Saturday, 7 November 2015

{Small Steps Everyday}: 12k Traverse Auckland Marathon

Anticipated for months and we finally did it! I was extremely nervous about the run, going to bed early the night before and waking up early for a shower to freshen up, then to stuff my face with high energy food in preparation. During my practice runs/jogs/walks, I'd experienced dizziness from lack of sugar so I wanted to make sure that I had sufficient fuel to power me through the course. 

The weather that morning was perfect - fine, with no rain, there were clouds to shield us from harsh UV rays. We got to town at around 8. The roads were closed and we could see runners from the full marathon passing through on Quay Street - such athletes! They'd run about 30k in two hours! There were also sounds of cars tooting and people cheering around which heightened the atmosphere. The All Blacks had just won our second consecutive Rugby World Cup, defeating the Wallabies with an impressive score of 34-17! 

We got onto the bus which shipped us to the starting line at Smales Farm, on the way passing by hundreds more runners fighting their battles. My nerves heightened as I pictured myself as one of them in about an hour's time. Near the starting line, hundreds of people gathered in track pants, colour coded T-shirts with number bibs, stretching and warming up. The lines to the Portaloos snaked through the crowd, everyone was orderly and patient.  Some were sharing stories of their own runs and motivating each other. 

At about ten to nine, we walked to the starting line. The buzz vibrated through our bodies as the commentator started counting down the time. I plugged my earphones in and let the beat of Geronimo charge through me. Finally, the buzzer went off but we were delayed as we had to wait for the crowd in front of us to move. And then, off we went! 

I started off walking, thinking I should conserve my energy. But as more and more people started overtaking me and I saw that my sisters were running further and further ahead, I looked to Peter and thought, ok let's start running too. I adjusted my pace to a comfortable jog, centering my focus on each step rather than on the long journey ahead. I emptied my mind of any negative thoughts and filled it with "I can do it, I can do it, I can do it". As I ran, I reminded myself that this journey was my own. It did not matter that seven hundred people were ahead of me. I was not competing with anyone else but myself. 

The first 3k was comfortable. I realized that this was going to be more of a mental than a physical game. Clearing my mind of distracting thoughts actually helped conserve energy. My breathing was regular, I did not try to overtake people deliberately but let my pace guide me. In the corner of my eye I noticed Peter with the GoPro circling through, getting shots of my sisters and I while we ran. How he had so much excess energy was just beyond me. I was glad that he was enjoying the run though. 

As the Harbour Bridge came into sight, I let that be my mental target. So focused on my mental game, I didn't even realise that I passed Suzy until Peter pointed her out. We waved and gave hand signals of cheering each other on and "you can do it!" As we approached the bridge, the trajectory came to a gentle slope upwards. Still manageable, I thought, and kept pushing myself forwards. I started thinking about the wonders of the mind and the human body. How do my legs know to run? How does my brain control my legs to move forwards? How does my body know to push forward even if my mind tentatively thinks "stop"? And how do my legs know to distinguish when my mind really really is thinking "stop"? It was so puzzling and I thought to myself, if I overthink about how I run I will stop running, so let my body just do it

   I'd passed the 6k mark. This was how far I normally run and oh my gosh there's still half the journey. My time seemed alright though. Well within the cut-off time of when we had to be on the Bridge. My legs started to feel foreign. They've been carrying me for about forty minutes. As we climbed the Bridge, I slowed down to take it all in. I switched to power walk mode and immediately felt my legs went jelly. It's alright. This is a mental game. My physical state does not matter. On the bridge, I thought - hey, this was the first time that we were on the bridge on foot! Let's enjoy this moment and take some photos to commemorate. The view was amazing. Auckland was beautiful. Let's do some silly jump photos while trying not to get in the way of other runners. Suzy caught up and joined in.

Then came the downhill of the Bridge - yess!! Let's take advantage of it. So we plugged in our earphones again and began the second half of the journey. Comparatively, as expected, the second half was a lot more challenging than the first half. My running mentality was also different from the first 6ks. With each step, we were closer to the finish line, but there was still quite a distance to go. I thought that if there weren't so many people around me running, I would have stopped already. But seeing other participants pushing themselves helped motivated me. The fact that my sister was no where in sight also pushed me forward. 

My left knee started hurting and I could feel my lips going dry. When we ran down the bridge and started coming into town, my brain started chanting "each step by step counts", something a friend had said to me a few days ago. We saw people on the sideline cheering and Barfoot and Thompson was handing out lollies. "Home run", a sign says, haha so punny. But 10m later the 9k mark came into sight. Home run? You're joking! There's 3 more ks! There were more and more walkers around and I could feel the mental pull to join them. But each step by step counts! Step by step... step by step... My knee doesn't hurt. No it doesn't. Ah but it does. Slow down, rest a bit. No. No. No. Victoria Park is right there.  I could see it. 

As we came to Wynyard Quarter, I realised that the route was snaking leftwards into Wynyard Quarter rather than rightwards to Vic Park. Ah they tricked us! We've still got 2ks to go and we'll be running around the fish market and Wynyard, not straight to Vic! Ok, never mind, keep going. Jog. Small steps. Yup that's right. Oh water, go grab a cup. Take a sip. Don't drink too much or it'll cool your body down too much. One sip is good. Ok, keep going. I'd asked Peter to run ahead as he wanted to meet his time to try and win the Timex watch. My target time of 1.5h had completely gone out the window. I just wanted finish the course. 

The final 2ks was completed with a mixture of jog and power walk. I could see that many runners around me were doing the same thing. During the final 1k, I started having a secret competition with the girl next to me as a way to push myself forward. Jog walk jog walk jog. Ok she's stopped jogging, overtake her. Puff puff puff. See, you're slowing down, she's overtaken you, start jogging. I had a feeling she was using me as a short distance marker as well. 

And then we turned the corner and a straight line to the finish line stretched out in front of us. I did not expect the size of the crowd at all. Wow, so this was how running a marathon is like. The crowd's watching and cheering, no stopping now. I pushed myself through all the words - tired, pain, thirsty, stop, rest - that'd held me back in the last ten minutes and gathered all my remaining strength to run to forward. I can see the finish line. 1:36:20. 1:36:21. 1:36:22. Go, go, go, go, go!!! 

And somehow, I made it! We made it! Wow! We ran. We did it. We finished it! We didn't have to be driven across the bridge because we didn't pass the cut off time in time. My legs. I can't feel them. My knees, they hurt, but it does not matter. We made it! 

It's been one heck of a week. I ran (I ran) in a marathon. I worked extra to cover a colleague's parental leave. It was my mum's birthday. I had two last minute cake orders. There was a tear-jerking karaoke session. I watched an unexpectedly moving movie with my sisters. There were interviews. The assignments are racking up. Exams are looming. To say the least, it's been a physically and mentally challenging and emotionally provoking week. Even though I only ran the 12k Traverse, I felt like I had run the full marathon. I'm glad that we challenged ourselves. Once again we have proven that mind power is stronger than anything else. 

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