As I look back I can hardly believe my year. I have run all over this great land of ours and for the first time since I took up running again five years ago I finally ran in my first International event.
I was invited to the Queenstown Marathon as an Ambassador. To review and showcase this magnificent event and the most amazing destination in which it resides. Queenstown Marathon is part of the Runaway Series, which showcases races in amazing locations such as Runaway Barossa Marathon, Hawkes Bay Marathon, and the all new Runaway Noosa Marathon. It took me all of five minutes to agree to this as since seeing pictures of RMA’s running in Queenstown in 2016 I have wanted to run on this very soil in this event.
The most amazing thing about running at the Queenstown Marathon is that it is so close to Australia. Where in the world can you get an international event as spectacular as this and only be a few hours flight from Sydney? It takes longer to fly to places in Australia!
I wanted to treat this experience just for what it was meant to be. An experience. I had had a hard year of racing long events, and this one was to be the one that culminated them all. The celebration of an amazing 12 months of running. I am always so thankful to be given these amazing opportunities, not only to showcase amazing locations to run, but to meet more RMAs at these events and their families and friends, and to experience running and exploring spectacular places in our land and beyond. Running truly is an adventure.
I was going to be travelling over alone, so the other good thing about being in New Zealand was that everyone speaks english, it is practically just like being in Australia….except the scenery…..
Of course when I mentioned on RMA that I was going, there was a co-hort already attending, or that wanted to join in, so I wasn’t travelling alone for long and organised to meet up with some other excited RMAs at the airport, Natalie and Maria who were running the marathon and 10k events. I had also organised to spend what little time I had in Queenstown with an RMA friend from Brisbane, Rebecca and her mum. They had a car and had planned to look around so they invited me to join them. I was excited and ready for adventure.
As we made the New Zealand Mainland you could hear gasps coming from the window seats of the plane. Flying into Queenstown is just spectacular. It is like something I had never ever seen before. Everywhere I looked were snow-capped mountain peaks and valleys below.
I sat quietly and smiled to myself. This is really happening.
We landed at the airport and as we hopped off the plane and down the stairs I looked around in wonder. All around us were mountains. This place was amazing!
We were greeted by the lovely Mikayla who escorted us to the race to collect our race packs and back to our accommodation. I was staying in the Novotel Lakeside, which was right in the heart of Queenstown on the lake. It was neat and comfortable accomodation, perfect walking distance to the race precinct. I settled in, it was about 6pm and still so light outside. I checked my phone and it said it wasn’t going to be dark until around 9pm! So I chucked on my running clothes and headed off for an adventure.
I decided to run around the lake, which was the last part of the course, but I was running in the opposite direction. The wind was howling, but it was still gorgeous. I felt like I was in a european town surrounded by mountains, but instead I was in New Zealand! Places like this do exist! I felt alive and free running around the lake and so many runners and walkers were out too. I smiled at them hoping they were running the next day in the event also. Some kind of secret runner handshake in my eyes.
After clocking up around 5k I thought I better call it a day and head back to my accommodation and find some dinner and settle down. Maria had had issues getting to the start of the race the next day from her accommodation so she arranged to stay with me for the night, which worked out well. We met up with Rebecca and her mum for a drink at a local pizza place before turning in and chatting like teenagers into the night from our beds.
I was excited to run here. I wanted to take it all in and enjoy the adventure. I wanted to really live every moment, and run strong. I had decided to do the half marathon, as I thought it was the perfect event to see a lot of this amazing location, yet still be alive enough to explore more when I was done.
Race morning came at 5am. We were excited. We got up, got ready and threw on our bibs, ready to tackle our chosen distances. We walked up to the race precinct and got on one of the many buses that were ferrying the competitors to their respective start lines. I was with Rebecca’s mum, and we chatted the whole way about the scenery we saw as we drove. Before long we were at the start line. There was about a thousand ports-loos so we knew we were going to be fine 🙂
Over time more and more people started to mill about. We met a few RMA as we stood around. I felt amazed that here I was in an international event, not even in Australia and there were RMA here too! It made me feel so happy that they were getting to experience this like me.
The announcer announced that we were going to be put through a warm up by the Les Mills Instructors. I met RMA Maree before the warm up and she seemed to be getting into it and enjoying it. My poor coordination just had me laughing. Those girls had some gusto and I wanted to leave some room for the race!
Before long we were ushered to dispose of our warm clothing at the drop bags and head to the start line. There was a mile of people in front of me as I pushed towards the 1.40-2hour pace group. I was excited. I chatted to a few people next to me and met a lovely lady who was running her first half marathon. She was from New Zealand. She explained to me that she wanted to get in under two hours. I told her anything was possible.
The start gun went and we were off and running. I planned to run strong, but take the time to take pictures when I wanted to as I wanted to remember this time, but also to share it all with you…The first part of the race was on bitumen road. I settled into a rhythm, probably a little too fast perhaps, but wanted to make it through the crowds before we headed into the narrow gravel trail. The crowds never really did dissipate, but it was easy running and the rhythm just seemed to flow. We passed by beautiful properties surrounded by glorious mountains and I thought how good it would be to be them and live here. I could see myself here running and drinking wine and living the quiet life 🙂
Soon enough we came to the gravel trail and around and down we went. I was thankful to be on this surface as I don’t really like hard roads. I just kept running strong and taking pictures every now and then but it was hard to stop as the trail wasn’t very wide, so I didn’t want to stop and cause an accident so slowed down and I took them as I ran along.
The course winded along the river and everywhere you looked you saw mountains. We weaved in and out off the river and across the bridge to the other side. Up and down, through little towns and back across to the other side. Every now and then there were pockets of spectators cheering which gave you a real boost. The course was surprisingly undulating. Nothing bad, just enough to make you work for it. Around the 13km mark the girl that I met at the start line ran up past me. I gave her a cheer and told her she was looking strong. I kept her in my sights and kept running. In the end we finished pretty much at the same time! It was also starting to heat up as we neared the end of the race. The sun was shining and it was spectacular weather.
As we came through the last 5k I remembered the terrain from the day before on my little adventure run. As a little test, the course felt like it just kept going up….ever so slightly…before it flattened out again. By now the legs were starting to tell me they were done. I had been averaging just over 5min kms which was pretty good I thought considering I was feeling so good and taking pictures. But I was ready to get it done now. We ran around the lake towards Queenstown. As we came into town past the Novotel where I was staying, there were crowds that had formed and lined the streets to cheer everyone in. I could hear the finish line. But it seemed so far away. I knew it had to be close.
I rounded the bend and then….a hill….a really decent hill. Right at the end of the race! I couldn’t believe the cruelty in this moment (haha)..but its really a test of who really wants it is it not? So I pushed up that little hill and across towards the ramp where I heard someone shout my name. I flew down the makeshift ramp and along the grass to the finish line and threw my hands in the air.
I was done. My time was 1.48.21. Not too shabby and in the most amazing location.
I spent some time gaining my composure on the grass area that was set up where already thousands of spectators were lounging about enjoying the vibe of the finish line, which was perfectly positioned in the middle of the valley surrounded by the mountains above. Before long I found my RMA friends and spent the afternoon cheering others through the finish to their glory. I just love a finish line like this. Where everyone, all walks of life run through and celebrate their own victory.
That afternoon we hit the ground running and got on our inner tourism. We headed up the Gondola and had lunch and had a ride on the Luge which was so much fun. Then we took a drive up the top of the Remarkables which is the mountain range, where we played in the snow! It was simply spectacular. Everywhere we went our medals went for a ride too 🙂 The next day after my morning run we headed for a drive to Moke Lake, which was also amazing. I packed a lot into the two days that I was there, but my time there isn’t over. I think I will need to go back to run the marathon……
To register visit www.queenstown-marathon.co.nz