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  • Writer's pictureDion Finocchiaro

Christchurch Marathon Race Review 2019

The 39th edition of the 2019 Christchurch marathon was penciled into my running calendar from around early February. I wanted to do this race as I wanted to continue my journey of traveling the world with my racing and to be as competitive in the field as possible. As this would have been at least my 50th marathon, I feel confident in my body that I can recover well between my marathons to race regularly. My last of which being the Great Ocean Road marathon (2:28 marathon/2:37 44.5km) 2 weeks earlier. This was my first visit to Australia’s cousins across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand. And having heard so much positive comments from people I’ve spoken to about New Zealand, I was super excited to get over. My first impressions were definitely prominent. It was 5:30am on Saturday morning and as I got off my flight, it was 6 degrees’ and pouring rain. We had strong southerly winds and they cut right through to your core.

My first plan of attack was to check into my hotel and see if I could get into my room early for some much needed sleep. I had only had 2 hours overnight so it was fair to say I was exhausted. Luckily, the staff at the Crowne Plaza Christchurch were generous enough to allow my early check-in and I got into bed straight away for a 1hr 30 nap.

There wasn't much excitement outside due to the heavy rain, cold temperatures and strong winds. Although, I did brave the conditions for a walk to the local shops to stock up on some food for the next couple of days. Next up was to collect my race bib and also check out the running expo where I was hoping to buy a pair of water resistant gloves and a beanie to help tolerate the conditions on race day. After the expo and collecting my bib I ventured out for an easy 30mins run around Hagley Park in the rain. The rest of the day was spent relaxing in my room while organising my gear for the race and chatting with my roommate, Mark Moore. We went out to dinner with another Kiwi, Bert Prendergast and his partner Cassie for a big feed before the big run. I was fairly tired from the travel and lack of sleep and ended up falling asleep before 9am!

RACE DAY!! I woke up at 5:26 am ahead of my 6m alarm. Probably a good sign that I had enough sleep. Then onto race day routine. I had my breakfast which was a bread roll with Vegemite, some lollies, a coffee and a Hammer Nutrition energy bar. Quite a big breakfast compared to most marathoners but it suits me well. As it was freezing cold still raining outside, Mark and I decided to not do a warm up run and just walk over to the Christchurch Town Hall to drop off our special drinks. This way we could keep our bodies warm and as dry as possible. I actually started doing some running aerobics in my room while listening to my race day music playlist. Getting to the start line was only 400m away so we made our way to over around 20mins before the start and I did some last minute run throughs, drills and getting into my zone. The race started at 8am and we were greeted with some miserably cold winds, constant rain and a wet running surface. I was set on running with a group of approx. 8 Kiwi’s chasing sub 2:30 which also included Shaun Creighton and Ben Toomey. We had a good group taking turns leading and managed to stick to some great pacing going though 5km in 17:36. The next 5km was with a tailwind and Mark headed the front to take advantage of the generous winds behind us. Our 5-10km split was 34:42 (17:06) and still with 4-6 of us in the chase pack.

The remainder of the course was on some uneven roads with potholes, sections of road with ankle deep water and part trails to contend with. This would be one of one of our few battles as the run was so twisty, along with the rain makes the course slippery. We ran a fair section of the course through the “Red Zone” which suffered lots of liquefaction which deemed the area unsafe for residents and uneconomical to repair. The section of Red Zone we ran was approx. kms 12-26 and 33-37. Kilometres 10-15 and 15-20 were 51:58 (17:17) & 1:09:18 (17:20) respectively. Still feeling good here, I pushed the effort a little more and ended up running most of the remainder of the race solo. Although my effort was higher, my pace still stayed the same. Mainly due to the fact that there was lots of mud, puddles, turns, cold winds and lack of spectators made these sections isolating. Luckily I was still feeling comfortable and managed to stay strong through these sections. My half marathon split was roughly 1:13:31 and Kms 20-25 were 1:26:41 (17:23).

By 27km I had caught up to the back of the tailing half marathoners. This was good for me to have some rabbits ahead of me to continue to run down. In fact, passing them made my confidence grow and made me think that I was running faster than I was. The rain still continued to fall and wind cutting right to my core. Holding drink bottles was difficult as I couldn't feel my fingers and opening my pocket zip to get a NoDoz was also impossible. Kms 25-30 were 1:44:01 (17:20). Right on pace for 2:27 high and having the group not far behind me, I still had lots of motivation to keep my intensity up. Thankfully by this stage in the race, I knew I was going to be able to run all the way to the end and finish with good kick down. By the time I had gone passed the start/finish area around 30km I could easily break down the final 12km into a manageable task. However, the second time going through the Red Zone, I really slowed down here and was still putting in lots of effort. Although not a terribly slow spit of 17:39 (2:01:40 to 35km), this was my slowest of the day. I was actually feeling really comfortable aerobically and was able to tell myself to continue to work hard. Mark and Bert were both less than a minute behind and I was starting to feel a little worried that they might catch me with a fast finish too. I could hear the spectators and half marathoners clapping and encouraging them from behind. Kms 35-40 had me at 2:19:02 (17:22 split).

The final 2.2km was a really nice feeling. I was engaging with the locals knowing that I was going to hold on to finish in second place, 9 minutes behind Oska Inster-Baynes’ winning time of 2:18:11. The feeling at the finish line was special, although freezing cold. I managed to see some really incredible breakthrough performances from Mark, Bert, Kristian Day, Ben Toomey all breaking 2:30. 3 of which were PB’s. Then also from Shaun Creighton who smashed the 50-55 Australian record with his 2:30:23 marathon while also besting the course record for the 50-59 age group. To everyone else who ran, supported and volunteered. Well done and thank you for making Christchurch a memorable experience that I will never forget. It was the coldest and wettest marathon that I’ve ever done, but packed with so much history. The earthquakes and even the most recent Christchurch Massacre from 15th march 2019. I made new friends, had a great experience and learned so much about our cousins across the ditch! News Link Christchurch Earthquakes Christchurch massacre Red Zone Liquefaction Results Link to Strava

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