Having arriving into New Zealand on a Friday evening, I had been planning to support my friend Hannah in a marathon that weekend.....but it appeared that it was going to be too hard to sort the logistics for getting there and so she decided to run the Christchurch Motorway Half marathon instead. This was a new event, and as it is always good to support local events, especially to help them get off the ground in their infancy, I checked out the route.
The course was up and down the cycle path alongside a short local motorway and involved three 180 degree turns to make up the distance. It didn't exactly look like the most scenic race to spectate so I decided to enter it as the multiple out and back stretches gave me ample opportunity to stop if I felt like it, and hopefully lots of chances to cheer Hannah on running further up the field.
It seemed rather an expensive race to enter, but I gather that race costs are rather higher than I'm used to over in the other side of the world. Still, it was a bit odd that we "had" to register in a 2 hour window on the Saturday morning (you were only allowed to pick up your number on the day if you could prove you lived outside of Christchurch.....which Hannah clearly didn't) and "registration" consisted solely of a rather grumpy lady handing you a number .....no chips, no tags, no further info on the course or a goody bag.
Sunday morning was rather warmer and more humid than I'd thought it would be for early March so Hannah kindly lent me a vest and we made our way to the startline. We were told to line up with half marathon "runners" at the front, then the "half marathon hybrid (ie run/walk) entrants", and then the "walkers behind. All 10k participants (both runners and walkers) were assembled behind that, but still, there was not exactly a bumper field of participants.
|And they're off....|
I cannot comment on the accuracy of the distance markers as they were in kilometres and my watch clicks over in miles, but I did spot the race leader of the 10k turning round the sign that said "10k turn ahead" rather than at the actual turning point about 30m further on. I can't really blame him as it wasn't exactly obvious, especially if he was running on his limit, and there were no marshals about.
There was a marshal about half a km further on at our first switchback. By this time I'd seen Hannah coming back in the opposite direction looking comfortable with no female opposition at all. In fact, I was actually now in second place, though the lady I'd just overtaken was being paced by a male friend who passed her cups of drink (which she then discarded over the fence instead of passing them back to him).
All was not well at the front of the field, as I heard later that the lead runners were actually misdirected by a marshal who hadn't been briefed on the different races and so they ran several hundred metres the wrong way before being turned back. Luckily this did not affect me, and I was able to continue on my way when I got back to the underpass. This time we stayed on the same side of the motorway and headed slightly away from it to run along some pavements up and over a hill before ending up back on the cycle track.
I knew my lack of running was catching up with me as I could feel myself slowing down more than I should be despite the strong headwind, but at least I managed to hold my position when to the far turnaround (a male runner did catch me, but I didn't mind that as I'd been convinced it was the next lady whose friend/pacer was now shielding her from the wind). This turnaround marked halfway as we then repeated the route we'd just run, and so I was now on a mile (well kilometre) countdown, knowing I'd already done my longest run for a couple of months.
Repeating the first out and back section was really a struggle for me but it was nice to be cheered on and encouraged by runners going on both directions, in all of the events. Hannah still looked strong and so it was nice to give her a cheer and a wave everytime I saw her......though I was rather jealous when I considered how much sooner she'd finish than me.
|Hannah and I with our Finishers' bottles|
On returning at 12:15, we found out that the prizegiving for the junior 1500m race (for which there were only about 8 entrants....probably due to the price) which had happened right after we started, was also scheduled for the same time as ours. This seemed rather ridiculous as there were no facilities at the start/finish area.....not even any shade or anywhere to change.
I ended up having to leave shortly before 1pm to visit another friend but Hannah was going to pick up my prizes (2nd lady and 1st V40) along with some prizes for her club members in the junior race. Well, that was the plan anyway.....
The prizegiving didn't actually happen until after 1:30 (so I'm glad I didn't keep my pregnant friend hanging around in the sun waiting for me) and they wouldn't give any prizes to anyone that wasn't there......so Hannah couldn't get mine. It wasn't exactly anything to write home about anyway......another bottle of the Finishers' wine with a couple of glasses (she got the same thing for winning)......and the kids' prizes were just a bar of chocolate (which was melted after it had been sitting in the sun since their race 4 hours earlier) and a McDonalds water bottle.
To say that there were a lot of disgruntled people who travelled to do the race, paid a considerable amount of money, and hung around for no real reason is rather an understatement. As they refused to give prizes to anyone not present at the actual prizegiving, the race organiser was even heard to comment (along with making some disparaging remarks about how long the last finisher/walker had taken) that they would have lots of wine left over to enjoy at home!
I have to say that I cannot see much of a future for the race, unless things change drastically as people will talk with their feet and not return!