The reward to reach the finishing line – one banana.
I was full of adrenaline and totally pumped up as I made my way to the ferry terminal in Auckland city at 5.15am on Sunday, 3 November. The temperature was 13 degrees C and the sun had not yet come up – so it was still fairly dark.
I was taking part in the Adidas Auckland Marathon, which is the biggest city marathon in New Zealand, with a record-breaking 17,000 competitors this year. I had signed up for the half marathon (21.1km) category and it was my first overseas race. So I could barely wait to board the ferry – and get to the starting line at Devonport!
One of the key reasons as to why I had picked this race was because runners had the rare opportunity to actually run along the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge – closed to all traffic for the event.
Boarding the Ferry
As soon as I reached the ferry terminal, the ferry (especially chartered for the event) was already there so I eagerly boarded it and found a seat.
I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the ferry was equipped with tables and chairs (for the comfort of participants) and drinks such as coffee and hot chocolate, as well as snacks like nuts chocolates and muesli bars, were also available. So runners who felt peckish and wanted to drink or munch something before the run, were well-looked after.
Catching up on My Sleep
The ferry ride took not more than ten minutes. Soon enough, I reached the small seaside town of Devonport, where the race would be flagging off. By now it was beginning to get lighter but it was not even six o’clock yet. My race didn’t flag off until one hour later at seven, so I took the time to take a seat at the Devonport ferry terminal and catch up on a bit of sleep. (I had woken up too early – in the excitement).
I also watched the world go by and it felt very peaceful and serene to watch other runners arriving and the marathon runners quickly making their way to the starting pen. (They were flagging off at 6.10am).
Soon, I deposited my baggage and visited the ladies to avoid any accidents from happening during the race. The queues at the female toilets were pretty long though!
Eventually, I made my way to the starting pen to wait for the race to flag off. The starting pen was already so crowded, but I managed to squeeze inside.
Out of the corner of my eyes, I could see spectators, who were fortunate to live around the area, standing at the balcony of their houses, smiling down at us and waiting for the race to begin. It really made me feel like a minor celebrity.
I took a deep breath and did some brief warm-up exercises to prepare myself for the race. The signal for flag off was sounded – and we were off!
I must say that running along the streets of Auckland’s North Shore felt really good and it was so nice and cool. It was about 15 degrees C. This was definitely a huge change from running in the heat of Singapore, which usually hovers around 26 degrees C – early in the morning.
The morning light was lovely and the surroundings were so scenic. Beautiful houses lined the streets and the lush, green trees seemed to be beckoning me to run on.
As I ran, I could also see spectators lining the streets, creating a really great race atmosphere. There were people from all walks of life, ranging from the very young to the very old. Some were even cooking sausages on their BBQ (yes, at 7.20am) and others were playing instruments such as drums from their lawn – to add to the fun. There were also people holding signs to cheer on family members and friends. And they were all screaming, clapping and cheering for participants to continue running.
This awesome experience, to have strangers on their lawns cheering you on, was wonderful and it really egged me on to maintain my pace. At this point, it was roughly several kilometres into the race and I felt as though I was on track to run a good race – despite getting a bout of stomach cramps about two kilometres into the race.
By about the halfway mark, I was feeling quite good about my pacing. The cool weather was made for running. While I admit that my legs were beginning to get slightly tired though, the cool breeze seemed to energize me.
Uphill Battle Of The Auckland Harbour Bridge
I maintained a good pace until I reached the Auckland Harbour Bridge. I knew that this would be a steep ascent, but when I actually got there, I realise that I wasn’t quite prepared for the sheer steepness of it. I admit that I found myself struggling and my pace slowed down tremendously. But soon I made it to the top – and then I enjoyed the descent, which more than made up for the uphill battle and was probably the best part of the entire race.
The view from the Harbour Bridge was so scenic and being able to reach the top of it gave me a really special feeling. In fact, I think that if I weren’t running a race, I could probably have stayed up there forever!
As I was running up the bridge, I could see the Auckland Sky Tower protruding up into the sky, as well as ships lining the Auckland Harbour. If only the America’s Cup had come here, the place would’ve certainly been truly an awesome sight to behold!
Seeing the Finishing Line
The ascent up the Auckland Harbour Bridge somewhat affected my pacing for the rest of the race. But I tried not to focus on my aching legs and the stomach cramps, which unfortunately now seemed to be on its way back after having disappeared for a while. Instead, I looked around me and concentrated on the crisp, blue sky and the beautiful scenery. By now we were passing through Curran and Hammer streets near the Auckland city centre.
The numerous race markers, which were strategically placed at every kilometre, appeared regularly out of the corner of my eyes. Each marker I passed, told me that I was another kilometre nearer to the finishing line and egged me on to keep pushing myself right until the end point. I felt myself running for what felt like eternity. Each step was getting more and more difficult – and my cramps were getting worse!
And then, to my sheer relief, I saw the finishing chute right in front of me. I put on a burst of speed and raced towards it.
Then I crossed the finishing mat at Victoria Park, and slowly made my way to the nearest post-race drink station to grab yet another cup of their cold, refreshing isotonic drink – and a banana.
Yes, I had just finished my first run in New Zealand – and despite the pain at the end, the overall experience was definitely an exhilarating and scenic one. Now was finally the time to celebrate – and dig into the goodies at the finishing point, especially the yummy NZ hot dogs!
I must say that this was a really amazing experience and the overall experience – is really quite different to many of the running races that I have participated in, in Singapore. This was mainly because of the sheer number of spectators lining the streets during our race to egg us on, the lush scenery, the lovely sound of drums and most importantly, the crossing of an iconic Auckland landmark, the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
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