JANUARY 23 2013

Auckland Anniversary Day in 2011 was an incredibly boring Monday. My gym was closed, and due to what could be considered a mild case of OCD I find it very difficult to stray from a planned exercise routine. Out of nowhere, I wondered about going for a run. Unlike most runners, I don’t have any sort of inspirational story about how I was wonderful at it when I was at school – I was the total opposite. Not only was I terrible at it, I went out of my way to avoid running wherever possible. Even when playing cricket I’d dread running around the field for a warmup. So it’s tough to really say why I decided to go for a run last January. Part of it was a sense of guilt for the fact I’d bought a Nike Plus running kit for my iPod with no intention of ever using it. A salesman’s dream – when the guy asked me if I was a runner, my fragile ego wouldn’t let me admit that I’d really only run if I was being chased by something and I somehow ended up with fifty dollars worth of equipment that gathered dust on my nightstand ever after.

Anyway, I figured I’d go out for ten minutes, back for ten minutes. I have the great luck to live in the midst of the Waitakere ranges, with the Beveridge and Pipeline tracks starting within two minutes of my house. So off I went on my run – happily running twenty minutes without stopping to walk, though I was surprisingly exhausted at the end of it. And though I was incredibly sore the next day, I went out again. The next Saturday, I tried running five kilometres for the first time. And from then, I was hooked.

Though I don’t consider myself a natural runner in any sense of the word – certainly not by the look of agonised self-hatred in any photo taken of me in the midst of a run – it turns out my adoption of the sport was something of an inevitability. My dad, long-term Queenstown local, exercise masochist, and nine-time Routeburn Challenge runner, took up mountain running at about the same stage of life as I’m in now. A lot of my early memories are from standing around – I’m sure he’ll claim that my memory of how long I was standing for is totally inaccurate, but my mother would back me up – for hours waiting for him to finish the Easter half-marathon, or some other race he’d discovered in the area.

Within three weeks of me taking up running, my dad somewhat ambitiously started to talk about the prospect of running the Routeburn with him. I walked parts of the Routeburn as a kid and my enduring memory is of having to bodily climb up rocks. I sincerely hope that either my memory’s warped and exaggerating that or that the track has miraculously changed in the twenty or so years since, but I strongly suspect the reality is that there are parts that are exactly like that.

Though I live in Auckland, I’m far from an Aucklander – just ask any of my friends when they’re making fun of my rolling southern R. But without any bias I can still say that the region of New Zealand that the Routeburn traverses is some of the most beautiful countryside the whole country has to offer. And that’s one of the great appeals of running, really – it’s the epitome of getting away from it all, getting out into nature, and seeing some beautiful sights. I’ve learned the hard way not to get too distracted by them, but there’s no better way to see the scenery.

I’m excited about the prospect of the race as a first-timer, with absolutely no illusions about it being anything approaching easy. Having only been running for just under a year, I’ve only done a few races – most of which were in the United States while on holiday to save face if I failed miserably. The challenge is the majority of the appeal, as it is for most runners who attempt something like that – and there’s just a few months of hard training between now and then! Absolutely can’t wait.