I signed up for the Auckland Marathon because it was two weeks before the Solar Eclipse Marathon. If I was going to fly all the way to Australia to run that race, I might as well get another Oceania race in on the same plane ticket. I’d never been to New Zealand, so why not? It would be a good training run before I went up to Queensland.
I wasn’t expecting much having run the Rock ‘n’ Roll St. Louis Marathon the week before. I was just in Auckland to have a fun run with no pressure. I flew in the night before and had a friend pick up my packet and get it to me that night. I got a couple hours of sleep, put on my kit, had a peanut butter sandwich (which the agricultural inspectors let me import) and took the ferry across the harbor to get to the start line. I didn’t even know where I was, having been in town for less than 10 hours. I followed the other runners.
The gun went off and so did we, in some outer residential neighborhood of Auckland. We wouldn’t run through the scenic parts of town until the end of the race. The weather was nice. It was going to be a good day.
When the 4:30 pacer came by, I ran up to him and decided to tag along. We struck up a conversation that we would keep up until around Mile 9. He knew the area and had lots to say about it. As people round their paces, the 4:30 group got bigger. It was a friendly group.
The course was gentle hills, the final one being the Auckland Harbor Bridge. Once we conquered that, it was time to head into town. The half marathoners would stop once we got into town while the rest of us would leave town again to go along the waterfront to Mission Bay before doubling back to finish.
The conversations kept me distracted and I felt pretty good by the middle of the race. I was even a bit ahead of the 4:30 group. I stopped for a porta potty break at Mile 13, right after I had some Coca Cola from the water station. Why can’t I get Coke at races in the US?
As I came out the 4:30 pacer was right there. I latched onto that group, but was soon about 100 meters in front of them again, even as I was trying to slow down to keep with them.
Heading out of town I was still feeling pretty good. I just kept on going, even though the sun was out and it was getting warm. At the turnaround to start back into town, I started to think about a personal best time. Around Mile 22, My average pace was about 10:05, and I thought I had to get under 10 for a personal best. So far, my record is from the Wisconsin Marathon.
For the next couple of miles, I was knocking a couple of seconds of the average pace for each mile, and got it down to 9:55/mile with a mile to go. I decided to take it easy for the last mile figuring that I’d beat the time I needed and didn’t need to kill myself in the heat. I want to break the record, but not shatter it. That makes it harder to break the next time!
The end for a bit of a morale buster. It twisted and turned. I kept thinking that the finish must be around the corner, but the corners kept coming. I finished in 4:22, but I couldn’t remember what my best time was. It turns that I missed it by a minute. I needed to beat 9:53 for a personal best. I probably could have beat that if I’d remembered my best time correctly.
Although I didn’t beat my best time, I had a really good run, and I had it a week after another marathon. My last similar run, the Wisconsin Marathon, was also a week after the the previous marathon. What’s all this nonsense about tapering? But, I also was under no pressure, just like in Wisconsin where I started 10 minutes late. It’s mostly a mental game, so maybe all those other times I’m just psyching out myself.
This turns out to be one of my favorite runs, I think. The route wasn’t spectacularly scenic, but the runners were friendly, the organization wasn’t a problem, and they had Coke. If I were the sort to repeat events, this is one I’d want to come back to. I do want to run some more in New Zealand, but I’ll have to go to the South Island next time I think.