Meet Paul

I’m Paul and I’m a Routeburn virgin. I’ll be blogging my build up to this
year’s event over the next few months. Hopefully what I write will resonate
with other first timers, it’ll probably give seasoned veterans a few laughs,
either way, here goes!
I first realised just how much I fancied a crack at this event just under a
year ago when I was waiting at the Routeburn Shelter for my wife to finish
the 2015 version. She took a wee bit longer than she’d expected (due in part
to having had to hang on to the side of the mountain whilst crossing the
Harris Saddle while she waited for a break between the gusts of wind), so
myself and my four year old daughter had quite a bit of time hanging around
watching people finish.
There was a great atmosphere and before she really managed to get bored, my
daughter had become Emily ‘Powergirl’ Miazga’s little helper. As she charged
up and down the track urging people on to the finish line, I was left alone,
hobbling around in my sexy orthopaedic sandal, to think. Invariably, what I
ended up thinking was ‘I want to do this myself’.
That I’d never run an adventure race like the Routeburn Challenge before
isn’t really that surprising. I arrived in New Zealand in 2008 and walked
straight into a lingering bout of glandular fever. Several years of
intermittent post viral fatigue followed, then they in turn were followed by
a few years of recurring bouts of tonsillitis. By the time my infections
were happening on a regular six weekly basis, the doctors finally agreed
that it was probably time to do something about it.
Following my tonsillectomy, I found myself in the position where I could
finally begin to train consistently. So after a steady period of building up
a good base of fitness, I entered The Dual in Auckland in 2015. I’d picked
the half marathon and had left myself plenty of time to build up to it. I
was pleased with my progress as the year ticked over from 2014 to 2015.
Then, 1.5km into my first long run of the New Year, I misjudged a stride
whilst running down Flagstaff above Dunedin. My right ankle folded with an
unpleasant, audible crunching sound. The 1500m of trail that I’d all but
floated along earlier took me the best part of an hour to limp my way back
over, and after a painful drive to the Urgent Doctors and an equally painful
wait, I hobbled out on crutches. Fast forward a couple of months and plenty
of cross training in the pool and on the bike and I was beginning to run
again, determined to complete The Dual even if I walked half of it. It was
at this point that I lost my footing going down the stairs at home and
smashed a foot into the wall hard enough to tear a chunk of bone loose form
one of the joints. The fracture and cartilage damage were frustratingly slow
to heal. So slow in fact that before I’d even got back into normal footwear,
I’d done it again. A nasty concussion this time, caused by trepanning myself
on a garage door that wasn’t quite as open as I thought it was.
By July last year I was, once again, easing back into running. In September
I ran the Dunedin Quarter Marathon and put in an entry for the half-marathon
in Queenstown in November. Six weeks form that, a pulled calf muscle, led to
a pulled tendon in my ankle, which stopped me running. Despite the best
efforts of my excellent physio, and a stretching and rehab regime that I
followed with a dedication which, for me at least, bordered on superhuman,
it wasn’t until the weekend before the race that I managed a 10km run
without my ankle breaking down and finally felt that I’d make it.
Having finally got the half-marathon monkey off my back, I got into allowing
the ankle to heal properly, thinking that there was no way I’d be ‘right’ in
time to stand up to the hills I’d need to be running in preparation for the
Routeburn. Just after New Year’s though, like the sun breaking through the
clouds, things just started to come right. I started to throw myself into
increasingly hilly runs, to make sure I wasn’t being lulled into a false
sense of security, and could hardly believe it when my body stood up to it.
So, yesterday I sat in front of the computer, eagerly pressing the refresh
button until the text changed from ‘Entries open at 12:00pm’ to ‘Enter Now!’
I have a place, I’m (currently) injury free, and I’m a decent way along in
my training. Bring on the endorphins.