A couple of weekends ago I joined in with the biggest fun run in Auckland – an 8.4km run along the waterfront from Auckland city to St Helliers. Last year there were 70,000 participants, which is a lot of runners and walkers. It’s a big corporate event too with many businesses sponsoring the entry of their employees and the company I work for was no exception. The only requirement was that I had to wear the company t-shirt, which was no problem.
On the morning itself I got to the start slightly later than I planned and it was pretty busy. There were about 10 running and walking from my company, but we’d not made any plans to meet up beforehand, so I was on my own and able to use that to my advantage to get as close to the start line as possible. I got as close as I could just by weaving in and out of people, but then reached a bit of a blockade. After that if I saw any people pushing through to join friends, I’d try and tack on the back of their snake and use them to help me to get closer to the front. Even using those dubious tactics I was still 100m or so from the start line with a huge mass of people still in front of me, spanning all six lanes of the road and both side-walks.
Gradually they counted us down over the loudspeakers and I was glad I was carrying my little hydration backpack to be able to take a few sips of water before the start because it was a warm morning. Then there was a big bang and we were off – or rather we weren’t. We stood for a while as those in front disappeared off and gradually the mass of people started to move. As I crossed the line, about a minute later, I started my watch and moved from a slow shuffle into a walk. Then over the next minute or so I weaved past people, sometimes having to walk again, sometimes managing short bursts of speed, until I got into a position where I was able to run consistently and the people had thinned so that I could weave between them more easily.
Before the run I’d thought about what split times I’d need to do for each km to do a time I would be happy with; my target was 4:15 per km, giving me a finish time of 35:45. At the 1km marker my watch read 5:20, so I was down quite a way just due to the number of people. From then on it was a matter of picking through the slower people and trying to keep my pace at the right level. By the 2km I was at about 9:30, so I was back on track.
One of the benefits of running in a big race like that is that there are always people in front to catch and it’s very motivating to keep running past people all the time.
I reached Mission Bay and was going well when there was an option in the route, either run along the waterfront or stay on the road and go through the town, not much in it but I picked the road and it was the wrong choice. Based on where I rejoined with the waterfront people I estimated I’d lost about 10 seconds.
From Mission Bay onwards it was just run as fast as I could with the energy I had left, it was only a couple of km to the finish and I felt pretty good and kept willing myself to go faster and faster as I got nearer and nearer to the finish. I felt pleased when I finally crossed the line that I’d done myself justice and run a well paced race that meant I finished with virtually nothing left to give. When I crossed the line my watch read 36:30, slower than I had wanted to run, but taking into account the difficult start and the fact I was over a minute down at the first split I figured it was probably fair to call it a 35:30 – 35:45 kind of time.
After the run I met up with Louise and we wandered up the hill to a nearby park where lots of companies had laid on hospitality. After a bit of searching we managed to find the gazebo for my company and sat down to a hard-earned orange juice. I was the first employee to arrive, but it wasn’t too long before other people started to appear and we all sat and ate out picnic boxes (kindly provided by the company) in the shade of the gazebo.
Overall it was a fun day, with glorious weather, perhaps a little warm for running, but fortunately the start was at 9:30am so it hadn’t got too hot while I did my run. Next weekend I am running in a 21km (half-marathon) cross country around the volcanic islands of Rangitoto and Motatapu in Auckland harbour. Hmm, that’s going to be a little more difficult I think.