was spinning – this kind of pain is inevitably followed by the sharp sting of soleus tearing, and then a minimum 3 weeks off running. I should stop, and walk back to the event base in Takapuna. But I had been thinking about this race for ages – why now! I stopped and rubbed the muscle, hoping to think of some way to save my race. I walked a bit; runners I had left behind came past. Finally I decide to try to run back to the car. If the pain worsened, I would walk.
I caught the group of 5 guys who had gone passed. I played leapfrog with them (not literally – that would be awkward) as I went to the front of the group, then dropped behind on my 30 second walks. We arrived back in Takapuna with the leaders well out of sight, but my calf now feeling 80% better. Was it the rub/the prayer/the adrenaline of the race? Who knows but I decided to push on and if the worst happened, I could always walk back.
These 5 fellas were good company as we headed towards Devonport. One bloke shot off, but for the rest of us the pace was steady at around 4:20min/k. We dropped down a hill and then straight up again and the group vented their disapproval. I was feeling strong and this road hill has nothing on Whitford or Shakespear, so I took off. And was quickly caught again on my next walk.
It took the big downhill of Lake Rd, and the subsequent climb up beside Takapuna Grammar before I broke clear of the bunch. I was still taking it easy, HR well under control, and walks on the reg.
I was on my own as I ran through Belmont and Narrow Neck, and this is where the lack of course markings became apparent. Mostly, the course had cones keeping half of the left lane clear for runners. Mostly, but not always. And when the course turned off a road, there weren’t always marshals, and there weren’t always arrows. So sometimes I kept running straight ahead (the cones continued for a bit), then freaked out and backtracked. Not ideal. Another feature of the course was that the out route and back route were sometimes shared and sometimes were on different roads. This is a fine design, but requires excellent signage and clear instructions from marshals, which alas we did not have. Instead, there were runners going out on the in course and vice versa.
I ran solo to the top of North Head, and saw some of the leaders (but not all) run straight back down the road towards me (odd – I remembered the course looping around North Head). I looked puzzled and a guy yelled “You’re all good mate” so I kept going. I came upon a cone, and could see nothing else. I assumed the previous bunch had done a “mad Scotsman” and decided this would be their turnaround. I ventured left, and after about 50 meters of scrambling up a hill I saw another cone – Ahh, here the course is! From here the cones were easier to follow and took us around the hill anticlockwise. I now had little hope the coursing difficulties could be corrected by a quick word to the event director. Still, the view was magnificent and I was getting a good run in.
I cruised back to Takapuna solo. The good pace continued and the body (calf included) felt fine. No irritation from the right ITB that had flared up post Whitford either. Lap 1 came in at 1:33 and I was delighted to see Heather, Heidi and the super supporters cheering as I ran through. It was great to see some of the guys on the half and swap stories as we ran by.
Milford came and went, this time without incident. I saw Todd and Charles back on the main road (see photo) they were looking good and in great spirits too. Back into Takapuna, I got another cheer from the girls and took off after one of the front runners who had come into view. I was still maintaining the 4:20s, and the HR was up a little at around 165 – still sweet as. The down and up section that had caused consternation amongst my group in lap one was a little more of an effort this time, and around the 32km mark the tightness and ache in the legs was loud and clear.
But that’s what marathons do. And what do we do? We keep rolling. I rolled down the hill that led to Narrow Neck beach. By now the 4:20 pace was maintained, but only because I was on a downhill. No trouble with my engine – just the legs shutting down a bit. I arrived at the aid station which lwas in total disarray, tables overturned and cups all over the ground. The half marathoners had been through like a pack of bandits and there was no drink left!
I got a great high five from Stuart Hale (Dad) who was looking good as we crossed about 4k from the finish of the half. Through the rabbit-warren of little streets around Cheltenham I caught the mad Scotsman who was walking kinda funny. “How’s the chaffing bro?” I enquired “Completely busted” came the reply. Again, no cups of water at the aid station here, but the tap from the big drum was on and like a dog I bent down to lap a few sips up.
The climb up North Head was extra tough – being both fatigued and in the hot sun. But what a view – I’m so glad it’s in the course! I headed down, knowing I just had 7 kms left. I implored my achey legs to keep going and they took me back up the long grind from Narrow Neck, through Takapuna Grammar and before I knew it (a total lie – I knew every step by this stage) I was on the beach, lifting the pace for the final kilometre. I crossed in 3:11:02 – a satisfying run for sure.
Todd and Charles ran a steady race together, the wheels fell off a bit (as they expected) for them in the last 10k, but a really good training run in 3:45. In the shorter distances our boys were lead in by Mike in 1:22.
MEC Role of Honour
Vern Dempster 1:58:14
Richard Drake 1:51:36
Stuart Hale 2:08:32
Mike Lichtwark 1:22:41
Thom Shanks 1:44
Charles Belcher 3:46:34
Todd Calkin 3:46:34
Michael Hale 3:11:02