Unlike previous Rotorua Half Marathons, this year’s one was off-road and hilly! It starts at the same place as the full marathon, but instead heads south-east towards the forest. The majority of the course is on an old gravel road. You need to watch your step carefully here: there are countless fist sized rocks and foot deep potholes scattered along the trail! There is also a kilometer of running on wet grass trail, which also has a sandy part and a muddy part! Fortunately there were no river crossings!
Part of the course is also shared with the Quarter Marathon. This makes it hard for the faster half marathon runners; in the last 7 kilometers I had to navigate through hundreds of runners coming head on. This is easier said that done as you also need to choose a path free of things that you could roll your ankle on! The elevation gain was 260m.
As part of my preparation for my pacing duties, I studied the course profile. Instead of even pacing I needed to opt for even effort. I devised a program that gave kilometer splits, given the course profile and target time while maintaining an even effort. I followed my prescribed plan during the race. Judging by my heart rate, this plan indeed resulted in an even effort. I suspect it would have been spot on, had I factored in the surfaces I’d be traversing.
Effort-wise, being the 1:20 pacer was suitable and well within my ability, even on a hilly trail course like the new Rotorua Half Marathon. From races in the eight months, my average HR for the 10K, 21.1K and 42.2K events are 180, 176, and 170 respectively. With yesterday’s run, my average HR was below my average HR for a marathon! My max HR was also the same as what I average in a half marathon race. This was a surprise to me, given the steep hills on the new course.
All in all the new Rotorua Half Marathon course is enjoyable and a nice change from road running. However, I’m unsure whether it is a wise idea having off-road courses added into what has been and is a road-running event. If I were pacing for a 1:20 again on the same course, I would aim to run 4% faster on the road surfaces (equating to 3:36 min/km on the six kilometers of road).