I was browsing Facebook about 6 weeks ago and I happened to notice a competition on the Air New Zealand page for a trip for two to the Queenstown Marathon, all expenses paid including flights, accommodation and dinner at Queenstowns top restaurant Rata. I figured what did I have to lose?. I entered it as you do, not expecting to hear anything back. So imagine my surprise a week later when I was sitting having coffee with my friend and I happened to check my phone and noticed I had won! Believe me the whole cafe heard when I started screaming…. these sort of things never happen to me!
Two weeks earlier I had run my first marathon in Sydney and absolutely loved it. I was instantly hooked on long distance running but unfortunately I was unable to celebrate the achievement as I heard on my way home that my mum had been diagnosed with Lung Cancer.
I had just spent the whole year doing many fun-runs raising money for Motor Neurone disease in memory of my Dad who I had lost the year before only, to hear this. To say I was devastated was an understatement.
I was extremely excited to be able to have the opportunity to run another marathon so quickly after my last, especially in such a stunning place, so back to New Zealand I went 3 weeks ago to be with my Mum during her surgery (which im happy to say was a total success), and while I was there I got to train on the hills around her home. Thank goodness I did, as no matter what they say Queenstown is not flat!
My husband decided he was going to run the half marathon. He is not a runner so for his training he decided to run a 1km a day for 21 days. I am happy to say he did not beat my half PB by following this training method, and I wouldnt recommend anyone else following it either!, but he still smashed that half and is now hooked, so more holidays around races it is!
The day before race day we flew to Queenstown from Sydney. We were treated like royalty with Koru lounge access and premium seating.
Our Hotel St Mortiz was amazing the ultimate in luxury, with a bath you could fill up to your neck sitting in it. For the runners they offered a race pack with trail mix, yoga, massages, ice baths and red jet plane lollies, and a free bottle of champers for the fastest runners (as the elite runners were staying there I didn’t stand a chance!)
Queenstown was absolutely buzzing. The race vibe was awesome with over 9000 visitors flocking to the area for the run. The place was bursting at its seams. Carb loading at the famous Fergburgers the night before was a must.
The organisers did a fantastic job and everything went so smoothly from the number collection pre-race, to the shuttle buses ferrying runners out to the start line. I must say it was quite daunting to drive the 42 kms out to the start of the race. It makes you realise just how far it is, but I got to share the ride with fellow RMA Marie Talbot who was running her first marathon, so that was very special.
We started at the stunning Millbrook Resort in Arrowtown surrounded by massive mountains and pumped up runners. I truly must say runners are the friendliest people on the planet, there was such a fantastic vibe. Our race started at 8.45am, Marie and I found ourselves surrounded by a huge group of fellow Aussies including another RMA!
Once out of the resort we were onto sealed roads and after a bit of climb we were onto trails and a good couple of kms downhill, before running into the beautiful historic gold mining town of Arrowtown. It was such a picture perfect place, there was a great band playing and the whole town came out to cheer us as we ran through.
I can honestly say for the first 18kms of the course I ran strong and was looking at a 4 hour marathon. It was a very undulating course… we were constantly going up and down hill but then we hit Lake Hayes and the first very steep hill. I tried so hard to run up it and got most of the way before I admitted defeat and found myself walking it and that switched something on in my head that I found very hard to switch off. I started feeling gassed out and had to break up my run with very short walk breaks occasionally, something I had never done before even in training.
However at the same time I remembered why I was there and how blessed I was to be running in such a breathtaking place, so I decided rather than let it upset me, I was going to enjoy every inch of the rest of the race, so I made sure I thanked every single volunteer for giving up their Saturday for us. I chatted to the friendly locals who lived out in the middle of some of the most breathtaking rugged country I had ever seen, enjoyed the company of a little Jack Russel dog who trotted along with us for about 5ks ( I later heard he was with the runners for about 15kms so I really hope he found his way home).
I ran along beautiful Lake Hayes, followed the shotover river watching the tourists in the jetboats, ran over bridges and at the 33k mark had to run up a monster of a hill (marathon hill). I nicknamed it Heart attack hill! I tried to get a run up but there were very few people running it. It was at the top I was suddenly struck with the worst cramp I have ever experienced in my calf. It absolutely dropped me, but a passing angel gave me a salt tablet and helped show me a running technique to stretch it out. I was soon able to carry on thankfully mostly downhill from then on.
I tell you there was nothing quite like seeing the start of Lake Wakatipu and we were on the home straight. We hit the lake and I was so excited until I realised I had another 10km to go! That actually passed pretty uneventfully. Every corner we turned took my breath away with the scenery, and the dirt trails were fantastic and so well maintained; wide enough for you to comfortably run two abreast, sometimes 3, some of it was wooden boardwalks too and little bridges.
The aid stations were fantastic. Plenty of water and powerade and sports jelly beans which were the bomb! I much preferred them to gels. and best of all plenty of portaloos too.
Hitting Queenstown was the most amazing feeling ever! there was a DJ playing us into the township, so I whooped and danced my way onto the streets. Having our names on our bibs meant there were hundreds of people calling our names and screaming out “Go Running Mums Australia!”, I truly felt like I had won the race, when the reality was I came about 1200th!
I got a second wind and sprinted (well ok shuffled) my way down the ramp and onto to the finish line. There I was greeted by my Husband Shane and fellow RMAs Olivia Teo and Michelle Leoussis. Olivia smashed the Half marathon with Shane. It was the best feeling ever!
I did not take my medal off for a week. I can now proudly call myself a marathoner. Then I got to watch Marie finish her race she and another fellow RMA killed it and I must say there were tears flowing watching her cross that line.
I can honestly say this was the hardest run I have ever done but it was also the most well organised, with the most incredible atmosphere and so scenic.
Everyone must put this on their running bucket list you will never regret it, but I must recommend trail shoes for the course as they definitely helped, my Icebugs were perfect.
I’m already trying to see how I can wrangle my way back there next year as I simply must better my time and smash that run again.
Queenstown Marathon you Rock
by Lisa Nolan