People ask me why do you have to set new challenges for yourself and push yourself to the limits? The answer is because I can and there is something about having a big scary goal to work towards that keeps life very interesting!
On my 40th birthday I ran my first marathon, on my 50th I went to Everest Base Camp via Tibet, so for the big 60 I knew that I had to do something even more monumental. At the end of 2019 I trekked the length of Ireland from the south to north coast, 1000km in 38 days, solo. Last weekend I participated in a mountain marathon in New Zealand, oh and by the way it’s still 2 months to the big 60!!
I must say that the Shotover Mountain Moonlight Marathon was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
This race is held on the diverse and challenging terrain of Ben Lomand Station near Queenstown. The race starts beside the famous Shotover River and runs along sheep tracks, historic gold mining water races and high country mustering routes. The scenery forever changes as you climb and descend through tussock lands, mountain ridges, beech forests and creeks. There is also a scree slope, a ladder climb beside a waterfall and even a tunnel on the valley floor. The hardest part of all is the 2,700km of elevation and descent.
Then day was stunning and highlighted the magnificent scenery of the mountains of New Zealand. The temperature was a warm 26c ish. It is very exposed up there so there is not much shade. 260 people had registered for the race which started down on “the beach” and then from the get go it was up. My friend Leisa, who came on the adventure with me, ran with me for the first 10 minutes or so and then she got past a few people. I couldn’t get past them at that point so off she went. Our plan was not to wait for each other but run our own race.
So there I was alone with hundreds of other crazy people. From 3 - 8km we were warned to be very careful as we were on a ridge line with no barrier to stop us if we slipped. I did slip quite a few times but luckily was able to recover quickly from the stumbles and not go over the edge!!
The whole event kept giving to us, more mountains, more descents, more creek crossing , more obstacles than you could ever imagine. Each one brought on a new REALLY!!?? In these types of events as one gets more tired it becomes a mental game. Physically I knew that I would get there (even if it took longer than my original goal) but managing your headspace becomes another challenge.
The old mantra of every step, every step came into play. Take it in small chunks, get to the top of this next ascent, ok tick, next…
There were 4 people I met along the way that I ran with for a lot of the race (we all were at a similar pace). We all had the same' let’s finish this goal' headspace. We were all out there in this spectacular piece of nature getting closer to the finish with every step. A word of support as we continually passed each other, caught up and passed again made a huge difference and gave us all just a little bit of a spring to our step.
Finally the finish line and how amazing was the clapping of the crowd as I completed that final couple of hundred metres to the finish line. I thought I was running like a gazelle at that point but video footage showed that I was more donkey-like!! But that didn't matter, thoughts to myself were "You made it, you are awesome, you are incredible!" The "You can do anything" feeling took over. Oh what a feeling that is!!
So then it’s ok, what’s next!!!