The Mind of the Long Distance Runner
Grant Harding: Ironman Life in association with Hawke's Bay Today
I'm often asked what I think about when I run long distances. The people doing the asking are normally perplexed by how anyone could spend more than an hour running without having anything plugged into their ears.
I tell them that I clear my head of the day's stresses and concentrate on the art of running. And that is true of the run-of-the-mill training session.
But yesterday's Country2Coast 17km run was somewhat different. Here is exactly what I remember of my actions and thoughts:
Councillor Henare O'Keefe is counting down to start us at Riverlands Park on River Rd. outside Havelock North at 9am, so I move left into direct line with him. When he says go, I rush up quickly and rub Dr Love's big tummy. My old rugby team-mate laughs, and tells the runners to watch out for No. 136, he could be a "contender".
I've made a fast start again. Don't want to burn out like last year. Stay upright. Relaxed jaw. Breathe. Don't run anyone else's pace.
An older guy - well, he has white hair - goes past. Mental note - don't let him get more than 100 metres ahead, and remember that you're an old guy too. Comfortable at 1km.
What a beautiful day. Shouldn't have worn polyprop underneath tri-shirt. Need to get over cold mornings. A few runners go past. Feeling good at 2km.
No problems with the niggle that confined me to just two runs (35 minutes and 15 minutes) this week. Too much sitting down at work, not drinking enough water. At 3km white hair is already tiring, so I spot a woman in a purple-top 40 metres ahead and make her my progress marker. Nice bum!
In the next few kms along the stockbank I am passed by a few (recognise talented triathlete Annika Edmondson, who offers a word), and I file past a few runners including an Indian guy who was blowing heavily as he ran by earlier. Feeling solid. Mentally in tune with my game plan.
Go past the first of the 17km walkers, including Shrek in a wheelchair. Good effort.
I notice a woman ahead stopping to change her music. It annoys me that she is faster, but not enough to chase her.
The Indian guy is a strange one. Quick when he runs, he passes me again. And then he walks until I catch up. Annoying.
At the bridge, 8km in, I feel much stronger than last year. The field feels spread out now. There will be few changes in position.
Go through the 10km ahead of the 7km runners start - as it should be, pleased with that. Now concentrating on one thing, completing the run without walking - except through the second drink station.
Entering Haumoana, Hawke's Bay Today photographer Warren Buckland snaps a photo. Hope I was smiling.
The big groups of short course walkers come into view. All shapes and sizes, colorful, dogs everywhere. It's a great scene. It's what makes the event, not us boring 17km types. Finally see some of the HB Today team. Give them a few words.
At 13km, another 4km seems a long way. Miss the next drink station before Te Awanga - was there one there?. Think about asking someone for a drink. Resist the temptation. It's one foot after the other, slicing between groups of walkers. Suddenly, surprisingly the 15km mark looms. It's a big mental boost.
Concentration is entirely on running - stay upright, breathe, relax. Go past advertising manager Jo Dryden whose walking flat out. Glance at my watch and see that a sub 1:30 is achievable, which is my goal. My Indian friend is still with me, and another runner makes us a little group of three. Our pace settles into synch. It takes my mind off my tired body through to the 16km mark.
A small uphill and my Indian mate takes a breather. I go past and continue on. I tell myself stopping is not an option - I'm an Ironman.
Soon enough the welcoming figure of Peak Timing's Gillie Cooper looms up behind the finish line. And so I finish with kind words in my ears. Pleased with my effort I slump into a chair. My Indian mate arrives and we introduce ourselves. His name is Iqbal Singh. Time for water and a sausage, then out to walk in with a few of the team.
No idea what time I did (one hour 28 minutes 51 seconds), don't care where I came in the 17km run field (41st out of 164), and I'm a terrible liar.
My first longish run, my first event on the way to Ironman New Zealand 2013 is done.
All in all, the second Country2Coast was a good place to start.
Footnote: Congratulations to Faryn Ngawaka, a highly promising triathlete, who ran a blistering 1:08:45 to come home first in the 17km run. Michelle Hyland was first woman home in 1:15:03.
Hawke's Bay Today deputy editor Grant Harding will participate in Ironman New Zealand 2013, having completed Ironman New Zealand in 2010 and gone to the start line this year only to be denied by the weather.