WUU-2K 43KM Marathon 2019:
Marathon # 86
Date:July 13, 2019
A mid-winter marathon is always tough. Seldom is preparation ideal and getting to the start line can be difficult. Training days are short, the cold bites, and viruses reign. Thank fully, I managed to stay healthy enough in order to do the necessary training to give the WUU-2K the respect it deserves. Having done the WUU-2K before, I knew exactly what to expect. A bit of mud, lots of elevation, and relentless hills. The 2K stands for the elevation gain over the 43km course (once upon a time this would have been sacrilege for a marathon). Throw in the unpredictable Wellington weather and a warm cosy office would be more appealing for some. I’m picked up from the airport by my good Air Force friend, Squadron Leader Jim Sheehan. It is wet and windy when I arrive which is exactly what I’ve mentally prepared myself for on race day. The WUU-2K was hard enough last time I did it in favourable conditions. On any other typical Wellington winter day, I can only imagine that it would be rather uncomfortable (possibly even horrible). However, I’ve spent a lot of my life in an office so the WUU-2K simply balances the ledger. After an early 5am alarm, we head out to the start line at Khandallah Park. It is dark and cold but the rain has cleared and the wind is tolerable. Fortune favours the brave today. As the sun creeps up over the horizon, the race organiser talks up the serenity. Before long, the serenity is disrupted as 200 runners with nervous energy burst over the start line and head towards the hills.
The start of the WUU-2K is beautiful. It amazes me how you can be so close to a city yet be lost in dense native bush within minutes. As we clear the tree line and go up Mt Kaukau, we are rewarded with spectacular views. The early morning sunshine spills over the city which is nestled between the harbour and the hills. Along the Skyline track and towards Makara Peak, the course keeps giving with panoramic views and you can even see the South Island today. In running like life, nothing good lasts forever. Native bush trails and amazing views will only provide a distraction for so long. Invariably all runners undergo a trail by sweat. Eventually ease and comfort make way for struggle and discomfort. However, how many of us are staying too comfortable and avoiding the necessary trial by sweat? Let me share with you. Worldwide, 1 in 4 adults and 3 in 4 adolescents (aged 11-17 years of age) do not currently meet recommended physical activity guidelines. Current guidelines recommend that adults and adolescents should be physically active for 30 & 60 minutes a day respectively. Another way of saying this is that adults need to be physically active for a total of 2% of their day and adolescents need to be physically active for a total of 4% of their day. Yet why is this so hard? Worldwide, 2 in 3 adults are either overweight or obese. Even more frightening, 1 in 3 of our children are overweight or obese. We all need to be more active in order to be healthier! The World Health Organisation has made it a priority to reduce physical inactivity by 15% by 2030 (see WHO Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018-2030). We are becoming less active in our work and recreation. Transport is becoming more automated. We are surrounded by comfort and eat comfort. Remember, being sedentary kills more people in the USA than smoking, diabetes, and obesity combined. Comfort can be good. But too much comfort can be lethal.
The next section of the course up Wright’s Hill, along the Zealandia predator proof fence line, and towards a solitary wind turbine is a good honest toil. The cumulative effect of the terrain and elevation begins to take its toll. A Grim reaper is aptly placed at the top of the Tip track and I find the steep descent quite uncomfortable. My smile and grimace are easily interchangeable. The atmosphere at the aid station at the bottom of the Tip track is amazing (as it has been throughout the course) and the quality of the home baking is remarkable (thanks for the rocky road and peanut brownie). I’m also enjoying the company of Squadron Leader Jim. Discomfort whilst running is better shared. Jim and I started running together when we deployed with the NZ Army to Afghanistan in 2011. A lot has changed since. We are both married and have children of our own now. However, some things don’t change. His jokes remain awful and his farts still linger. In a moment of clarity he proclaims that he’d do the WUU-2K again simply for the views and food. “I don’t get this at home” he confides. It’s all a bit of a hypoglycaemic blur as we make our way back to the city through Mt Albert along single trail with a few sharp climbs. We cross the finish line at Mt Victoria six hours later. It is a pleasant discomfort. Running is medicine. Join me at my next blog, the Transalpine Run (272km over 8 days) in Europe.