0415 h. I drag myself out of bed and carry out my usual pre-race ritual – eating a big bowl of rolled oats for breakfast! I’ve stayed the night at a friend’s place. Michael, just like me, set his sights on a sub 3 marathon finish this year. Unfortunately, he has injured himself but is still going to complete the race — a real strength of character! Helen, Michael’s significant other drops us off at the start line in Devonport.
0500 h. We head into a café which has opened early for the 2015 Rugby World Cup (RWC) between New Zealand and Australia! We continue watching the first half of the match outside near the start line, where the organizers have graciously erected a large screen. Hundreds of runners and supporters gather on the lawn. It is a fantastic atmosphere and a great way to start the day — especially as we are in the lead!
0555 h. With one hand on the Ellis Cup, my mind shifts from the RWC to my own future glory — crossing the finish line within three hours! All that stands in my way is a mere 42.2 kilometers at an average speed of 14.07 km/h. Easier said than done? One last check and disaster strikes! I’ve lost one of my energy gels! I’ve got no idea where I lost it and suddenly I’m down to four gels.
Before I know it, the race has just begun!
I ease into the run and join in with a bunch of Wellington Scottish runners. I look at my watch and notice I’m going too fast. I drop off the group and dial my pace back to 4:10. Paranoid about losing another energy gel, I check my gel belt. It is a mere two kilometers into the race, and I’ve lost yet another energy gel! I lament to the runner beside me that my gel belt is going straight into the rubbish after the race!
I’ve got three energy gels for the entire race and can’t afford to lose another one. I remove two of the gels out and hold onto them — firmly — in my hands.
Soon enough I’m running up the Auckland Harbour Bridge. It is one of the joys of the run and is one of the few chances you’re able to cross the bridge on foot! It is a steady climb but is made difficult by a head wind along with drizzle. Fortunately, the rain is brief and I consume one of my gels at the 16 km mark. According to my watch I reach the half marathon mark at 1:25:17 but in reality it is 1:26:15. A good time never the less, but somewhere my watch has overestimated the distance by some 300m. I take my second gel at 26 km.
I make good progress towards the St Heliers turn point and maintain 1 km splits between 3:46 and 4:09 pace, well on track for a sub 3 finish! However, at the 34 km mark, my tired and fatigued legs begin slowing down. I keep glancing at my watch, foolishly hoping that by doing the time goes quicker. By it just adds to the agony; I see my average speed drop and my 1 km splits slow to a 4:35 pace!
As a few runners I passed earlier in the race overtake me, a familiar face appears. It is my colleague Grant, who has come out to watch the runners on his Sunday bike ride! I ask Grant to accompany me for the remaining seven kilometers for moral support. I also take my third and final gel at 36 km.
Surprisingly, I hold on to 4:40 pace and am at downtown and only a couple of kilometers from the finish! With Grant riding beside me on bike I get a further boost as I pass another familiar face. Michael, who still recovering from surgery, briefly stops for me, does a short ‘dance’ and gives quite vocal words of encouragement. I slog out the last kilometer and complete the race in 2:56:58 (official/mat time of 2:57:04)!
I have conquered the elusive sub 3 marathon!
I catch my breath at the finish line then head back home. Later that afternoon I doze off for an afternoon nap…
2355 h. Hunger wakes me and I’m longing for some greasy food. And why not? I’ve earn it today! Sausage rolls and chicken nuggets have never tasted so good! I reflect on today’s achievement and amuse myself reading of others sub three hour achievements and marathon statistics. I also take stock of my own race:
- Official time: 2:57:04, net time: 2:56:58
- 50th across the finish line (out of 1,496 finishers)
- First half split: 1:26:15, second half split: 1:30:43
- Race weight: 79kg
- Average heart rate: 174 bpm
- Energy gel at 16km, 26km, 35km and Powerade at every station