Blog Arrowsmith Marathon 2018: Marathon # 81

Arrowsmith Marathon 2018:
Marathon # 81

Canterbury, Marathon
March 24, 2018

There’s something that keeps drawing me back to the Arrowsmith marathon. In 2013, I ran my 50th marathon at this event. This year, it will be my 5th Arrowsmith marathon. The routine to the start line is no different this year. Alarm set for 5am, I wake up and get into my pre packed car. Breakfast is hot cakes with maple syrup at the Rolleston McDonalds before pushing onwards to Mt Somers. The final 12km of the journey is along gravel road towards Lake Heron which feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. I manage to get to registration by 7.30am just as the sun is beginning to rise. Registration is held at the Arrowsmith Woolshed which also doubles as the start/finish area. The smell of sheep in the woolshed is distinct and the volunteers are friendly. Cues are absent, sale opportunities limited, and there is minimal advertising. I then quickly get changed into my running gear in my car and return for the pre race briefing. This year, the briefing is held in the woolshed and runners gather inside like crammed sheep. The brief is blunt and direct as can be expected from plain speaking farming folk. The start has been delayed by 15 mins for a reason unbeknown to me. I guess it’s not a big deal as there’s no electronic timing anyway. Runners then gather in the starting area ready for the 8.30am start. There is no music, hype, or extravagance. A hoarse voice shouts out a one minute pre start warning. With an abrupt “Go” and to minimal fanfare, runners hastily head off down the gravel road, up the farm track, and towards the mountains.

Waiting at the start area of the Arrowsmith marathon behind a scarcely marked start line

The Arrowsmith marathon is the epitome of what I like about running. It is rugged and simple without any pretence. There is minimal fanfare or fuss. Runners run this event because they enjoy running. Not because they want to celebrate or be celebrated. Not to seek praise, applause, or approval. The Arrowsmith marathon simply allows runners to do what they really want to do – just run. In this case, run in beautiful high country surrounded by snow capped mountains. As you go up your first major climb, you find yourself within the clouds. Before long, you are treated to panoramic views of the lake and high country landscape. Eventually you climb so high that you are above the clouds which rest in the valleys and re entrants below. Climbing up the mountain side, I am reminded of how hard this event actually is. I’m reminded of how hard running is. But it is in this difficulty where the attraction of running lies. Status, rank, and money count for nothing in a marathon. You are not judged according to the version of your iPhone or the size of your wallet. There is no hierarchy in running. We are all free and equal people. It is one of life’s greatest levellers. Success in running is dependent on your prior preparation and hard work. Finishing, dependent on the willingness of your legs, your mental fortitude, and the strength of your heart. Effort trumps talent. Your profession and material assets won’t save you when times get tough. Only yourself. You own your run. If you fail or falter, you have no one else to blame but yourself. Respect is gained through sweat and earned by running through adversity. You have to really want this run. The Arrowsmith demands it. Running is the only true trade that matters in these South Canterbury mountains.

A simple man practising his trade in the mountains

Running along raging rivers, over boulder scree, and through fresh waterways, I am enjoying my trade. It is tough going and the ascents are testing. There is no acclamation at check points or water stations but this is not expected. In return, I give thanks and appreciation. As I go over the saddle, the head wind makes you work for your finish. Running through the turnip fields and back across the paddocks, I know the end is near. The woolshed comes into view again with Lake Heron in the distance. The fog has now lifted from the lake as it sparkles under the sun. The finish is low key and the applause is brief and measured. Finishers are rewarded with a BBQ ribeye steak sandwich. Your race number doubles up as your meal ticket. The prize giving takes place in the paddock and the winners are gifted with a bottle of wine and an Easter egg for their hard graft. They are experts of an ancient craft. Running is one of the best apprenticeships in life that you can master. It is developed over many years. Keep persevering with your running trade. Running is medicine. Join me at my next blog, Rotorua marathon in May, a place where I developed my craft.

At the finish with Lake Heron in the background

Helpful tip
Earn your stripes. Running is an apprenticeship of patience, humility, and hard work.