Saturday morning, 700 am, and I was standing with at least 50 other competitors at the airfield in Okiwi, jumping up and down and doing other moves to look like a semi-professional, but mainly to stay warm in the cold wind and drizzle. Yes, it was that time of the year, the annual and awesome Wharf to Wharf – Great Barrier Island Marathon.
Everybody who partook as a competitor, race marshal or volunteer working in the backgrounds knows very well how special this annual event is. On the one hand, a fund-raiser for Kaitoke School, on the other, a challenge to bike, run or walk a full or half marathon (42.2 km) on a beautiful Island. Well, it is also a great opportunity to celebrate and have a good time…
This year I registered for the full marathon walk. I tried running it last year (Wharf to Wharf – Great Barrier Island Marathon 2013) but I was certainly over-confident in thinking that I could do it without practice. This year, I envisaged a relaxing walk for 42.2 km, and chatting away with other participants.
In some ways, this year was very similar to 2013 for me. First, older and younger ladies than myself overtook me effortlessly and although I tried keeping up (this is walking!), I could not. My hat off to all who did better than me. Second, like last year, it was quite challenging and the mind wanted to take the easy route out. Unlike last year, but perhaps this was only my perception in delirium, I heard people, I’ve never met before, shouting out my name as they drove past.
I kept hearing: “Go hard Beni, yeay!”, even from cars coming from behind… So yeah, I just tell myself they must have been BENIsLAND groupies.
Albeit the route being different than the usual, the forest road and Kaiaraara tracks are still closed due to the unprecedented storm in June, I finished in 6hours 52minutes (Wharf to Wharf – Great Barrier Island 2014 Results). I think that was negligibly slower than last years attempt. I should mention that I had once again a very strong number to support me during the race (256).
I missed the after-event party/prize-giving yet again, as I usually do, and I hear that the second place for men’s full walk was empty on the podium. You might find it also amusing, but some marshals kept telling me during the race:
“Ben you’re doing great, your second.” , while I was having a drink and eating home baked stuff at the aid stations. “But how can I be second?, two women passed me effortlessly”, I replied. “Well, you’re second in the men’s class anyway…”
As my colleague said today, I was also the first Iranian to pass the finish line. Finally, I commend especially all Youth who competed this year and finished.