Great Forest Marathon, Waitarere 14 April

Great Forest Marathon – April 14, by Jennifer Lane

I’d love to dramatise my experience of the Great Forest Marathon by saying it was the toughest race I’d ever faced, that I hit the wall at 28km, collapsed with severe dehydration, or crawled to the finish line, crippled with cramps. But lucky for me (and boringly for you), it went pretty smoothly (sorry).

The day was cold and cloudy. Rain threatened but held off, and the snow on the surrounding hills, incongruous with my summer running wear, provided a scenic backdrop rather than a threat of hypothermia.

The course was so flat that I often felt like I was cheating, and the soft, sometimes sandy, ground was easy on the legs. The only downside (if can there be one on a run without hills?) was that the marathon course was two loops of the half-marathon, the idea of which can mess with your head.

My biggest drama was stepping in a puddle (OK, it was more like a small lake and on both of my failed attempts to tip-toe across it, it swallowed my shoes and socks, but it was hardly anything to write home (or to the WMC) about. And it gave the ridiculously expensive Dry Max socks I’ve been wearing seemingly-unnecessarily for years the chance to finally prove their worth!)

My only disappointment was reaching the halfway mark, buoyed on by the anticipation of enthusiastic cheers from my support crew (husband and two daughters), only to spot them around 500 metres away from the track. They had their backs to me, having lost interest in the race and oblivious to the fact that I was performing at my peak 21km in, their elaborately hand-painted ‘Go Mum!’ signs obviously a thing of the past.

My other low(ish) point was at around the 35km mark when both of my hips suddenly remembered I was 46 years old, and protested with pain. But, realising they’d ache regardless of my speed, I resisted the urge to drop my pace (or lie down and weep), and continued to force one foot in front of the other as I counted off the kilometres: 38, 39, 40, 41…

Had I realised Sean Beardsley was at the finish line, video camera in hand, I would have attempted a more elegant finish, perhaps conjuring up the theme music from “Chariots of Fire” in my head. Instead, he immortalised my weak attempt at a sprint. I’ll treasure the footage though – if you listen closely (which I’ve done more than once) you can hear the announcer saying, “Jennifer…I think she might be second”. And amazingly enough, I was! I was the second female with a time of 3.39 – a PB by one minute!

So, despite the lack of drama, the Great Forest Marathon was a memorable run, made even enjoyable by being in the company of Susan, Annie, Persephone, Brian and cameraman, Sean. I highly recommend it!

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