I left Auckland last week in the best way possible: with two new personal records and some awesome new friends.
My first PR came at the Queen Street Golden Mile, a race in downtown Auckland that begins on a decline and that hasn’t been run since Mike Boit of Kenya ran the still-standing world’s fastest mile (3:28.44) thirty years ago.
On Easter Monday, I competed in the International Women’s division and raced a mile on the road for the first time. Due to that, the downhill start, and the fact that three of my competitors have run 4:30 or faster for a mile and two were in the London Olympic 1500, I wasn’t sure what to expect but was prepared for a blazing first 400 meters.
Although the course has been revamped since 1973, with the starting line further downhill so that runners now miss the steepest portion and run longer on the flat, that first section felt frighteningly reminiscent of my high school sprinting and hurdling days. But with my mind made up in advance to lock in with the leaders from the gun, there was no room for hesitation or brakes.
Six of us separated early on and I stayed attached until the top three made a move about halfway. The next three of us strung out a bit on the flat and I found myself in sixth place, but definitely within reach of fifth, with about a quarter to go. Keying into my target ahead, I searched for the gear change that Jim and I have been working on for the past year and found it at the last moment to overtake fifth and finish in a 4:32 personal best. With the downhill start, I can’t actually claim that time as a flat PB but I do aim to reach that realm in the not too distant future.
Susan Kuijken of the Netherlands won in 4:17, followed closely by Zoe Buckman of Australia and Lucy Van Dalen of New Zealand. Each of them ran around 8-10 seconds off their best mile times, giving me a little indication as to what my effort might have been worth on a track.
The Golden Mile was a really fun, unique event and it was a privilege to be a part of the race’s resurgence. I would love to see it take off in the future and to give another go at one of the world’s fastest road races in future years.
Two days later, with my races finished and one day left in New Zealand, I got my chance to take a crack at the Waitarua Circuit, the 22-mile run that revolutionary distance coach Arthur Lydiard’s athletes used to run every Sunday. Both Peter Snell and Barry Magee mentioned that long run as one of the most foundational and important aspects of their training- even for 800 meter specialist Snell- but also as one of the most grueling and mentally callusing.
Hayden, who has now hosted me three separate times with his wife Charlotte, offered to keep me company on his bike, ensure that I made all the right turns (although I still didn’t trust myself and made sure to tuck the directions in my sports bra), and do some filming for his Runner’s Guide series.
We parked in front of Lydiard’s old house, a stunningly unassuming abode for such a coaching giant, and took off on what used to be quiet dirt roads but has since become busy, congested, and paved.
I ran the first quarter on the sidewalk of a busy road, so was excited when we turned off on a much more peaceful, empty stretch of road. I was less excited about the enormous hill in front of me, which I swear grew each time I turned a corner, but I was also eager to take on the challenge that clearly did some good for the guys who tackled it regularly.
After some rolling hills followed by 4 kilometers of steady climbing, I was pretty pumped to reach the summit of the Waiatarua circuit.
Soon after, I approached the halfway mark and Hayden pointed out the hidden water source where Lydiard’s athletes used to rehydrate. It was a little dried up when we got there, but I now regret not bottling up some just in case there’s a little magic in the water.
After a few more unexpected rolling hills, the last segment of the run was mostly downhill and the final miles clicked right along. It was really awesome having Hayden along for the journey, which ended up being my longest run ever by 2 miles. New territories- I love it!
My reward after the run was a 3:30 wake-up the next morning followed by a 12-hour flight and a healthy dose of jet lag. I’m finally feeling rested and adjusted to Tokyo time, so will be back soon with an update on my awesome introduction to Asia!