Auckland Marathon 2015 – 11 years to a PB

In all honesty it wasn’t until 4pm the day before that I committed to really race the marathon. My hesitancy had started back in Autumn, when we found out that the event was going to be held at the same time as the Rugby World Cup final. I initially wrote off the idea of competing and missing the game.

As time went on though, I could just tell that despite that decision, I really wanted to run. I’d had a great Winter season, started Spring with a new 21.1k PB and so decided to go with my passion and run the marathon. With the Xterra Waihi and a few niggles though, I didn’t get any specific road marathon work done in the last 5 weeks.

Also, my big goal for Spring is the upcoming SkyRockNRun mountain marathon down in Canterbury. With only 3 weeks between the Auckland Marathon and that one, I thought it would be smarter to just enter the Auckland run for a good long training run, but not race.

I even made a great plan for a glorious 42k of eating and drinking – a “Calorie Positive Marathon” (this idea will have to do be done some other time). But once again, as I sat down to plan the next day’s run, I could hear my running legs (as Heidi says) calling – they wanted at least a chance to go fast.

So a new plan: run at what would be marathon PB pace until halfway – then reassess if it’s worth continuing at that effort (and thrashing the body), or just toning down and jogging the rest for a good long run with a bit of tempo to start. Brent was keen to join, and Ron would meet us at O’Hagan’s for the second half.

We watched the first half of the RWC in a cool SW breeze, before making our way down to the line. My lapse in preparation was not going to pee before the start, and not bringing enough gear for sitting still and watching a match in a light gale. But the pace from the start felt sweet, and Brent and I chugged along – me listening to the rugby and updating our group of the All Black’s progress.

I don't always run marathons... But when I do I like to strap innersoles to my race belt.
I don’t always run marathons… But when I do I like to strap innersoles to my race belt.


Getting onto the Northern Motorway we really noticed that breeze in our face so we tucked into a small group as much as possible, and were somewhat concerned that it could take away our chance at a best time. Over the harbour bridge and round to Curran St I was still feeling sweet but needed to duck into the bushes for a mimi. Brent and the other four were up the road after that, but I felt great and made it my goal to slowly/steadily reattach to the group.

It took longer than I thought, and I noticed I was surging a little at times through Wynyard Quarter with this goal driving me on. I told myself to take it easy as no good could come of expending that effort before half way. Brent told me afterward that they had all lifted the pace at this point – so no wonder I was struggling to catch up.

I went through the half in 1:27 plus change. On target, and within 30 sec of last year’s split. Brent was only 50m ahead and Ron cheered us from the sidelines. As did a myriad of cheery, boozy punters emerging from the bars. I’ve never had so much support through the viaduct before!

Running out along the waterfront, I was feeling very good. Still running within myself, the pace was spot on, and the effort and heart rate were sustainable. I caught Brent at the Ngapipi Road bridge, where Dad began supporting us on his bike.

As we got into Okahu Bay, Brent started to slow as he felt cramps start to settle in. I stayed on pace, and shouted some encouragement as he drifted back. I got a huge lift from Sam Thom plus whanau who were out in force at Kohimarama beach. Hit the turn at St Heliers, and unlike last year I just kept the pace constant. Runners kept coming to me as I stayed steady and I knew I would need to finish stronger than last time to get the best time.

Going past Kelly Tarlton's
Going past Kelly Tarlton’s

Good call, as the race just seems to come to you in the marathon. You don’t need to go seeking the hurt – if you are giving an honest effort, it will find you. The effort to hold my pace steadily increased, but I was able to rise to it as I had been reasonable from the start. The SW winds weren’t too much a problem – it felt like you got gusts in both directions as you round the headlands so going back into town was similar to coming out, wind-wise.

Brent battling the MEC-lookalike in Mission Bay.
Brent battling the MEC-lookalike in Mission Bay.

I managed to have a little bit more to give for the last 4 or 5 km. Just a few seconds per km, but that felt like a heck of a lot at that stage in the game. I rallied for a fast finish, but was actually very spent so it wasn’t a blistering final 200. Still – I crossed in 2:54:41 – beating my 2004 time by almost a minute!

Another great day with some great results all round from the MEC – all 5 of us finished (yay) and got best times.

Thanks to all the cheering entourage, especially Stu for the steady support and photos you see here.


Onehunga Half Marathon 2015

Gonna try something a bit different here – a wiki-report. I have uploaded some pics and stats and now I invite you, the MEC team to give us your story in the comments section.

A perfect day. Still, sunny and cold. Ideal for racing on the fast, flat waterfront course of the Onehunga Half Marathon.

The MEC was well represented with a crew of eight runners (plus a few mates as well) taking part.

Sam Thom took first place in 1:19:29 with Caleb Pearson completing the MEC quinella in 1:19:51.


Personal Bests:

Sam Thom: 1:19:29

Caleb Pearson 1:19:51

Michael Hale 1:22:16

Brent Kelly 1:23:19

Evan Atkinson 1:38:44

The Rev’s Tarawera Ultra 2013 Report

It was a great day for me. The weather was mild and overcast – perfect for running. Even the pre-5am alarm was less noxious than usual. I ate my breakfast and got ready on time, another rarity. Just after 5:40 nine of us MEC lads were driving to the start line in the Redwoods in Rotorua. A few stirring words from the Race Director and we were off up the hill, headlamps bobbing in the woody grove.


I was entered in the 60k solo run. Last year I had a great run at the 100k solo, and had taken on the 85k in 2010 and 2011. 60k in 2013 would complete the set. I was hoping to be able to blast the race, and be in the mix for a top placing – but that was back before I got injured 5 weeks out from the event. My right calf had been giving me trouble since then – I hadn’t run pain-free over 30 minutes, and had missed nearly all my targeted workouts in this period.  But I had been doing anything else that I could. Strength workouts and hill hiking were my staples. I would find the longest, steepest slope in close proximity (Maungawhau being the best in Central Auckland) and then go straight up and down it as fast as I could walk. These hikes were hard in their own way, but the ongoing calf pain had me seriously wondering if I would be able to complete the whole 60k course. Truly, not in any sand-bagging sort of way. I made peace that I would not be as fast as planned, and looked forward to enjoying the beautiful course and the comradery of the MEC, even if just at walking pace.

I was encouraged by my orienteering run at Cornwall Park on the Thursday before the race. I had no calf trouble despite pushing hard for nearly half an hour around the paddocks and managed to be the fastest on course two. I wrote my predictions for Tarawera, where I guessed a 6:15 would be possible with a compliant calf.

Todd and Sam's early morning prep

Alongside me as we worked our way up the early hills was Todd Calkin. Todd was doing the 85k in a 2-man team with Sam Thom. Todd had his own ruptured training when he was smashed in a kite boarding accident. We were somewhere around 30th, and even then the singletrack would cause the whole pack to slow to a walk when the climbs got steep or tight. That fit nicely into my plan of preserving the body early on,  and Todd was happy to take the rest these breaks offered. I have run with Todd every year at the TuM, but this was the first time we had shared the first leg. Talking away and taking in the view, it was just a joy to be experiencing the magnificent environment along with a close friend.

I pulled up to take a mimi and heard Bryce Robinson run by. He was running the first leg in the 2-man 85k he was doing with his brother Myles. Bryce has been getting faster and faster over the last couple of years as he has focused on road 10k and half marathons. This was his first offroad event and he was looking good and going fast  – his split was a good eight minutes faster than mine for this leg. I caught back up to Todd and we ran by our great supporters at the Tikitapu (Blue Lake) aid station. On the technical bush track down to Lake Okareka I pulled away from Todd but he closed the leg hard to finish just behind my time of 1:50 for the 19.5k.

Robinson Bros at Transition 1

I grabbed my backpack and more supplies in a not quite (but close) formula 1 pit stop and headed out up Miller Road. Myles was way ahead, and Sam Thom quickly ran past. I saw Victoria Travers and asked about Ron. Ron King is another MEC regular, and was taking on the 100k for the second time. He learned some good lessons at last year’s race and had a good buildup this year with a super 5th place at the Kaweka Challenge. I forgot that he would be behind me (unless he HADNT learnt the lessons from last year). Also behind me was the final member of our MEC tribe, Mathew Raffills. Mat was doing his first ultra and was taking on the 85k solo. He had trained faithfully by himself down in the Hawkes Bay. Nigel Turnbull was his pacer and crew extraordinaire for the day.

Ron and Whanau at Okataina

Like the first leg, I wanted to run steadily in the second 17.5k stint over the Western Okataina hills, with the goal of arriving at the third leg (last for the 60k) ready to close hard. By now I was marveling at the lack of pain in my calf and was starting to believe that I would complete the race. I didn’t see many people on this leg, but as I worked over the hills  I felt like I was walking less often than in previous years. I stopped to stretch the calf when it started to grizzle, but otherwise had a sweet run. I came into Okataina in 1:57, a bit slower than predicted, but still my fastest time for that leg to date.

It was great to see Heather, Heidi, Dad and all the other supporters at Okataina. I got all my supplies reloaded and just as I was about to leave heard the announcer say that I was in second place. “Bollocks” was my swift reply. There were three of the fastest trail runners in the world entered in the 60k, super speedy international racers from the Salomon team. No way in the world I was anywhere near them. But, if the announcer had said it… maybe I was somewhere up in the pointy end of the field. I left the aid station determined to work hard until the finish. Bryce had started about 18 minutes up, and Todd around 10. I turned my music on and began to chase.

Coming into transition 2

The Eastern Okataina track is a delicious windy, rolling path that gives regular views across Lake Okataina. I was now confident that the calf was going to hold and I powered along, catching solos and team members regularly. I saw two members of the Salomon team on their way back from the turnaround, but wearing team (not solo) race numbers – leaving me wondering if they were racing as a team now. Bryce came speeding back, looking fast as he returned from Humphries Bay. No way I would catch him – he made the transition to technical offroad running in fine fashion.

Eastern Okataina

Speaking of technical running, I caught a toe about five times on this leg. I generally was able to self-correct but had the full tumble once. I did grow tired of smashing my sore toes and then stumbling about madly. I don’t remember having this problem before! As I descended into Humphries Bay on Lake Tarawera I came across Todd going back up the hill. He was followed by two guys wearing 60k solo numbers. I ran down into the aid station determined to catch those fullas. A couple of cokes and I was off back up the hill. I came upon Todd after a km and thought I would be going too quick for him, but he stuck with me for a few kms more. I love how Todd can push himself right into that red zone. Together we caught the two solo entrants until Todd lost touch on one of the climbs. There was plenty of traffic on this leg as I ran into the outgoing runners. The track was thin, but they were very obliging. I received a lot of praise from these runners which isn’t something I’m used to – maybe I looked like an international with my new haircut. I saw Ron briefly and he looked good. With two km to go I passed a girl moving swiftly, she stuck with me for a bit. Another km and I saw Nigel and Mat heading out, both looking good. I said hi and sped off toward the finish. I shot out of the trail and into the transition area. After a bit of misdirection, I was lead down to the finish by the lake. As I crossed the line I asked where I came.  I was sure I was up in the top three but was stoked when the guy gave me a finish medal and told me first place! 5:56:27

FinishedTwo fine supporters

So, another day at Tarawera where it all comes together for me ato produce about the best race I could with the fitness I had. I’m thrilled with the result and also with ‘getting it right’ two years in a row. I’ve had some dark times during these long races before which makes two good ones all the more appreciated. The real highlight though was experiencing the challenge with some of my best mates and our wonderful support crews – to share such an adventure together is what really makes an event for me.

For the others (I’ll let them give their own stories, but briefly:) After a smart and solid first 50k, Ron had some bad luck and had a hard second half, finishing in 13:15 for the 100k. Todd and Sam managed to get back in front of Myles and Bryce when Myles was mistakenly sent to the original 60k changeover at Tarawera Outlet. Mat Raffs paced himself brilliantly enabling him to run back from the Falls faster than he had gone out, catching many and finishing his first 85k in 12:37.

Mat, Mon, Mika - Team Raffills

The Rev’s MEC Tarawera Ultra Picks 2013

Picks for Tarawera 2013 – The Fellowship of the Trail

Well, we started off as a good sized group tackling the mighty Tarawera ultra marathon. But a slew of injuries has laid waste to a large number of our fellowship. Some are gone, some are just hanging on, and some are forging on, like Sam and Frodo, far beyond that which they were expected to go. My early picks follow:

Me – 60k

Put the ipod on repeat and get it to play track 3 – the injured calf overture in B minor.

This right calf hacks away at me after a good recovery over the Summer/Christmas period from the last time it flared. It aches when I dont run, and grates when I do. Yet, I still feel strong, and reasonably fit. With no long run since Feb 13, all plans of a speedy 60 are gone, and the question I now face is: will the calf hold out and enable me to run the distance, or will it be a long hike in the woods.

Prediction: Calf OK – 6:15, Calf not OK – 9 to 12hrs

Ron King – 100k

Ron has seemingly found himself aknew in the trails this year. With this fresh fondness for offroad, he has a couple of >60k runs under his belt, along with his 5th place at the super-rough Kaweka Challenge earlier this month. A bit less volume than last year, but more specific and with more experience. look for him to smash his 2012 time. I’m picking 10:30-11:15, and inside the top 20. 

Update due to course change: Finish time is harder to call now, and will be slower than previous years due to more difficult finish. But, I beleive this will play into Ron’s strengths. He is great on the hills, so I’m picking him to use his wisdom in pacing and nutrition and finish strong to be top 20 this year, lets say 11-12 hours.

Todd Calkin/Sam Thom: 78k team

Todd was building into his training but a nasty kite boarding crash into the ground (can someone link the youtube video – it is mean!) has given him some kind of upper back situation.  Jake, his original partner is no better, his running curtailed by ITB issues and lower back pain resulting in his withdraw from the race. Mate, we are all getting old. Fortunately, Todd has pulled in young blood in the form of Sam Thom, who with his recent Ironman training may provide a key anchor for this team to get them to the finish on Saturday. They will have fun, they will finish – time, I dunno, lets say 9hrs.

Caleb Pearson – 85k

Caleb is another with ITBFS issues taking him down. After setting his PB in the Auckland Marathon last October, he has battled back and forth with the injury, but has reluctantly succumbed and surrendered his entry.

Bryce and Myles Robinson – 78k team

Caleb has generously given his entry to the Robinson Bros. Neither of which were training for this event. Bryce – a quick road runner, recently building his distance from 10k/half marathons up. Myles – the old steamtrain, super reliable, strong and completely dedicated to finishing every event he starts – but alas, lacking much in the way of training over the last season. How will these ring-ins fare? I reckon they both have one good leg in them, and then one uglier one. Im guesssing a 9hr finish – should be close racing against Sam and Todd.

Mat Raffills – 85k

Missing from our troop last year due to work commitments, Mat is back for 2013. He has been solidly doing the big runs – logging many solo tags of Te Mata peak over the last few months. He has put the work in, and his ever increasing long runs have faithfully been chalked up. He’s new to the distance, but steadfast in his resolve – he will finish this sucker. He is supported by Nige Turbull, and I’m picking a finish between 11 and 11:30.

Onehunga Half 2012

The Rev’s Report:

There is nothing like your local. The Onehunga may be topographically the least appropriate for me and my off road inclinations, but it is such a sweetness to be able to roll out of the house, down the hill and be warmed up by the time I hit the start of this little road gem.

My purpose was clear, set a PB for the half marathon distance. I haven’t really raced the distance properly, my best performance was performed during a marathon back in ’04. I have been feeling in great shape this Winter, and although I haven’t done much work on my speed, I figured a 1:24 or quicker was a reasonable goal.

I met up with the MEC crew at the start. Vern and Ian were down from Warkworth. Sam Thom was there too, looking to kick off his season in style. Bryce had turned up to spectate, seen the great weather and decided to have a crack at the 10k following on from his PB 1:28:59 half at Whangarei last week.

I saw an old Med buddy Reuben at the start and we ran the first km together. He was gunning for a 1:24 finish so it worked out well. Bryce shot off ahead right from the gun. I had to call out for him to turn when he ran past the 10k turnaround. I was feeling good and running at or below 4 minute ks, and lying in about 5th spot. We ran the Onehunga Foreshore Cycleway out and back, then headed out across the old Mangere Bridge to Ambury park. The pace felt quick, but achievable and I left Reuban and a few others behind.

Pretty soon after crossing the bridge, one of the front runners turned and came back – excellent, that meant he was in the 16k and I was now in 4th. I was already quite happy as I could tell that I had more than a minute in the bank up on goal time, and was still feeling good. The Northeaster had picked up and pushed us along to Ambury. I was surprised to see one of Barry McGee’s young Ethiopean runners tie up along this section – Barry is a big mileage man and those boys are fast. But I breezed by him at the 15k, just before the turnaround at Ambury.

The course is dead flat, and mostly off public roads, so is fast and fun. The wind was really driving into us as we headed back to Mangere Bridge, but I had a bit extra to give and plowed on. My right calf was getting quite achey now. I crossed the old bridge, and now passing lots of 16k peeps, I could tell that a low 1:20s time was on. Dad gave me a big cheer at the Onehunga end and I set off hard for the last 2.5k. Bam! The calf muscle bit real hard and a dozen memories of having to walk out of long runs came flooding back. Any other day that would have been game over for the run. But I didn’t get that far and that close to a PB to walk away. An injury had already occurred, I either stop running and be injured, or run on, see if I can hold out for  a good time, and be injured.

So I dug in. I tried to take the load off the calf, I pushed on my glutes, I grimaced. I kept going. Remarkably, my pace was not too bad – still around 4 minute ks. I could see no one over my shoulder and just hung on. My strong finish was not so much a lift in pace, as holding pace despite a bit of pain. I crossed in 1:22:48, 3rd place.

So, mission accomplished. I’m hobbling now, and may need some time off to rehab this leg, but I’ve gotten quite good at that over the last few years.

It was a great day in the sun and wind with the MEC crew and our loud supporters. So nice to have the whanau out in force. I need to let you know that I was joined in setting a PB by Sam Thom, who was looking very good throughout and brought it home in 1:27:09 for 7th place. Bryce Robinson too was sensational, WINNING the 10k in 38:45 – so good my man! Rich Drake ran the 16k in 1:16:59 for 5th place.


Ian felt a bit disappointed with his 1:39, Vern was OK with his 1:55; and Stu was disappointed that the marshall had directed most of the 10k field to turn early, giving them a 7k race (of which he won the Masters section in 38min)! Only Bryce and a few front runners avoided the dodgy marshall!

Still, a great day, with lots of success from our team. It may be a bit flat for my running preferences, but I’m sure I will return again and again. Go local!

Bryce Robinson’s Report:

Woke up 6:30am ready to go and watch Mike race. Wasn’t really planning at all to do the race as cash was a bit tight but when I saw it was an overcast still day I threw my running gear in just in case! As I drove to the race the possibility of me competing entered my mind. When I arrived at the reserve the music was pumping and the atmosphere was buzzing and I really started feeling it! Quickly I changed into my gear and went for a wee jog up the road just to feel how the legs were. My archilles felt a bit tight and my shin a bit tender but otherwise okay. Did a few accelerations and legs were turning over smoothly. Everything felt right, so I thought why not? I jogged back to the reserve and signed up for the race!

The start was exciting I got towards the front for the start and when the hooter sounded I started quick. I accelerated from the main pack and found myself running near the front at a fast speed. Was feeling positive everything was good. Ran the first km in 3.30 and realized that I had started too quick! I pulled back the pace and ran the next km at 3.45. I thought if I hold this pace I should go sub 40 which would be great. Things seemed to be going smooth until I ran past the turnaround for the 10km race. Fortunately Mike was behind me and shouted at me to turn back. I quickly turned and by the time I got back to the turn sign the second placed guy was already turning. I managed to get past him and kept the pace on with him chasing me. I could hear his footsteps and hear his heavy breathing as he tried to reel me in. The pace was quick for me and I was leading the race, but I was full of self doubt as to whether I could hold him off for much longer. I could hear him coming and finally I slowed and he ran past coming onto Orpheus drive. I was gutted realizing that I had started too quick and felt like I had no answer. So I sat in behind him and tried to recover as best as I could knowing that if I could stay in touch I might have a chance at a sprint finish.

Coming off the bridge I could hear the PA at the finish and the announcer saying that the race could be decided by a sprint finish. My moment had arrived and I  let loose with a burst of speed and accelerated past him and kept the pace on. The heavy breathing and footsteps behind me disappeared and I tried to keep the heat on to distance myself from him in case I exploded before the finish! My lungs were burning and my legs felt numb I was praying for the finish to come. Finally the welcome sight of the finish appeared and I crossed in 38:45 winning the race and achieving a PB. What a moment. Intense pain gave way to elation as I realized what had just happened! When the discomfort subsided I got to relax and enjoy what was a really special moment for me. Maybe next year I might come a little more prepared!