Sunday, 18 June 2017

Torshavn Marathon, Faroe Islands

Truth be told, Scott busted me booking this trip for myself two weeks before the marathon. I read about it and couldn't get over it, so decided to go. Scott decided to come too and participate in the half marathon. It was our wedding anniversary after all. So we booked the only accommodation left (a lovely top storey flat overlooking the water) and excitedly packed outdoor clothing. What is in the Faroe Islands? Hills, waterfalls, puffins, geese, ducks and sheep. The animals are inbred so they are now special to the Faroe Islands.
A few other interesting snippets of information;
  • in December, the Faroes get an average of six sunshine hours for the whole month
  • the Gulf Stream prevents the Faroes from getting crazy cold, although it is still cold
  • the average high in summer is about 12 degrees Celsius
  • there are far more men than women so there are a number of brides from Thailand and Indonesia
  • they are part of the Kingdom of Denmark
  • the Faroes have the highest fertility rates in Europe... not much else to do I guess
  • the waterfalls trundle down the sloping hills like rivers
  • they are building two sub-sea tunnels
  • helicopter is the only public transport to some islands
  • they have a saying which goes 'if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes' because the weather is so changeable
  • the architecture is crazy cool
  • nothing opens in the mornings on Sundays
Torshavn puts on their annual Cultural Night on the first Friday of June which coordinated nicely with the marathon. Who said the Faroe Islands wasn't a happening place? Local drunks and too many prams just like any other public event in the UK. The marathon started at 1pm on the Saturday. This suited us fine as we spent the morning relaying between the bed and bathroom due to a Japanese dinner the night before that may have involved some undercooked scallops.
Torshavn Marathon start line
On the start line we already had fans. We met Anne and Balfour from Dunbar while waiting at the airport for the bus (it was a picturesque journey from the airport to Torshavn) and they have come to watch the marathon start. Both the half and full marathon start at the same time but once we have crossed the start I leave Scott trailing in my dust with the hope of nabbing myself a Faroese fella if it looks like I am visiting on my own. Although I am secretly pleased that he is pacing himself.
The first 8km involves a lap and a half of the town and then heads out along the water before the course turns back on itself. Entrants have come from all over the world; Mexico, Australia, USA, loads from various places in Europe and one mega babe from New Zealand. What a lass she is. There is not a lot of chat going on but I am feeling a friendly vibe. The town loop is undulating but nothing that bothers me this early on. Some people are walking them already. I hope that they are running the half marathon, otherwise it is going to be a long day.
To our left are a line of elderly people in wheelchairs holding Faroe Island flags with their carers. All the runners give them a big cheer.
Torshavn Marathon course profile
At around 9km we start to head down a long descent. I turn to the identical German guys on either side of me and ask if we will be running back up this. Their answer is 'yes, so pace yourself little girl.' I make a mental note to look forward to this climb about 37km in. And to pace myself like a... well, something that is good at pacing and to not be passed in the second half. We all settle in, waterfalls to our left, sheep and water to our right. Eventually the first half marathoner makes his way back towards us, flanked by cyclists who cheer for all of the runners still heading out. The lead runner gives a smile and thumbs up as we clap and cheer. He's powering up a big hill as we cruise down.
A hill on the marathon course, photo by Faroephoto
Excitement builds as more half marathon runners come towards us. There are water stations approximately every 4km and I have only accidently grabbed an energy drink once with all the language confusion. As we are running along the coast, we are all being careful where we place our empty bottles and cups. Throw to hard to the right and they'll be in the ocean!
I have already become pals with the photographer on the motorbike. He's aware of my best angles.
They said that this race was hilly and they were right. My legs can still easily run up the hills but other people are slowing. I clap and cheer for each runner as they come towards me; well done, go go, good running. I was even saying bravo for a while. It's nice to see so many Faroe Island race vests. All the runners acknowledge my cheers for them; much politer than the London Marathoners!
At the half marathon turn around point, the marshal is excited that I am running the full. Sweden or Norway? she asks. I tell her New Zealand but she asks me the same question on the way back so she must have been a little confused. Nonetheless, she was a joyful face and it was to be a long, lonely day marshalling. Once the half marathon runners had turned around, there were not many of us left on the road. There is a big hill however. On the up side, it will be downhill on the way back.
I run next to a young guy who doesn't seem to keen to let me past. I decide he might want to chat and offer him some sweeties I have stored in my crop top. He's not keen for the sweeties or the chat. Ahead I can see a group of runners together on the opposite side of the road. They have all stopped for a photo beside an impressive waterfall.
By Faroe Island standards, the day is a scorcher. I have opted for arm warmers, which I should really roll down but cannot be bothered. Others are dropping layers off on the side of the road; they can collect them on their way back. Given that it rained all the other days we were in the islands, we are lucky today. Nothing like a famous Faroe Island tan. I can see runners who are ahead of me across the bay. There is someone in a vibrant orange top that I will see if I  can catch on the way back. Just for a bit of entertainment.
SHEEP! Photo by Faroephoto
I giggle with a Swedish lady as we cross a cattle stop. Bambi on ice, Bambi on cattle stops. I have small feet, I am scared they will get trapped! We are at about the 18km mark now and I have been taking it easy so decide to accelerate a little. It has been flat and I am enjoying the sunshine. I pass quite a few people over the next 10km. There are a couple of guys adding to the waterfall as I pass. There is also one guy running in a full paramedic / first aid attire. I think that something must have happened and ask how far he needs to run. Maybe, this is part of the Torshavn Marathon first aid requirement; to have someone on course running. But no, he's running the whole course like that as an entrant. I bet he wishes it wasn't as high as 14 degrees today.
At the 20-something mark, the first marathon runners are coming towards me. They all respond to my enthusiasm; some with their own enthusiasm, most with pleasant surprise. Quite a few 'oh, thank you very much, you too.' I probably look like a talking sheep with all my hair.
Kaldbak Church, Faroe Islands
At 25km I reach the turnaround point. There is a wooden church with a grass roof. Gorgeous. I have half a banana to show my appreciation. I am powering past a number of people; still hooting and cheering. It is a party after all. Some runners are walking up the wee hill towards me. Quite a sensible decision as there are a number of monster climbs on the way back. I admire the sea birds in the bay and get on a high fiving mission with the runners coming towards me. Miss Congeniality award, here I come.
More cattle stops. Water on the left now, waterfalls on the right. Unfortunately for orange top man, he has slowed considerably and I pass him much earlier than anticipated. Short-lived entertainment there. After about 28km, I won't see another runner going in the same direction as me for 7km. There are a few runners coming towards me. One old fella has only covered about the same distance as I have still left to run. I just hope he is having a good time and has packed himself a solid dinner. At 32km there is a hill. At 33km there is a bigger hill. I'm still ok, I can handle these. There is a strong headwind which means there is no respite on the downhills now.
All by myself... that line, on repeat, in my head, for about half an hour.
Wahoo, photographer on a motorbike! Say SHEEP!

Photo by Faroephoto

Monster hill at 36km. There are now two runners ahead of me. One cramps and has to take a break halfway up. Arms pump, legs pump. I'll survive the hill, it's the wind that is a pain. Another climb at 37km. It's another long slog. I pass the second guy, we're both going to make it now. Five kilometres to go; that's the hills done. It has been hilly.
I start to overtake half marathon walkers. One girl is limping badly. We are heading back to the town. There is a short, sharp hill. What the?! I don't remember this being downhill when I ran out! I storm up in defiance. I say hi to my local sheep. Interestingly, many of the sheep are black or brown. I'll have difficulty explaining that to my children with Autism when I get back to Scotland. No, sheep are white Antonia, don't be silly. They are white in all the pictures. Sheep ARE only white. Except for Baa Baa Black Sheep. He's black. Oh, I see your photo, that must be Baa Baa Black Sheep and his family! Teaching fail.
Kilometre markers are counting down. I'm in the middle of the town but I'm not quite sure where to go... turn past a grass-roofed house and there is the finish! Hurrah! Lots of people sitting in the sunshine cheering. I've just run my slowest time in seven years but I am pleased. Hurrah! Great times indeed. Now, for a beer and some fish soup... Local club members have also made cakes but unfortunately I still feel a little unwell from those scallops...
I came first young lady, second lady including the older birds and 11th overall (which is more exciting). I came home with three medals; thankfully checked in bags are included with Atlantic Airways so the weight was not an issue! A nice aspect of the out and back course is that you get to see all the other runners in the field. It was nice to watch the other runners finish; blue t-shirt guy, German guys, orange t-shirt guy, Swedish lady, Paramedic Man...  We are all on first name basis now of course.

Scott paced himself well to run a good ten minutes faster than he predicted for the half marathon; just a few weeks into training for the Loch Ness Marathon.
Celebrations post run were delayed for a few hours while I hung about in the apartment with my head down the toilet. When we found a pub full of locals later, they entertained us by being very enthusiastic football fans. Even the bus ride back to the airport on the Sunday had a jovial atmosphere. So how were the Faroe Islands? Brilliant fun. The marathon? Well-organised and also brilliant fun. It's the clear choice for anyone's anniversary!

1st on this podium...

...but second on this one!

Saturday, 6 May 2017

London Marathon


Creating a Road Runner

Ohh, you like running?! Have you done London? Anyone who partakes in the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other sport called running knows the London question. For the record; the London Marathon is not actually any longer than any other marathon. Statistically, by average running times, London is probably the slowest flat marathon in the world. I have a Statistics degree so I am sure I could jiggle some numbers around to make that true. So I was never that interested in entering until I got sold on how many people would be out cheering. I love a good cheer. And the good for age time requirement for women is considerably more lenient than the men's so I got an automatic place and did not have to go through the ballot tragedy. I could have gone for a championship place but you had to be a member of a club and you could not run in costume. They were two sacrifices that I was not willing to make.

Then came the costume drama. With the encouragement of a friend; the idea of running as a three dimensional bird came about. Then life went a bit crazy and I did not decide to come back to the UK until the end of February which left little time to make a costume with my poor sewing skills. There were also the trips to Bologna, London and Iceland that were to hinder my weekend sewing availability (who cares about the actual running training)! So three dimensional went out, and bird stayed in. Initially it made sense to run as a Kiwi bird. However, the Kiwi is rather dull. Brown birds were then ruled out. My older sister has a long-standing disagreement with peacocks so they were out. I liked the idea of a flamingo but ultimately decided on Road Runner.

As a child I went to the USA and met Wile E Coyote himself. He foresaw my future as a Road Runner and drew up this plan to capture me back in in 1997.
After many Google searches and YouTube demonstrations I managed to make a tutu and weave in some ostrich feathers. I did not feel the desire to make a You Tube video of my own. So many talents, so little time. A client kindly donated the hat and Scott (the sewing power that he is) sewed on the eyes, beak and hat feather. I am sure friends thoroughly enjoyed the Snap Chat updates of my progress. The costume was taken for a test run at 6am one morning in Edinburgh. Scott assumed this meant running up a quiet street once or twice. I had other ideas; the gym or local park. No other runners batted an eyelid as I checked out the possible chaff areas in the costume as the sun rose. A lesson I learned was that I would need to Vaseline my arms to prevent tulle chaffage. Both meep meep and beep beep are down as official languages for Road Runner; I went with meep meep. See my Instagram @petitefeetrunaway for a video of the practice run.

Navigating London

Registration for the marathon was at Excel, in East London. The start line for the marathon is in Greenwich in  South East London. The finish line for the marathon is in Central London. We were staying in West London. Fortunately we opted for the 06:20am train from Edinburgh on the Saturday morning which gave us time to endure the nightmare that is mass registration. The week prior I had a minor panic when I realised that I had never been sent a registration letter, the very item you need to register. Fortunately, they got one in the post to me pronto and my costume making was not in vain. Hilariously, there was also a Games Convention on at the registration venue. It made for a nice game of what are they here for?

Avoid registering on the Saturday if you can (we couldn't) as it was rammed. Registration is like an arcade; flashing lights, terrible music and the feeling of being pinballed around the families who have decided to take their granny and young children there for a day out to pick up daddy's registration number.

The young girl scanning my racing chip was super friendly and efficient. Possibly too efficient as my chip did not end up working during the event!  

Riding the tube as Road Runner
Meep meep

To the Green Start

In classic London form, half of the tube stations were closed on the weekend. The marathon gave out brilliant instructions as to where each runner should go depending on their coloured race start. We changed somewhere for the Maze Hill train. We all played a wonderful game of sardines and I tickled other runners with my feathers. Hoards of red start runners got off at Greenwich station, leaving us greenies to take seats before getting off at Maze Hill and walking half the marathon route to the start line.

I won't pee but please provide the runners with more port-a-loos!


As I arrived into the Green Start the announcer was calling for us to put our kit bags into the trucks which were to be transported to the start. There were many people unable to fit on the train so I don't think they would have managed to get to the start in time for the bag drop. After accidently joining the urinal queue for some time I then spent another 40 minutes in the unisex toilet queue. With five minutes to start, I exited the port-a-loo and felt rather sorry for the huge queue still waiting.

Strategically the Green Start is the start for the z-list celebrities and the average good-for-age runners. The z-list celebrities get left alone on this start line as no club marathon runner has any idea who any of them are.

The shuffle for pens begins. I am supposed to be in pen three but none of the pen three runners are able to get to the elusive pen three. I imagined the pens to be in a line but instead they snake around. Pen four is the only pen guarded by marshals who won't let anyone through to access their pen. So pens 1, 2, 3 , 7, 8 and 9 are all hanging about next to the start with nowhere to go. Once the race starts we all clamber through the barriers. I suspect golden pen four was the last to cross the start amongst the chaos.

London Marathon Start Line

Running With a City

Despite the disorganised pens, the Green Start is not too large and it is easy enough to get across the line after a few minutes. I'm not worried about pace and just relax into the jog. Sandra Beattie comes floating past, having colour coordinated her outfit with mine. She's a gem like that. In an unprecedented move, I have a loose bun in today rather than the twin braids. A lesson learned during the costume trial run was that my long hair pushes my tail feathers to the side so I had to tie it up. This is why trying out your costume is so important before race day.

Whacking out a bunch of high fives to excited children (and adults) I don't worry about passing anyone and meep meep along. Ignoring runners shout at each other as they worry about being four seconds off their pace, I wave at all my fans who have gathered on the course and try and strike up conversations. Many running clubs have the name Road Runner in them. This excited me and initially I did a lot of road runner related cheering to them. Unfortunately, the club runners were all depressed during the event and failed to return the cheers. Potential research project; Depression in Club Runners During Fun Runs.

Runners, runners everywhere
The London Marathon takes about 46,000 runners. That is the same size as the city I grew up in. Yes, it is a city. It has a cathedral. So that is how that works. After three miles, the Greenies joined with the Blue Start. There was no drama in this and I was excited at the prospect of seeing more costumes as costumes were a bit thin on the ground at the Green Start.

As we run downhill on a straight bit of road, I can see a sea of runners ahead. All I can see are heads bobbing. It is amazing. I exclaim my thoughts out loud. The runners remain silent. Mostly I run on the edges so that I can wave to the crowd and high five all my dedicated supporters. Children yell things such as; go duck, quack quack, it's Donald, and go birdy! I wonder the last time Road Runner was on television. Women typically yelled love the tutu and go fairy! For some miles, I was surprised to find an actual fairy running behind me so perhaps I was not being cheered for at all. Mostly it was the men who recognised me for who I truly was and gave me a meep meep!

Scott was looking to give me a cheer at about the 10km mark but I knew it would be hard for either of us to spot each other. I am unaware that my tracking chip is not working so Scott waits here for hours as the London Marathon app shows me as not having started the race yet so he does not know that I have already run past. The crowds near the Cutty Sark were huge. I was going crazy, they were going crazy. Supporters offered water, sweets and oranges. Sarah is getting a load of cheers. The crowd loves Sarah. For miles, I ran near Sarah. What a popular lassie. It was a shame that Sarah did not love the crowd back as much. I passed that bad attitude.

A Garmin beeps. As Road Runner, I take this as bird speak and meep meep back. This was not appreciated. Ahead I can see a dinosaur. I get my phone ready for a selfie and try to get myself next to the dinosaur. There is a guy running next to dinosaur and he really needs to speed up his pace so I can get my photo. He needs to stop hogging dinosaur. Eventually I get my opportunity. Here's Gemma the dinosaur who was more than happy to partake in a selfie! Congratulations to Gemma the dinosaur who set the Guinness World Record by running under four hours dressed in a full dinosaur suit! The happiest costume runner I met.   

Gemma the record setting dinosaur
Big skyscrapers appear at the end of the street and then the course takes a right turn onto the London Bridge! I do hope that today is not the day that London Bridge falls down. Although I did eat a large pizza last night. And if that was not enough excitement, the course does an out-and-back and we can now see the elite men running towards us! I stick tight to the edge tape getting crazy excited for all the elite runners. A few others join me in whooping and clapping for the runners as they zoom past. I cannot stop smiling. Being ignored by the elite runners as they focused on their big money wins was probably the highlight of the event for me.

Runners start to slow down (or I start to speed up) before the half way mark. I pass a chef with a heavy-looking pot. I ask him if he could have carried a lighter one. He was not pleased. I pass a guy running his 50th marathon dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and matching shorts and pass on my congratulations. He's sweaty but happy. Then there is a cheerleader carrying pom poms that must be annoying by now. She is less than cheery. I pass a guy that seems to have a monkey's face near his crouch. Unusual. Some young boys are excited further up the course; they have just spotted a Spiderman. At one point the crowd start going wild; I think it is for me... only to get passed by Mr Tickle. We could have a tickle-off; my feathers and his arms but he seems on a mission.

Sign/banner highlights included;
  • Shortcut this way (arrow pointing in opposite direction).
  • You think you're tired, my arms are knackered (after marshalling at the Scottish 5km Championships on Friday night and having to hold my arm up for about three minutes, I do appreciate their pain.
By the halfway mark people are starting to pull up on the sides; cramp, stomach aches, setting off far too fast... On the Thursday night before the marathon I ran the Seven Hills in Edinburgh. It takes a few hours. My friend Keith took us off-piste down Arthur's Seat and I keep slipping. Initially I worried that I was going to break a leg before the marathon. Then I decided that the London Marathon would be a good one to do with a broken leg as you could do it on crutches and still probably not be last. So I do hope that the runners who have pulled up to the side decide to walk to the finish anyway.  There are possibly runners on the Red Start that are still waiting to cross the start line. 



The Jamaican bobsled team on their way to a world record

At about mile 17 I pass the Jamaican bobsled team. Two guys, one (fake) bobsled. Full lycra suits and helmets. The crowd loved them. They will go on to set a Guinness World Record but I'd rather not have them beat me. So after sneaking a pic, I swiftly pass them and put a bit of a kick in so that they do not pass me back. I feel sorry for the people who had those two sprinting past them in the finishing straight. Hassled forever by your mates when they look at that finishing photo. 

My crowd participation is interrupted briefly when I see Sandra ahead and swoop in for a quick chat. What was not discussed was that she was on for a flyer of a personal best! And then I hear my name yelled from the side lines! No, not chicken you fools; Antonia! It's my Kiwi turned London pal, Nicole! Whoop, whoop! And the way that it works is that once one person cheers for someone, it becomes contagious. So now I am getting screamed at all the way down the line. I am going wild with my arms waving about, expressing my thanks. Quite frankly though, I am struggling to keep on top of all these autographs that are being requested. 

Um, is that another nun in front of me? 

And now it is time for some weaving. I had been warned that I would spend trainer loads of energy weaving between runners for the first few miles. Because I was not trying to hit a certain pace, I didn't find myself weaving too much. But now that the runners are fading like a Borneo playground, I am am playing a game of dodge before you trip. The people that are walking are reasonably good at moving to the side (which is great but also cramps my crowd access for high fives). It is the runners who are now the problem. The majority do not realise how slow they are now going. Clear the space folks, this Road Runner is flying through on a London high. 

I give Lyndsey a holler as I pass. She's looking out for a barrier-jumping opportunity. She's got herself so thirsty, she's going to stop for a pint. I also pass the Blue 3:30 marker despite passing the Green 3:30 mile marker miles ago. So, were we late starting?! The balloon pace markers are a nightmare; runners unable to run a certain pass without all holding hands with balloon pace runner.

I am hoping that I am in a thousand photos. I am that runner waving to every television camera. That runner giving you the thumbs up. I posed so well for a photo another supporter I knew assumed I had seen them when they took the cracking photo below! And that is how I was posing for everyone. 
Mile 22 of the London Marathon

Then at 23 miles, I get a shout out from Ian Beattie. Whoop, whoop! A line of fans go insane. There is now a nun in front on me. And that fairy from earlier on. Sorry, have to pass, my tutu puts your tutu to shame. And it is a runner's birthday! He's put a wee note on the back of his running top! Which he had carried balloons too. I'm excited. He's obviously in for the celebration, that's why he's let others know of his special day. I give a loud cheer as I pass; I feel like it may even be my own birthday! It turns out, he's not up for the celebration any longer. Peaked too early perhaps? 

There are runners sitting and laying along the edges of the track. The medics and marshals are all over them. None look too serious thankfully. 

Finishing straight of the London Marathon!

With 600 metres to go, I get some cheers from my right. It's Scott and Nicole! Scott realised that there was something wrong with my tracker and once Nicole got in touch to say that I was running (and not still at the start line, trying to be the last over the line like I usually am). For the finishing straight, the runners are incredibly lacklustre. We are all going to finish with a clock time of 3:29. The crowd on the other hand are still creating a riot. Not an actual riot, although London does love one. I am cruising on in and I cannot help but pass the lot of them. This will not make for great television viewing. The viewers love a committed finish! One girl glances sideways as I come past. She is not a happy runner. Her finishing photo will be ruined when Road Runner appears coming past. Ohhh, speaking of photos, there's an official camera! Cheesy smile and double thumbs up... 

My finishing video now looks like a moving screen capture as I pull the same pose and fail to look up at the video camera. The online viewers did not get to see this however, as a z-list celebrity finished at the same time. The marshals are trying to help the girl who is devastated she got beaten by Road Runner. 

My face hurts from smiling too much. My legs are fine. Did I crowd surf the marathon?

Road Runner in Trafalgar Square
London Marathon medal

I've Done London

Scott informs me that he did not see too many costumes. However, there was a carrot who was absolutely storming it. Also, a lobster beat me by a good ten minutes. So runners, the majority of us can share that 'I got beaten by a (insert ridiculous costume here)' feeling. 

No, I did not get my medal handed to me by one of the royals. I had already finished a burger and had two pints before they bothered to show up and hand out five minutes of medals. I even wore my mental health charity headband that all runners were give. Sadly, some runners were too serious for this. I managed... and I already had a hat on!  

Thanks to everyone who stood for hours out on the course to cheer on their friends, family and strangers. in some ways the London Marathon is like a free ride; the cheers carry you so far you don't really need to put too much effort into the running!

My advice for running London would be; unless you are an elite athlete, it is a fun run. Enjoy yourself, don't stress about your time and weaving. I have also embraced the post-London thing. Scott and I rode the train back to Edinburgh on the Sunday evening after the marathon; I was dressed as Road Runner and still wearing my medal. I wouldn't do that after an ultra but people will offer their congratulations if you have run London so go for it!

And where was Wile E Coyote? Well, Scott realised that wearing a giant tube of dynamite on his back to support the London Marathon might get him arrested so decided against it! Costume ideas for next year welcome!

Road Runner playing on escalators with Nicole 

All the Funny Stats

I was given an official time of 3:25. It's no world record (or would it have been...)
The stats are funny;
  • In the first 32km I passed 4440 people and 365 passed me. Given that it only took me three minutes to get across the start line and I started earlier than I should have because my race entry time was much faster, soooo many people went off crazy fast!
  • In the last 7km I passed 788 people and eight passed me. Work out these stats by kilometre.
  • I beat 80% of men. Currently getting an ab workout from the laughter.
  • Overall I was 5461st out of 33933. All that tells us is that there were a lot of non starters or non finishers.
  • 4% of women were ahead of me. Go the ladies!! Assuming that was the entire elite field right?


Help, My Chip Didn't Work!

Never fear, I emailed them the same day and within a week they had not only given me a chip time but also a whole bunch of splits. Whether they were actually my splits, I didn't know as I did not run with a watch. But it didn't really matter, I just wanted an official time so I can get an automatic entry for next year! Interestingly, the put two chips on the important folk so chip failure must be common. 

If it happens to you, just email them with the following;
- your number
- start line
- finishing chute (left, middle, right etc.)
- clock finish time estimate
- any photos

I had a photo that I took before I crossed the start (because I was so excited) that showed the clock time and some photos that both myself and others had taken. If you zoomed in on the photos, you could see I was wearing my chip. 

A week later, I provided some quality support at the West Highland Fling race!

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Running the... Abel Tasman Coastal Track

Abel Tasman Coastal Track

New Zealand Great Walk


Sunday 22 January 2016

Weather Bomb

The plan was to run the 60km Abel Tasman Coastal Track, one of New Zealand's Great Walks. Easy track, doable in a day, and the parents had offered to drop me at one end and then pick me up at the other end. Logistics dreams are made of. On Saturday my father asked me if I had looked at the weather for the next day. I hadn't. He had. He thought the run possibly wasn't a good idea. As I am now Scottish; a bit of rain was not going to put me off. Wind? Well, I don't understand the speeds when they are in wind form. What does gale force even mean? Who's this Gale and how strong is she really? And when describing wind to others why do I always lean to the left? So many questions; none of which will be answered on a solo 60km run. 
We drove from Nelson, dodging fallen trees, and arrived in Marahau for a 7am start. A fallen tree is better than a tree still contemplating a fall. It was pishing with rain. The adults asked if I was sure I wanted to do the run today. Yes, doesn't everyone want to run for hours by themselves in the rain?
Marahau - start of the Abel Tasman trail

Marahau to Bark Bay ~ 15km
three hours

A few weeks back I took the Wesley family to the Abel Tasman for a day trip. Boat in, small walk, lay on beach, boat out. A beautiful summer day and absolutely rammed with tourists. Too many people. Sadly, on those sorts of days, the Abel Tasman is a national park ruined. Fortunately, today the day tours were cancelled due to the WEATHER BOMB. With my rain jacket hood pulled tight I plodded through tracks that had turned to streams and admired the roaring waterfalls. Sometimes I was showered in the waterfalls as they crashed over the bridges and boardwalks. I was drenched within minutes. Within the first two hours I did not see a single person, and saw only two before the third hour was over. I'd put my money on them both being German. 

Weather bomb
At the Anchorage Bay Hut turnoff I continued on to Torrent Bay via the high tide track. The monsoon put me off stopping for a drink. The photos display how beautiful the day was.

At around 10am I reached Bark Bay; flushing toilet and a hut where I could write in my trip intentions. I sit outside to eat crisps. The hikers indoors are probably not ready to have my three hour run shoved in their faces just yet. When I do venture inside, to drip all over the log book and describe the weather as shite, I find them all hunched around a fire discussing their possible departure at 11am. 

After texting the adults to let them know I would be departing the hut at 10:15, I do a rough calculation of time and distance. I knew I was taking it easy but I seem to be very slow. Low tide is at 11:45 and I need to be at Awaroa Hut for the estuary crossing as close to this time as possible in order to cross safely. At my current pace, I am not going to come close to that.

Bark Bay to Awaroa Hut ~ 13km
10:15 - 12:00
1 hour 45 minutes

Keen on making up time, I put my feet back into my soaking shoes and tear off towards the beach. Low tide track. Hmm, but it is not low tide and no one mentioned I would have this crossing. Another jog around the hut. Back out the track I came in on. A fallen tree was partially covering the sign pointing me in the right direction over the high tide route. My hopes of making up time are further dashed when I realise that there are a number of inclines over the next 13km. 

I run past an extended family who comment to their children that my speed is the sort of pace that they are after. 'Totes, if you want to get across the crossing today!' the nitwit in me calls. They are surprised I am crossing today, I am surprised that they are only doing a 13km walk. Calculating walking distances as a runner is confusing.


Swishing my rainjacket arms, I do as best as I can to make up time. Trying to run at pace means that every incline is a cruel mountain. I am also not particularly fit so my incline running ability is not flash. There are infrequent signs informing me of distance, to which I give the deathly stare. Surely when I get within a few kilometres of the crossing there will be walkers coming towards me who have managed to cross at the lowest tidal point?  No walkers. Still no more walkers. Finally two walkers; neither who look wet like they should after a tidal crossing. Going down, down. Campsite. No time to fill my drink bottle; I am about twenty minutes after the lowest tide and I need to get across. 


Awaroa Hut to Totaranui
12:00 - 13:30
1 hour 30 minutes

The crossing doesn't look too bad
Scores of walkers are sitting on the hut's porch. What on Abel Tasman earth are they doing? None have crossed and the water is only going to get higher. A quad bike appears from somewhere collecting oversized tramping packs. I rip off my running shoes, wrap them in a plastic bag and squish them into my bag. With my reef shoes shoved on, I flap my feet rapidly towards the water. I have my reef shoes on because of the beautiful sharp shells and crabs I am going to see through the crystal clear water.... Or so my sister said. There has been so much rain that the water is as murky as murky water. Totes murky. 

Olivia also used her hands to motion that the water would be a bit above knee height when asked about the crossing depth. As a vertically challenged member of society, I am expecting the water to be around my mid-thigh.  It is currently around my waist. I lift my backpack up at the sides and back. Everything is in plastic snap lock bags but they won't handle full water immersion. And my cell phone is in my side pocket, the device I need to use to let the parentals know where I am. 
Ahead of me is a couple; the girl in a poncho and the guy with a tramping pack on both hi front and back. The girl is my height and now crying as the water is getting higher as we enter further into the crossing. There is no way that my sister; on her tiny steroid-ruined thighs (yes, she's a weight-lifter who has abused steroids for years) would have got across this water. I realise it is higher because of the rain; but this much higher? 

The water isn't pulling me sideways down to the ocean but it is coming towards me. Before I know it; I am crossing the estuary in the torrential rain, tits deep in water. As I am still wearing the rainjacket (the irony is that it is my sister's), the water has streamed down the sleeves. With my backpakc now above my head and strapped around my neck, I use the thunder thighs I was genetically nonblessed with and lurch forward. This is not fun and I do not like it. I contemplate the swim. I could easily swim it. All my kit would be stuffed and I still have 25km of slow slogging at the other side of this water. I would be rather chilly and as hungry as I am when I am really hungry. 
You'll all be pleased to know that I survived. After about 20 minutes, I dragged myself ashore. I sat outside an eco-friendly toilet; head in hands; shed a few tears and then repeatedly swore at a Weka that was trying to steal my food. The jet plane sweeties did not make the journey successfully. A wee bit sticky now. After letting the parentals know of my survival (but not worrying them with the trauma) I trudge along, thankful not to have a belly full of salt water. 
Cheeky Weka

In comparison, the rest of the journey to Totaranui was unremarkable. There were some beautiful beaches and even the weather was clearing. Totaranui is a mega camp. There are even recycling bins. Families fight over the best camping sites. 

View of Totaranui Beach


Totaranui to Whariwharangi Bay Hut (via Separation Point)
13:30 - 15:30
two hours

As I wander out of Totaranui, swigging away at an unhealthy soda beverage, I see an automobile which looks like so many other automobiles. It also looks like my father's. Winner, winner, it is! A fabulous surprise; they can take my rubbish. I let them know that I am feeling fine but that I am a bit slow and therefore will finish an hour behind schedule. 
A few kilometres later, the rain jacket can finally come off. The chaffing from my shorts is a true story. Trudge, trudge, beautiful beach after beautiful beach. 



On one of these beautiful beaches I meet a lonely German guy who I get speaking to. His English isn't brilliant so somehow he gets confused in the conversation and decides that he will run with me; whilst carrying his tramping pack and wearing jeans. Side note; jeans are not a good hiking decision at any time, and an even worse one when it is wet. HIs original route got changed and now he is heading to a small beach that I don't know. He tears off ahead down a small trail off the beach. For the second time today, I wonder if I might be killed. Fortunately, he doesn't spring out from a bush and kill me. The pen also seems to drop regarding the fact that I am running all the way. He lets me continue unharmed. 


I take a track up to see Separation Point. There are no seals today. I then wiggle my way to Whariwharangi Bay Hut; a splendid looking two storey hut with lots of little rooms and a big wooden dining table. Inside I speak to a couple of Americans who are claiming to be Kiwis ( dual nationals, pfffft). Their plans today changed from their original booking due to boat cancellations. They are confused as to how I have come from Marahau. The distance is not the first reason for their confusion. It turns out; the WATER CROSSING WAS CLOSED! As the weather bomb raised the water levels and there was a risk of flash flooding, the park rangers had closed the crossing. That was why there were so many people sitting outside Awaroa Hut. I am sure the closure was well advertised inside the huts; they just weren't expecting someone to jog the route today.

View from Separation Point
Separation Point

Dual citizen couple are also confused as to how I am dry. That crossing was hours ago darlings and I have been running like the wind ever since. Well, I have been running. And it is now hot. And it was hours ago. And clothing dries. Educating others across the globe.

Whariwharangi Bay Hut


Whariwharangi Bay Hut to Wainui Bay
15:45 - 16:30
45 minutes

Last leg. An uphill then a downhill. Fabulous. My legs are a bit tired. It has been a great solo adventure. As an unknown bird watcher, I have thoroughly enjoyed the cheeky natives about. I have less than a certain number of kilometres to go. I can't remember what that certain number is but it must be getting smalller. I meet day trippers and families heading up to the hut for a sleepover. I run down switchback after switchback. Legs are giving it the thud, thud. Wish there was a flat part. I get closer and closer to the bay. Come on flat, be round a corner somewhere. A flat section came, at the bottom of the hill where one can expect flat ground to occur, and naturally if felt like an uphill climb. 

And there are my parents, waiting in the carpark for my arrival. Mother holding a tablet in front of her face but forgetting to press the play button on the video, and my father with a phone in front of his face taking several blurry unflattering photos in quick succession. Parents and technology; the best entertainment I have had since that water crossing. We stop for a cracking pizza and snicker slice in Takaka before father and I crack open several beers and the motherlode has to drive us back over the hill back to Nelson. 

A solid adventure, thanks to the parents for not stopping me and providing transportation. And thank you to all the walkers I saw that didn't tell me about the crossing closure; turning back would have been a longer run and I would have had to return another day to complete the track. 

My braids shrunk a little in the rain
A classic football / rugby pitch in New Zealand

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