June 2021 Newsletter

Previous Month’s Tui Regurgitates Dear Leader


Colonial Knob bus trip: through a fluke I happened to be in town for the last Sunday in May.  Perhaps I could join the Clinic on a bus run to Colonial Knob?  

So I rolled up to ASB.  Great to see everyone again, and is that colourful chap driving the bus “mad” Mike Stewart?  Yes indeed, our driver is the local legend with about 600 marathons to his name.  

The runners got off first and enjoyed the first few kms through the bush.  It was quite wintry along the tops so we didn’t hang around for long.  Into the bush again, down the marvelous Te Ara Utiwai track, then Mark pointed us left onto a track we’d never suspected which ended in northern Porirua.  Then a few kms along the road before reaching the bus in Titahi Bay. 

I think everyone had a bit of an adventure.  Well done the committee for organising this, and special thanks to Mark and Bruce for leading their groups.

PS.  People ask me how is Nelson?  It’s sunny, but can be really cold in the mornings.  I haven’t done much running there yet – too busy.

Rotorua Marathon: Mikey Clarke


I got four seconds away from making a total fool of myself in front of about two hundred people! Yesterday I ran this, the 2021 Rotorua Marathon: strava.com/activities/5259107436

Third time around the lake: in 2019, my first ever marathon, did it in 4h23m, and was bloody pleased just simply to complete it; last year, 2020, banged out a respectable 3h50m, and this year, had an unofficial goal of knocking off another twenty minutes and sneaking in under three and a half hours.

Running at exactly five minutes per kilometre for exactly three and a half hours will convey you exactly 42km. A marathon is 42.195km. (Although turns out this particular marathon course is ~600m too long, as 27 million people have pointed out to its organisers, but that’s another story.) My goal was to jog at 5mins/km for the first half-to-two-thirds, crest the course’s final hill, then pick things up a bit for the final third.

So far so good. If you’ve run competitively before, you’ll know any race is a climactic and gruelling battle between the clock and one’s legs’ muscle tone. As the klicks tick by, the ol’ pins transmogrify from springy and supple to lead-lined catastrophes. I strode through the 30-kay-s with screaming thighs, somehow maintaining 4:40 pace, cycling every song in my phone’s Great Shite running playlist (youtu.be/C7NSUFDHFgg is particularly fab at maintaining morale), glancing at my phone every few minutes to ensure I’m maintaining speed and wondering why the hell I put myself through this shit.

42km, into the final straight, every muscle fibre feels kidnapped by barbed wire, there’s the finish line still hundreds of metres off, there’s the archway clock, oh hell yes it’s saying 3:29:10! Still time!

I surged ahead. The Rotorua Marathon is ever so popular, thousands participate, crowds heave, the start is quite genuinely marked with cannons and hakas and all kinds of crazy shenanigans. There’s a megaphoned event announcer cheering each and every person across the line. 

I closed within ~60m, feeling like speedy death. “…And now here’s Mikey Clarke, from Wellington,” boomed the announcer, “will he break three and a half hours? Won’t he? Let’s see!”

Much cheering from the crowd of hundreds. 

In my unconscionable hubris, I grinned and thumbs-upped and finger-pistolled the announcer as I ran past, signalling “well duh, obviously I’ll make it!”

Still 30m away. I glanced up at the clock: 3:29:45.

With a burst of swampy dread like a kick to the stomach, I realised ohshitohshit I might miss it! I broke into a sprint of desperate agony, every leg muscle kersploded, the crowd’s cheering changed from hey-let’s-generate-generic-enthusiasm to oh-god-this-moron-needs-all-the-help-he-can-get, sprint sprint heartattack heartattack, and I cleared the finish with about two seconds to spare.

There is, I’m told, a live stream of all this. If they’d genuinely recorded me flashing a swaggery grin re imminently breaking 3h30m and then failing to break 3h30m, I swear I’d never live that down.

Rotorua Marathon: Gordon Clarke


My first Rotorua marathon was in 1982!

I was at the rained-out one which doesn’t count.

Haven’t missed one this century!

My 25th this year. Wendy’s 15th. Mikey’s 3rd.

We’ve all entered next year already, and would like some company.

The Medium Walking Group Does Titahi Bay

Peter Firth:

Sunday 30 May dawned cool and gray with a threat of rain. Any gloom was dispelled though when we clambered into the bus and saw our driver. A very colourfully clad man, we were to learn that his history was colourful too. A marathon runner famous for the number of marathons he had run, and notorious for the clothes that he chose to wear, or more accurately, not to wear during those runs. He soon had us on our way and we found ourselves climbing up the back of Titahi Bay through an extensive industrial area (who knew that there was so much light industry in Titahi Bay?). Near the top we decanted those runners who were to do the Broken Hill track.

Shortly after the rest of us were spilling out of the bus at the Onepoto Reserve next to the Titahi Boat Club clubrooms. Our group numbered 15 but the Fast Walking Group were there too along with a fair sprinkling of runners who were to run the flat walk or do runs their own choice. The harbour was as still and flat as the top of a glass coffee table as we set out on the waterside track around Whitireia Park. Incidentally, this park is an official “Lord
of the Rings film location”. Does anybody know where the filming took place and what scenes were shot there?”

The going was easy although a little muddy after recent rain but the walk was enjoyable. That is, until the threatening rain became actual rain. Just a passing light shower really: no problem for us, we can cope with that – hoods on, heads down and stride on. Not long after though we were stunned, not to say bemused, when our bus driver ran past clad in a pair of bright green fluorescent underpants. True, he had a colourful T-shirt on too but who could take their eyes off those underpants? I always think that there is something new to see on every walk.

Some distance around the track a “hill walk” branched off. That dynamic duo, Janet and Bruce Campbell, decided that the flat walk was just too sissy for them and eagerly headed off and, they hoped, up. We all met up when the two tracks arrived at the sealed road. Janet was indignant. “Call that a hill? It was just a couple of bumps!”

Although the track continues on around the base of the northern part of the Park, time was a consideration so Jane opted to take us up the road and through to the Titahi bay shops. There were good views to be had, particularly of Mana island. Why is it so flat when the mainland is so hilly? No-one knew. A mystery. Some of us stopped to examine the bracing wires on the remaining tall radio antenna. They were reinforced on the Southern side. To secure the mast in strong Southerlies presumably. But why was there no similar bracing for Northerly winds? Surely they could be just as strong? We amateur engineers walked on shaking our heads. Another mystery.

Soon we arrived at the T-Bay cafe, were the various walks and runs were to terminate. Consternation! It was packed full of locals! No room for joy walkers or joy runners. We milled around in confused disappointment until Judith for the walkers and Nigel for the runners soon organised the cafe proprietor into provide extra tables and chairs outside sufficient to accommodate all of us. Thanks Judith and Nigel. A waitress arranged us all in a circle and went round taking orders. Under the circumstances, nobody minded that the food and drink was a little slow in coming. Eventually everybody got served, and all agreed that it was a good effort on the part of the cafe staff. The trick was in remembering not to just walk off before we had paid.

As we were lined up paying, the Broken Hill runners arrived. They faced a real dilemma: a full to bursting cafe and only 22 minutes until the bus departed. Crikey! How were they to get the standard bus trip post run runners refreshment- coffee, three eggs, bacon, two sausages, four hash browns, black pudding if available and a good helping of wilted spinach? That would take at least an hour They pleaded but Wim was gentle but firm, they
would have to get something else. Spurning with disgust “cakey crap”, they were fortunate to spot a range of filled rolls and the like. Appetites, if not honour satisfied, they waited for their coffees and in the end the bus with it’s, how shall we say … somewhat eccentric driver, departed for home only 15 minutes late.

All in all, a good day out.

Colonial Knob/Titahi Bay photos

Alicia Bunge’s Hawkes Bay marathon


At some point before a race, especially a long one, a runner (or walker) should do a reality check. Otherwise, you might find yourself limping to the finish in pain or worse leaving the race course on a stretcher. Ideally, this check happens well in advance of race day and not the day before. I had realised a couple weeks before that my shoes weren’t the right fit for a marathon distance, but had ignored it. My right hip flexor had been ‘speaking’ to me on occasion which had also fallen on deaf ears. The least being said about having not enough energy to really train properly. So the day before the race I had to swallow my pride and vowed that my only goal would be to cross the finish line without aggravating my aches and niggles and not be too fatigued to manage my day-to-day life.

It is really difficult to make such a decision, especially for people like myself who are very competitive with themselves. But unexpectedly I was rewarded for it. I ran half the race and walked the other. And even though it was the longest time I’ve ever been on my feet, it felt so much shorter. There was no pressure to meet a time goal. No demands I had placed on myself. No mind-games of how many km were left. I could really soak in the atmosphere and enjoy the landscape on a sunny Hawke’s Bay day.

The advantage of mixing running and walking is that you can escape from annoying people around you. I quickly parted with the couple taking selfies along the way, and the two guys chatting away using the f-word a lot. I was not quick (or slow) enough to miss an anecdote about the Napier aquarium where, back in the day, dolphins were apparently trained to take over the world (with laser beams attached to them)… people have the strangest conversations.

I also learned how to eat jet-planes without them sticking to my teeth; and that dates and raisins are really not the best snack on a hot day that makes them sticky and gooey and gross. (Susan did tell me, but seeing is believing).

This may have been my slowest race to date, but in some ways it was really special. Sometimes you can learn more from a PW than a PB, and you can always chase greatness tomorrow.

The next goal will be to book an appointment with my physio and get new shoes. And after that maybe trying for a 10k PB.

Graham Sampson: My 25 Years at the Wellington Marathon Clinic


I joined the Wellington Marathon Clinic in 1995/96, I think. I had played squash at Collegians in Wellington College for about nine years and ran with some of the people I played squash with. As they got injuries, and the last guy went overseas I was left to run on my own. I saw an advertisement in the local Contact newspaper for the Wellington Marathon Clinic, so I called the number provided. The number was Ted Greig’s, so Ted was the first person I met
at the Clinic on my first Sunday at the Kilbirnie Pool.

My first Sunday run I did not know how fast or slow I ran. I cannot remember if Ted said go with John Whiting or I just picked a pace with a pack in the middle. I ran with John for a few weeks. John had about four runs which he ran in different directions, so that made eight courses. Once I had an idea of what pace I ran I joined Tony Coard’s pack. In the pack was Tony’s better half Jillian Preston, Bill Frecklington (who was President at the time and who I still run with today, plus he is a good friend), Robyn Walsh, Fiona Saunders-Francis (who passed away too early), Jeff Norman, Dave Leong, Andy Sommerville, Jas Dullabh, Vijay, Meg Lockhart, John Gallagher, Mo Bhikha, Julian Williams and Paul Johansen. We also all ran from Freyberg Pool at 6pm every Tuesday and Thursday including others from other packs. I have always enjoyed trail running. I used to run on Mt Victoria a lot as I lived locally
in Hataitai at the time.

Tony and Jillian had organised an annual Abel Tasman trip in an old DC3 from Wellington to do the Abel Tasman race, plus a group also ran the Tararua Mountain Race, the Southern Crossing. I ran my first Tararua Mountain Race with Andy Sommerville in 2002. Ran solo 2003, ran with Bill Frecklington must have been the following year, then as the tail end Charlie with Tony Coard. I have Tony and Jillian to thank for my love of trail running. I did a run around Lake Rotoiti in the South Island with Tony, Dave Leong and a couple of others. We picked Tony’s old Bedford van up in Picton and drove to St Arnaud. The run went okay, but Tony showed some of his running technique, never do it in a head wind. When we were coming out of St Arnaud onto the State Highway there was a bit of a problem with the
Bedford van. Tony took the wheel off and the brake pads had turned into dust. So Tony got some wire, maybe it was number 8, and wired the calipers so they would not touch the brake drum and we drove back to Picton without using the brakes. We stopped in Blenheim for an ice cream and as we did we rolled in slowly with Tony using the handbrake to stop outside the shop.

On another trip to the South Island, which again Tony and Jillian had organised, eight of us ran the Abel Tasman (not the race). Bill Frecklington, Robyn Walsh, Kelvin Moffatt, and Sally and Helen Anderson. We left in groups of four at different times. I ran with Kelvin, Sally and Helen. At this point I need to mention that I am a type one diabetic and could have a hypo while running, which I did have on this run. I carried two glucagon injections in my pack to bring me back around. Kelvin, Sally and Helen saw I was having a hypo, I remember eating a muesli bar and maybe some glucose tablets. Years later on a Sunday run, Kelvin told me he tried to help me to take my pack off. He told me I threatened and swore at him and even took a swing at him. I have no recollection of any of it, thankfully I managed to finish the run.

I started running with Bill, Andy and Jas when they were training for the Kepler. This increased my kilometres by about 25-30km in a week which ended in a stress fracture in my shin. We had lots of laughs all while being thrown off land by farmers who swore at us (which was fair enough).

A friend of Bill’s, Jackie Holdsworth, started to run with us. Jackie was a good baker and always brought a lovely iced cake for after the run. One Saturday morning we were going on a run. Jackie called me before I left home saying she was not feeling very well but had baked a cake but had not yet iced it (that was like a red rag to a bull) we gave her a hard time about that for a while. Jackie asked me to meet Nick, her husband, in the carpark of Pak n Save in Kilbirnie to collect the cake. Jackie left to live in Australia so we now needed a person to bake the cake as Jackie had spoiled us. So as only males would do we asked the female runners who was going to step up and a young woman named Angela said she would and brought muffins when she ran with us. She also was a good baker. The other women just looked at us with as much to say “bake your own bloody cake!”

I also ran in Stan Wing’s pack with a guy called John Lacey, Stan was a good guy to run with. I also ran in Gordon Clarke’s (Gordy) pack for a long time, I will never forget Gordy’s humour. I have greeted Gordy every Sunday morning with the same greeting which cannot be repeated here and he replies in kind. In the pack were Mark Growcott, Aubrey Rota, Stefan Vluggen, Alan Brian, Brian Hayes, Rachelle Manning, Dave Green and Andy McNeill
(another good guy who passed away too early) plus others I have already mentioned. Gordy’s also a good friend, I will miss the banter. He will still be running marathons as only a coffin will stop him.

At this time I was also running with the Wellington Ridge Runners doing lots of trail running all over the country. My first Ridge Runners trip was to run the Heaphy Track in 2002. Tony Coard joined me and we ran it together. In 2017 Bill and I decided to run the Tararua Mountain Race after an eleven year break. We had forgotten how hard it is. We started in the rain and finished in the rain. The tops were like running in the biggest puddle of mud you could imagine. We finished in ten hours, I didn’t know whether I was Arthur or Martha!

The next bunch of runners to come along were Wim van Dijk (who had been a member earlier on and had come back), John Keating, Dave Parle, then Sean Bardsley, Paul Johnson (PJ) and Mikey Clarke. I think the ladies at the Wellington Marathon Clinic are in the ascendancy at the moment doing ultras and marathons – Annie McCabe, Angelia Beamsley (good downhill trail runner), Persephone Georgiakakis, Karen Leeman, Julie Huo (also good trail runners) and Susan Clare.

There are only four of us left from the pack that Tony Coard took from Freyberg Pool on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Bill, Mo and Meg and we are now joined by Persephone. We run mostly trails and through the winter with headlamps.

Through the years of running with the Club a constant companion has been Bill. Although I ran with other packs on Sundays, I have run with Bill during the week for 25 years and will miss his companionship and friendship.

I have to thank all the people mentioned in this article for looking out for me, they are what you call good friends. I have loved running with all you guys and I am going to miss you. If I have forgotten anyone I apologise if I don’t stop now this could turn into ‘War and Peace’! Before I finish I must mention my three favourite runners – Amber, Molly and Maddie (Kelvin and Stef’s dogs).

All the best everyone, Graham Sampson.

Susan Clare: Hawkes Bay Marathon – a pain in the backside!


After our 2020 entry for Hawkes Bay was deferred from 2020 due to Covid-19, Alicia and I ventured to Napier for the 2021 event.

I was not feeling marathon ready.  Severe anemia had forced me to have an iron infusion days before participating and also falling backwards on a metal drain had left me with a back injury that was causing me some discomfort.

Trying to put these niggles aside, Alicia and I drove up to Hawkes Bay to take part in the May event.  We were staying in a lovely apartment near the start line but when we arrived, I went to bed almost immediately, not feeling my best I woke up on marathon morning making an immediate beeline for the toilet where I promptly threw up.  Not the best start to running 42.2km.

I decided to skip breakfast reassured that the big meal the night before would see me through and hotfooted it to the start line.  Adrenaline took over and I felt good for the first few hours until at about 25km I ran out of steam and the pain in my back got worse and worse until I felt like I was being impaled with a giant knife at every step.

By 32km I was forced to walk and beg the ambulance crew for some pain killers.  I walked the next 6 or so km which felt like forever. The trail is long and flat and watching the line of runners snake ahead of me for miles was quite dispiriting.  But I kept putting one foot in front of the other and with the help of ibuprofen managed to run the last few k, over the finish line into the winery.

It certainly wasn’t my best race (I achieved a PW by a long way!) and I’m still not able to run again.  The event taught me that I should run because it’s what I enjoy, there’s more to it than pushing myself in a desperate attempt to be placed.  I was very disappointed with my time but sometimes there are factors out of our control that get in the way. I’ve signed up for my next challenge, the Tarawera Ultra and I’m going to make sure it’s one I’m going to enjoy!

Tony Oakshatt: In Memoriam

Finally, it’s with much sadness that we must announce the passing of Tony Oakshatt, one of our most senior and beloved Clinic members.

  • Founding and Life member of the Clinic
  • A running pack leader and committee member for several years
  • Ran the 1983 London Marathon in 3:58
  • Awarded the Walkers’ Trophy in 2017: wmc.org.nz/2018/stories/wmc-trophy-winners-2017
  • Walked up to 50 km a week and was a member of the medium walking pack

He will be sadly missed!

Sue Hamlett has been kind enough to provide a eulogy. We’ve created a new website page for it: wmc.org.nz/2021/stories/tony-oakshatt-his-life-and-memories. Do read it, it’s gripping and fascinating.

We’ll keep Tony’s website profile page up and active: wmc.org.nz/2017/stories/member-profile-tony-oakshatt

The Clinic committee has donated $200 to Wellington Free Ambulance in memoriam of Tony.

Comments are closed.

Recent Related Posts