I didn’t need much convincing when a friend suggested we take a trip to New Zealand for the Hawkes Bay Marathon. It was my first trip to NZ and my husband Dean and I decided to make a holiday out of it and take the kids over for 10 days.
This was marathon #5 for me, and my second for 2018, after doing the Cadbury Marathon in Hobart in January. Prior to that, my third marathon was Gold Coast last year, which unfortunately finished with me in hospital with severe dehydration and heat stress – so this was definitely more about having a great time, enjoying the scenery and finishing strong & happy!
We made our way to Napier for the Saturday event. We’d booked a motel on the waterfront, and I was pretty excited to find out we were about 100m from the start line! The 9am start meant I had a sleep-in (compared to the super early starts that often accompany running events!) and had plenty of time to get ready. I was feeling great & pretty confident. Training had gone very smoothly, and I thought I could give my PB of 4:04:40 a nudge – and perhaps even get that elusive sub-4 hours. I had a bit of extra motivation, as my husband had run a marathon just 5 days prior and had beaten my PB by 5 seconds, so I wanted to re-claim the title!
Conditions were not as cool as I expected – it was a cloudy day and temps were about 14-16 degrees the whole time – ideal for running a marathon! It was a very relaxed vibe at the start line and we were soon underway, running along the Napier foreshore, then through some suburban streets and onto some paths.
I felt great starting off. I was running with my hydration pack, and had myself sorted with gels, tailwind and a squashed vegemite sandwich cut into little squares. The atmosphere was fun and chatty and a few kilometres in, I spotted an RMA shirt. I said hello and got chatting to Harmony and we just chatted and ran for about the next 10km. It made the time fly by and I really appreciated the company!
The Hawkes Bay Marathon is an A to B run, starting in Napier and finishing 42km south, at the Sileni Estate Winery. It’s a mixed terrain run, with sections of road, footpath, gravel, dirt trail and some gorgeous vineyards (some on private property too). It was just stunning running through the vineyards, with mountains in the distance, trees with their beautiful Autumn leaves (not something we see much in Brisbane!) and knowing that each step was closer to the finish line!
Dean and the kids were driving and stopping off at the spectator points along the way. It was such a buzz to see them along the way, give out some high-fives and really get re-energised by their smiles and encouragement! There was also some entertainment along the way, like a group of Maori dancers, a band, a unicyclist and more!
I finally reached the halfway point – which of course was the start line for the half marathon, which had started earlier in the day. It was a beautiful section through some sort of forest. I was well on track with my pace, running between 5:30 and 5:40 mins/km, which I knew would get me under 4 hours.
The next few kilometres were tougher than I wanted them to be! Firstly, one of our running friends who had also come from Brisbane to do the marathon, suddenly appeared beside me at about 23km. I was shocked to see him, as he was aiming to get under 3:30. He was having some issues with his breathing, after having a cold leading into the run, and had decided to pull out. I felt so bad for him and knew how disappointed he’d be! He gave me some great words of encouragement though and I went on my way.
By this stage I was feeling a bit sick to the stomach. I’d had toast with peanut butter for breakfast, but I’m not used to having breakfast before my long runs (most of them I had started around 3:30-4:00am, so 9:00am was a big difference!) I could really feel that toast sitting there and although I was making myself have my gels on schedule, it was a struggle. I kept up with sips of tailwind, but I couldn’t stomach any of the sandwich.
By 32km, my pace had dropped to around 5:50 mins/km and doing the calculations, I knew I could still get a PB and sneak under 4 hours, but I’d have to start picking up the pace. By 37km I realized that definitely wasn’t going to happen! After a few arguments in my head, I told myself to let go of the PB and just dig in and get this done.
Around that time, I started getting cramps in the muscles just above my knees, something I’ve never experienced before. Wow, talk about painful! I let myself walk through the cramps when they came, and I decided to walk through the water stations so I could take in a decent amount of water. Those last 5km were a huge struggle! I’ve actually never walked in a marathon before (except when I was helped by 2 of my friends after collapsing in the last kilometer at Gold Coast, but I have no memory of that) – but the cramps were just so painful!
At 2km to go, another of the friends we’d travelled with was waiting for me, after he’d earlier completed the half marathon. It was such a joy to see him there and we chatted away – I was so grateful for the company and he really encouraged me along and made those last couple of km’s bearable!
Finally, Sileni Estate was in sight! I’ve never been happier to run down a finish chute! I crossed that line feeling so, so happy to have finished it. My time was 4:09:43. Not my fastest, not my best, but a wonderful experience. My kids were waiting there with big hugs and kisses. There’s nothing like that finish line feeling, I felt like the happiest runner in the world! I gratefully got my medal and then enjoyed the finishing area with my friends and family (the wine tasting at the end was excellent!)
I had hoped that by 5 marathons, it would be easier. That’s definitely not the case! I feel like I am stilling learning so much about running, and that each marathon has its own learning experiences.
I absolutely loved running at Hawkes Bay. I couldn’t fault the event for its scenery, the route, the organization, the finish area, the medal. Every bit of it was amazing! I didn’t run my best on the day, but that’s marathon running. I’ve said I’m done now that I’ve clocked up #5…but I’ve said that 4 times before (and the Runaway event at Queenstown looks so amazing!)
If you want a marathon for an adventure, an experience and for a lot of fun, then you should definitely give the Hawkes Bay Marathon a go! A run I will remember and cherish for a long time to come!
To register for Hawkes Bay in 2019 head to www.hawkesbaymarathon.co.nz