Rotorua marathon is where it all started. Or rather, Craig suggesting we do the marathon instead of the distance I suggested, being 5km, is where it all started! Brand new to running – less than five months of experience – why not tackle a marathon?!
We commenced training 18 weeks out from 1 May 2010. I researched plans for walking a marathon and then found a Hal Higdon beginner marathon program. We went out walking three to five mornings or evenings each week, with a long walk weekends. Our children were six, 12 and 14 years at the time, with our daughter Emily swimming squads five mornings. The days we had to walk 30km or so we either arranged for someone to come by to be with the children, or walked 5-10km laps around our house, calling in every hour or so to ensure they were still intact!
Mid April 2010 we entered into our first race, the Herald Hill to Harbour 10km event in our home city of Newcastle, just to get a sense of how races proceeded and to try out our gear under race conditions. The Hill to Harbour starts with a 1km hill followed by a lovely downhill, and I was quite stunned when Craig went out so hard I had to jog to keep up! And then on the downhill, he started jogging! So much for the walk. I think we ran about 6km in the end. After that Craig suggested we try to run some of the marathon in New Zealand.
I’ll never forget the plane ride we had from Auckland into Rotorua. Tiny little plane with the pilot and room for about 11 people. We knew Rotorua was on the edge of the lake, and the marathon circumnavigated that lake. As the lake came into sight the enormity of what we’d undertaken became obvious and Craig let out a couple of expletives. The lady sitting in front turned to us and said “here for the marathon are you?”!
We stayed in a beautiful resort on the edge of the lake.
We spent the day before the marathon touring the geyser parks. At the time people asked us, and continue now to ask us, whether the township smelled of rotten egg gas due to the sulphur. In truth it didn’t – there was a section of perhaps 200 metres on one edge of the lake where the water seemed a little stagnant, and there was a smell there, but there was no smell at all in the town itself and certainly not anywhere around the edges of the lake.
The evening prior to the marathon there was a formal greeting and haka for the “international competitors”, followed by a pasta dinner. At the dinner, surrounded by proper runners, we were in awe of their abilities and stories.
Marathon day was crisp and we started in long sleeved tops that we stripped off around 4km and left on the side of the road. We went back the next day and collected them! The first 15km was relatively flat and we ran along quite nicely. There was a killer hill just after this and we powered up it, passing heaps of people. Unfortunately Craig had a bit of a moment at the top of the hill and felt a bit dizzy. This scared us both and we backed off the pace and in fact ended up walking down the hill, which was a shame as it was a good downhill! We walked and ran the next 15km and came to the final 10km which was largely through an industrial area. While the rest of the run had been relatively picturesque, this section was terribly boring. Craig’s feet were starting to pack it in, and in fact he lost several toenails in the months afterward. His big toe has never recovered! At 40km we picked up again and ran to the end.
I remember crying as we came over the line, thinking what a shame it was to have subscribed to two running magazines and bought running gear, when we would never run again as the course for the last 10km had been so difficult! By this time Craig had stopped crying from the pain and was just so overjoyed!
The day after the marathon we went for a drive around the lake and marvelled at our own achievement! We were stunned to have made the distance and in awe of those who had run the whole thing. I think now in retrospect we were nuts, but look where we went from there!
We also toured a kiwi sanctuary. On the run we thought we’d seen a few kiwis, squashed on the sides of the highway. I mentioned this to the ranger who looked horrified and said there were only four kiwis in the area, and they were all on the island in the middle of the lake! She was furiously making telephone calls as we left!
Rotorua marathon was number 1.