Auckland Marathon 2012 Just getting to the start of a marathon can be quite a battle. My last running of the Auckland Marathon was 2008. In the four years subsequent, injury (and a bit of jaded caution) has kept me from starting. At the start of 2012 I decreed “This year I’m gonna run the Auckland Marathon. Be it fast or silly, I will be there”. I felt that silly was the most likely, since trying to train to run fast is what has caused the injuries previously. But then I had a great Winter season, including some sweet Xterra podiums and a PB at the Onehunga Half… all of a sudden running fast looked like a goer.
Ah yes, but the backside of my Half marathon PB at Onehunga was a tear to my right calf muscle – that old chestnut. Two and half weeks off running (a very quick recovery) meant that my fast time was now at long odds, and re-injuring myself in such an attempt was the sure bet. So I resigned myself to not racing.
Until, in a moment of inspiration, I happened upon a bargain price ticket and convinced Ron that we should enter the run and make it a foolish challenge. Neither of us could face running it hard. It would injure me and Ron would be doing it less than 24 hours after finishing the gruelling K2 200km ride on a fixed gear bike. We wanted to enjoy the run, soak up the atmosphere and not get tempted to push beyond a training run pace. And so the 4 in 4 challenge was born. 42kms and 4 beers needs to be completed within 4 hours. Easy.
We were ferried over to the start line along with the great G-Dow crew by Neil (cheers mate). Plenty of time to do the last minute things like pin your number on, drop your gear bag off and down beverage number 1. Starting in the corral around the 3:45 pace group were Ron, Myself, Myles Robinson and Peter Watson. At the gun we trundled along and quite soon Myles shot off ahead and Peter faded back a bit. We knew that a pace of 5:15 min/km would see us make our goal along with the necessary walking for beverage stops and at aid stations. We settled into this pace and ticked along well. We were slightly set back by Ron needing to use the facilities outside of Takapuna, but quickly got back on schedule.
We ticked by through the North Shore and at km 14 we arrived at the Harbour Bridge. Without a race to compel us faster, Ron and I grabbed a bunch of photos and merrily made our way to the top. Down the other side we caught up with Stuart who had news of Myles “10 minutes ahead” and our second beverages. These went down well, and our carbohydrate ingestion was appreciated by fellow runners. We took off toward the tank farm, a little bloated but mostly OK.
The sun was out and it was a warm Sunday morning, our pace had now moved effortlessly to the 5:00 min/ks. We left the 3:45 pace group alongside the Marina as we speed by, well fuelled by the good folk at Tui. The halfway mark came at 1:50 – well on target and feeling good! We moved east along the waterfront. My calves were threatening a bit, but never developed any serious pain and so we moved ahead to our next fuel stop at Kohi.
The King family were to be our publicans here but as we ran through we were not to see any familiar faces until we caught Myles coming back from the St Heliers turnaround. He looked grey and a bit weary – just like he has at the 30k mark many times before. He was running this event with very few long runs in the bank and I had warned him to take the start very conservatively. A competitive thought flashed through “I bet I could catch Myles if we push it from here” and then the beauty of the 4 in 4 challenge came back to derail that thought. There would be no catching Myles as I had to down two Guinness before I finished.
We turned at St Heliers and came back to Kohi where Ron’s family and Neil gave us some big cheers, but no beers. The 4 in 4 Challenge looked like it might be thwarted. But ahoy! On the horizon (well a few metres ahead) Stuart was cheering and he had packed a bonus pair of brews for us. We devoured the Peroni to the pleasure of the cheering crowd and took off toward the finish.
The pace moved up again, now about 4:45s, which felt just as easy on our stiffening legs as the initial pace had. We debated giving it heaps and trying to catch Myles, who we calculated was still 10 minutes ahead. But again the wisdom of the 4 in 4 kept us from launching this suicide mission, and we merrily jogged along, steadily catching many people as we made our way back into the city.
Our back-up plan to fulfil our 4 in 4 mission was to get to a bar at Britomart and see if they would pour us a drink. We ran past the Brew Bar, Tyler St Garage, the Northern Steamship… all closed. We were running out of real estate fast. Into the Viaduct we tried the Red Fox (reknown for opening early for international sports events), it too was closed. Just outside this venue we just about ran over Myles. Pain was now etched on his face and his usual powerful quick stride now more closley resembled the gait of an arthritic tree sloth. I encouraged him to stick with us for the last 1.5k push to the line, he bravely upped his effort but quickly fell behind.
We were now desperately close to failing our mission. None of the bars were open, it appeared we were doomed. Until, like an oasis in the desert, we caught sight of four women drinking beer at 9:30 in the morning. O’Hagans bar (friend to many city runners) was there in our time of need. Ron nimbly went in and scored us two Guinness, which we dutifully completed before speeding off on the last kilometre to the line. We finished, mission accomplished in 3:38:08. Our bodies were remarkably tolerant of the distance and we were quite able to walk around without too much of the post-marathon stagger. The 4 in 4 had kept us on the right pace. A great day.