Mel Aitken Motatapu Marathon Report

Mel Aitken gives us her run down from the 2015 Motatapu Marathon that took place this past Saturday is wet conditions.

Having run the Motatapu in 2012 and coming second with a fairly conservative time of 3.40, I knew I was now that much stronger, with added pressure by some pre-race reviews picking me as a favorite.  I am learning pretty quickly in the short time that I have been racing that this added pressure can play with my mind so I needed to focus on the work I had put in over the last few months making me mentally and physically tougher than ever, and the personal goal I had set myself of achieving a better race time than 2012 knowing there was nothing physically stopping me from running a good race – that was until I woke to the heavy rain early on Saturday morning!

When we started off I felt pretty good and thought the poor weather was in our favour as it meant cooler temperatures, which for me were perfect running conditions.  The start of the course had changed and kept us on road with a short downhill, but I was soon bought back to reality with the consistent climbs in the road, and aware that the further on we got, the more the track was deteriorating due to the mountain-bikers who were ahead and quickly turning the track into a mud bath.

I looked behind a few times to see where the rest of the field was.  I knew I had about a half dozen blokes ahead of me but as I continued on through the km’s, I managed to pick one off at a time – I like to call it ‘chicking’ the blokes!  The race became more and more congested as we caught up on a number of bikers who looked miserable pushing their bikes through thick mud tracks.  This only made it more difficult and slowed us up as not only were we contesting with bikes, riders, riders falling off bikes, and bikers clearly unaware of what the ‘keep left unless passing’ signs meant, but the mess they were making of the track meant I couldn’t run at my desired pace, simply because there was nowhere safe on the track to go hard, for fear of slipping or getting caught up with a meandering biker.

The river crossings were fun, and at times interesting as I tried to keep my momentum running through them.  At a whopping 157.5 cm tall (yep I’m a giant and the .5 is important!), I got caught out on a couple of crossings and came to an abrupt halt with the raised levels coming up to my hips.  I pushed through though and enjoyed the cold comfort of the water keeping my body temp at a good level.

Mel mid race, picking off mountain bikers and chicking the guys.

At the highest point at 875 metres around the 30km mark, I was pretty stoked to be on target for contesting the women’s course record, and I felt strong and confident as I knew the next 12k were predominantly downhill.  This gave me extra wind and determination to go hard and the track seemed a little bit drier than the first 30k. At this point I had chicked all but one (Vajin Armstrong) so was pretty chuffed with my effort. This gave me even more determination and drive to continue pushing to the end.

The shortened finish line caught me by surprise and the confusion around whether the race was actually over or not made me try and continue racing to the official finish line.  It was frustrating as I was forced to wait for the cyclists using the alternate route across the bridge and up the steep sharp track on the other side of the river, as I saw my hopes of challenging the course record slip out from under me.    I had to wait as some carried their bikes up the track that was too narrow in parts to get past, but where I could, I did, and once free of the bikes, I kicked back into fast gear for a last ditch effort towards the finish line.

Mel just before the (2nd) finish line.

Crossing the finish line was bitter sweet – I knew I had taken the women’s title, but also knew I would have to come back next year to contest the course record due to the problems with the shortened finish.  My amazing support crew of hubby Steve and my parents who had come through from Dunedin to watch me race were unable to see me step on the podium due to a cancelled prize giving as a result of the timing issues.  On the positive, my body felt amazing, my legs felt strong and I reckon I could have kept running for another 42k!  I’m super excited following this race about what 2015 has in store for me.  I feel pretty privileged to have been given this gift of running, despite only discovering it later in life, with the joy and feelings it brings only something that fellow runners can truly understand.   Bring on the rest of 2015!

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