Last weekend I ran a half marathon in the beautiful city of Queenstown, New Zealand.

Just some fun facts about me and running – I am not a runner at all. I smoked for 10 years of my life so my lung capacity was very low so the thought of running any more than 1km was just completely out of the question.

I quit smoking in 2015 (this is a story for another day as it explains the expensive BMW I was driving at the start of my Debt Free journey) and that’s when I started my fitness journey. If you follow me on social media you will notice that I now am very active – but I can assure you I was not always this way.

In 2017 I had become friends with a work colleague for a short time and we had entered the tough gal challenge doing 6km – and it was fun and I really enjoyed it! That’s when my commitment to long distance challenges started. The next week we decided we would sign up for this half marathon in Hawkes bay – so I went ahead and did that (because I wanted to do get the early bird special being on a debt free journey and all). I had 7 months to train at this stage. I ran the half by myself as my colleague had a change in circumstances at that time, I had another very supportive friend and her partner come down to support so I wasn’t alone.

At the end of that half marathon I saw a tent at the finish line that had some information on Marathons around the world… travelling and challenges are two of my favorite things to do… so I was curious. I could go to China, that looks like fun. I want to go to the Great Wall so surely doing a half marathon on the Great Wall would be an amazing experience. Turned out my time was too high by 6 minutes to attend… so the new challenge began! Get a qualifying time for the Great Wall of China half marathon.

I did another half marathon in Hamilton and still had a time of 2 minutes too slow, so even though Covid-19 has put a bit of a dampener on the travel side of things I still signed up for the Queenstown half marathon because I was so determined to qualify.

The day starts at 5am – ugh, why SO early on a Saturday?! The alarm clock seems intrusive, then I remember that I am due to be dropped off in the middle of nowhere then have to run back to where I am now. The butterflies start, but I am ready. I have done some training and I know what to do.

Get dressed and stack myself up on some breakfast (don’t forget the banana), make sure my water backpack is full and head out the door. (Mum had already left for her shuttle).

Jump on the shuttle – ok we are on the way, this is exciting now. Make idle chat with the guy next to me but we really were both just as nervous as each other so there was some nervous laughter. At one point we realized we seemed to have gone a bit far… oh shit we are at the start of the full marathon?! Am I on the wrong bus?! I did NOT train for 42kms, ok hang on, everyone else is freaking out so I am on the right bus but in the wrong place. Oh phew the driver just got confused, we turned around and heading back in the right direction now.

Get to the start line – well there is absolutely no turning back now. Make some idle chat with the lady next to me who seems just as nervous as me, the serious runners have started bang on 8am. They are expecting to finish within 1 hour 30 minutes whereas I was in the third wave – we called it the “unsure” runners.

The gun goes and we are off – ok I got this, one foot in front of the other. Whack a bit of high tempo music on in my ears and focus on the run. I have lots of energy but I know I have to pace myself. Ok my lungs are warming up, focus on my breathing, get the breathing under control. Breeeeathe.

19 kms to go – takes me 2 kms to get my breathing right but we are there now. The views are looking rather nice actually, but I need to alternate between looking where my feet are going and the view so I don’t sprain an ankle. UMMMMMM why are we going down hill – if there’s a down hill there must be an uphill somewhere too and that’s not good for the energy levels.

17 kms to go – ok we are in a good rhythm, singing along to a bit of pop music and keeping up with the beat. Ahhhh theres the first aid station sign, only 500m away. I can stop for a drink there… oh shit here comes that uphill part. Ok you can do this, your calves will get you there.

16kms to go – there is the drink station after the longest 500m of my life, why did the sign lie to me?! Surely that was the longest 500m ever… Walk while drinking (I never mastered the art of running while drinking)

13 kms to go – ok there are far too many uphill parts than I bargained for. I absolutely do not want to miss out on my time and I didn’t do much training with hills so I make a resolution to walk on the uphill parts and run on the downhill parts (this took me the entire 6 minutes or so of the kilometer to make the resolution). Also note that I need to ask my running coach to add hills into the training.

11km to go – there’s one of those lying signs again. This means we are half way (or there abouts). Toes starting to get sore and the energy is starting to deplete so make a resolution with self that I can whack on 80’s music when I reach the 10km mark. Chug back a glass of powerade and keep going.

10km to go – change the music to some 80’s pop (here’s a secret – older music is actually longer per song so if you just spend time focusing on the beat of the song and get in the rhythm then you are less likely to want to stop). Cant feel my pinky toe at all at this point but throw on some Queen in my ears and away we go.

6km to go – not sure what happened to the last 4kms… it went by in a blur of feet pounding, bit of Whitney Houston and Pointed Sisters with a dash of rain. Now I know from experience it is an entire mental battle from here. Physically I can get to the end but mentally I have to make myself get there. Do I even have feet anymore… I can only feel two toes in each foot at this point.

5km’s to go – the toddler phase has begun. My mind has one idea and my body is just not co-operating. So I start bargaining with myself “if you make it to the next sign I will let you walk until the chorus of the next song” literally my mind is coaxing my body along at this point and my body is throwing all sorts of hissy fits.

4kms to go – still in the toddler phase. My body tries to tell me I need the toilet – uh uh, nice try. I know that if I stop to sit down there will be no getting up from there so that’s a no from me. There’s a medical tent, should I stop and tell them my feet have worn off? Hmmm I actually think I will get to the end faster if I just keep going. Whack on a bit of Footloose in my ears and reenact my year 6 dance recital in my head from 18 years ago.

3kms to go – entire body is on fire, I can feel my water backpack chaffing on my arm. I cant stop because I really don’t think my legs will be able to pick speed back up anymore. Curse myself for signing up for such madness and swear I wont do it again.

2km to go – I am so so close yet it feels so so far… oh wait that’s my hotel! Wonder if I can detour and just have a lie down? Maybe I shouldn’t, my mum will be at the finish line by now and might get worried. Ugh, I need to keep negotiating with my body to get through this last bit.

1km to go – I start welling up with emotion, there are also people lining the street clapping so I absolutely cant walk at this point (sorry toddler body). My body feels like its falling apart, I am pretty sure my organs are going to fall out, I cant feel my feet. Oh heck, theres a photographer! Why is there a photographer?! OMG ok, try to smile, yep that does it. Keep going, nearly there. WHY IS THERE NOW A HILL?! Come on, you can do this… they calling my name annnnnnnnnd I’m over the finish line!!! There’s my mum, I DID IT!!!

All I want to do at this point is locate my bag and get my jandals on my feet because I absolutely cannot feel my feet. Grab a banana and hobble up the stairs to get my bag.

Well mission accomplished! I got a qualifying time to do a half marathon on the great wall of China, not that we can travel anywhere anytime soon but that’s ok, I just wanted to qualify. What a day! What a mission! I think its time for a nap and some ice cream… oh but first, lets sign up to the Hawkes Bay half in May 2021.