Sunday, 1 May 2016

Tora, Tora, Sorer

When will I learn that a coastal running event
is never what it sounds like?

Beautiful Tora
Loping happily along the sunny Wairarapa shoreline with the sparkling pacific stretching to the horizon. Seals bobbing peacefully in the surf, seabirds wheeling overhead… and my goodness, what’s that cheering sound - is that the finishing line already?

Cue that 'needle being pulled across record' sound effect…

How about 6km of stupidly trying to keep pace with the race leaders until last night's curry feels ready to make an unfortunate reappearance, while sunburn and windburn vie for supremacy?
But this is the easiest part - now turn sharply inland for 10km of gruelling climbs and connective-tissue ripping descents.

Never forget where you've been...
You finally stagger back onto the road only to discover that another couple of kilometres of dusty gravel awaits, until you shamble across the finishing line at last, to a sympathetic smattering of applause.

Coastland run? You’ll barely see the sea - what you will see is a hell of a lot of steep farmland, and gravel.

How did the sea get so far away?

But was it fun?

One of the very few people I overtook, a fit looking young woman, actually clapped and shouted - “Go Bro - you’re doing really well!”

Volunteer marshals, stuck on the top of a ridge in blistering wind and sun for goodness only knows how long, smile and shout encouragement as you stagger past. (No, Sir and/or Madame, you are the true heroes, nay, superheroes of these events).

The cameraderie and sheer goodwill that runners have towards each other is a wonderful thing - as is the opportunity to feel alive, even as it numbs your lips and cramps your muscles.

And then there are the minor triumphs of human spirit all around you. Not so much the athletes at their prime, but ordinary people pushing themselves harder than they ever have before. Maybe overcoming illness, injury, diminished confidence - a thousand different stories about why they might choose to do this to themselves.

So although I have to confess that taken-for-granted fitness once effortlessly within my reach now requires so much more of a flailing stretch, yes, it was fun.

Thank you Tora Coastal challenge organisers and apologies to my own connective tissue - I suspect we won’t be best of friends tomorrow.

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