Last Saturday I completed one of the hardest things I had ever done, and it was certainly my most difficult ever run. I ran a 21 km off-road trail through the Whakarewarewa forest, titled ‘We Run the Forest’.
The lead up to the big day.
I had been training for this event since February, running three to four times a week. Most of the time I would run on roads since that was what I had, but closer to the time I would find an off-road tramping trail to run on – at least once a week. In June, I took part in a shorter 10 km race, the Mt Runners and Walkers Half Marathon. With a week left to the big day, I got quite sore in my left leg, and I was worried that this would be the start of some injury, but those worries were unfounded. I took a few days rest, did some stretching and walking, and a short run, and I felt fine.
The big day.
My mum came along to support me, and offered to drop me off, which I was more than happy for her to do. As we were driving there, I realised to my horror that they had changed the start time to be 30-minutes earlier! We had planned to arrive early, so we got there in the nick of time, and I walked straight to the start line.
A few minutes later, we assembled together, and we were off! This course offered a variety of terrain, but most of it was through beautiful forest; redwood, pine and native New Zealand ferny forest. It offered steep hills, narrow tracks, mud, and the occasional gravel road. All of this was designed to break your willpower and provide excitement in equal measure. For the first 8 km or so, things were going well for me, but then I tripped during a momentary lapse of judgement and landed straight on one of my knees. Despite the initial knee blasting pain, I was somehow OK, so I cautiously plodded on. Around this time the course ramped up in difficulty, including a steep hill which ascended more than 100 metres. After that point, I was really really exhausted, so I slowed down for a while. Fortunately, the track would descend again, what goes up must come down right? But that wouldn’t be the end of it. At around the 20 km mark, a massive hill was blocking our way to the finish line, and it became apparent we were going to run up this one too. At this point it became a grind, and I was more speed walking than running, until we got to the marvelous scenic top, I gave a cheer, and then it was down from here on in.
Eventually I crossed the finish line with a time of 2 hours 36 minutes. This is not exactly fast, but to me it felt much more difficult than your traditional road run, also I think it was actually 23 km, since that is what my phones GPS said. By comparison, when I did a road half marathon a few years ago, I was much faster at 2 hours 3 minutes. Regardless, I felt satisfied after completing this run, and I would happily do another trail run in the future. At the end, I got given a neat looking ‘participation medal’ and a free drink of plum cider. That plum cider tasted great after running for a very long time.
So where to now?
I haven’t planned any running events for the immediate future, but it has made me want to do some more trail runs. After running for several months, I kind of want to do something different for a while though. I haven’t been to the gym in ages, so I am actually starting to miss it. Of course, if I stop running, I’ll lose all my fitness again. I am getting bored of running in the same places though, so if I were to continue running, I will need to find a new place to keep things exciting.