Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Marathon is 26.2 Miles

Nancy at Christchurch

My daughter, Tina, ran her first marathon last month in a blazing time of 3:55. As I watched her finish, I remembered my best marathon -- the Nike, City of Christchurch Marathon in New Zealand -- in 1982.

From Voluntary Nomads, Part Four: New Zealand Yarns, Chapter 15:

A Marathon is 26.2 Miles

The City of Christchurch course was as beautiful as any could be. Starting and ending at the Queen Elizabeth II Stadium (site of the 1974 Commonwealth Games), it followed the River Avon, cut through Hagley Park on a cycle path, went out to the airport, and returned by reverse route.
For Fred and me, this was the last chance to run a marathon before leaving New Zealand; in fact, since we would be spending the next two years in Somalia, this could be the last marathon opportunity for quite a long time.
My training for this one went well. I put in six runs of twenty miles or more and another seven runs of two hours or more. Also, I ran a fast half-marathon (2:00:45) on a hilly course just before starting the training program, and I finished a 10K race in 48:38 halfway through my training.
The weather turned out to be fairly decent: 4 – 8 degrees C (about 40 F), mostly cloudy with intermittent rain, and a light southerly wind (behind us coming home). I wore maximum clothes for running: tights, shorts, long sleeved turtleneck, singlet, rain jacket, hat and gloves – and I was comfortable while others who dressed lightly suffered from the cold.
I found my groove and ran the first half at a pace I felt I could maintain forever. I caught up with two fellows and settled in to enjoy their company. As we three ran along, talking about running and training, I heard a cheer aimed at me for "the rose between two thorns." We passed the halfway point in 2:08.
When my younger companion surged ahead and the older guy dropped back, I concentrated on maintaining my rhythm. I started to overtake some of the runners.
After the 40K mark (almost 25 miles), I went on passing people; no one seemed to be in real distress, just plodding along. Before entering the stadium I shrugged off my jacket so my race number would be visible. I waved at three silhouettes standing at the top of the stadium, absolutely sure they were Fred, Sue and Geoff. I realized two days later that not one of those three would have felt like climbing all those steps after running 26.2 miles.
Once on the track inside the stadium I picked up the pace and strode out against a chilling wind. Fred and Sue stood there on the sidelines cheering me on (Geoff huddled in a blanket indoors near a heater). I crossed the finish line triumphnt.

After collecting our gear we four athletes shuffled as fast as we could to the car and then to the spa pool at Sue and Geoff's motel for a nice hot soak.
I puffed up with pride when I thought about my 4:17:15 finish. I beat my 4:20 goal and felt like Queen Kong.
After lunch and a short rest, Fred and I went to the awards party for supper and disco – and we had enough leg power to dance the night away. It might have been due to the dancing that my legs weren't stiff at all the next day. Left knee, left foot, and all toes were tender and two right toes burned with small but painful blisters – the only battle scars.
Finally the long-sought-after perfect marathon experience was mine. Even though it took three tries to get it right, it was worth it. These New Zealand marathons, three within eight months, polished my character and reinforced my self-confidence in ways that have run deep and true for the rest of my life. ###

Voluntary Nomads is available in paperback at Amazon and Barnes & Noble or in all popular eBook formats at Smashwords as well as in PDF at Outskirts Press (also find the Nook Book version at B & N

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