The annual Wharf to Wharf Marathon on Great Barrier Island is a well established and professionally organized annual event which draws locals and off-island New Zealand residents, as well as international participants together to compete in a race from Port FitzRoy wharf to Tryphena wharf. As in any other sporting event, individuals do not only compete with each other but – as in my case – also compete with and challenge themselves.
For more information and a course map have a look at a previous article (Wharf To Wharf – Great Barrier Island Marathon) or check out the official website for info, pictures and results (Wharf to Wharf Great Barrier Island).
It was a great surprise to see my friend Nicola at the start in FitzRoy and since I was there quite early, I had time to catch up a bit and also to talk to other nervous participants. I felt really good when the race began at 0730 and felt still strong an hour later. Two hours later and I was still running, but my legs didn’t feel too strong on the up hills any more. The bizarre thing was that I kept overtaking the same people on the up hill and they overtook me later on the down hill.
It was about then when I realized that running up the hills was becoming difficult and that running down hill was painful on the toes. It took me a bit more than two and a half hours to reach the half way mark in Okupu. Unfortunately, I had to walk most of the distance around the white cliffs.
When I reached Okupu, the crowd was enthusiastic, so I pretended that all was good, tried to smile and started running again. I passed a marshal and didn’t know what to reply when she said that it wasn’t far until Tryphena. My leg muscles were sore, my tendons were stiff, toes were hurting and I had 21 km to go. ‘Don’t say anything, save your energy’… After a few more kilo meters I decided to walk again. ‘Walk for 10 min, walk fast and then start running again.’, was my line of thought.
Well, about that! People kept overtaking me, first a few on the mountain bike, then some runners, then walkers. There was a good looking woman walking 20 m in front of me and I tried to keep up, but even that was futile. That is when I realized that it would be painful and that I had to endure.
I kept walking, the sun was high up by now, the feet were really hurting but the good thing was that I was still being overtaken. I talked about ‘head games’ and ‘trash talking’ in my previous article. Well, I certainly received plenty of that. I had young women and old women, young boys and old men overtake me and everyone did so with a smile and saying something along the lines of: ‘Looking good (Ben), keep it up, it’s not far.’
Well, I doubt I was looking good and man was it far… hehe. I sincerely had hoped to finish in less than 6 hours, but simply didn’t have the stamina. I, more or less, dragged myself over the finish line in Tryphena in just short of 6 hours and 30 minutes. The last three hours were brutal. I could only walk really slowly and every step was painful.
But hey, I finished. Had a beer, a water, a banana, some chips and what ever else I could grab for free. After a wee bit of rest, I started heading home and got a ride with a local after a few minutes.
What did I learn? For starters, I should have trained more. It would have also been much less painful had I started walking instead of running. I’m sure that I could walk this distance in less than 6 hours, but I used most of my energy up during the first half.
I’m glad it’s all over, I had really sore legs for two days after but then things went back to normal. Well, I doubt, I’ll ever attempt running a marathon again. I’ll be back at the Wharf to Wharf 2014 though, but on the mountain bike.
I congratulate all participants who finished and especially those who finished in respectable times. I met Victoria Taylor a few days before the race, she is a young woman, I believe the youngest, to have run the entire length of New Zealand in 34 days. That is more than 2000 km, about 60 km per day (Victoria Taylor Run for Charity) (Victoria Taylor News). BTW, she did the Wharf to Wharf in 4 hours 9 minutes.