Let’s be honest from the start. I am by no means a great runner.
People often ask how we run together as a couple. Just looking at Jeff you can tell he is the gazelle and I am the donkey.
Other couples can’t stand the speed differential, but Jeff’s endless patience and my “no holds barred” approach to communication means that now we can run together (albeit at my pace). But I can’t lie – there is still the odd (ok often) time when it gets to me that the slow pace is all my doing.
We started the Hillary trail before first light given the likelihood of having to cram a 10 hour day into 9 hours of daylight. I had slept well, but Jeff had only had four or so hours. He’d been persuaded by our WayWiser buddies to have a beer the night before. Unbeknown to them he is like many Asians who are missing the necessary enzyme to process alcohol (think red drinking face) and was suffering from the after effects of minor poisoning.
The first leg of the official trail was closed due to a slip on the Huia Road. We took the alternative route along Parau track, advised against by the Arataki visitors centre as it’s high use by Hillary walkers resulted in the trail turning into something that resembled a mud slide. What should have taken one hour took three. The subsequent sections were an improvement on the first but definitely not ideal conditions. But we can’t be all complaints – although there was a strong north-westerly, the rain gods smiled on us and only poured for the ten minutes while we sheltered for lunch.
Seven hours and 30km into the trail, I hit my lowest point. Let’s just say, sand is not my friend. We headed along Karekare beach, bang smack into the wind. Jeff let me draft behind him along the beach. Without this I could hardly even move, but even with his help I refused to run. It was time for a break.
At this very moment a fellow gazelle runs past – headphones in – gives us a wave and ploughs to the end of the beach. Jeff’s natural desire to herd kicks in and he speeds up. I decide to let them go. I can’t be bothered. I only perk up as we pass an overweight couple having a picnic by the surf club.
“How long have you been going?”
“Since 6.30am” (it’s now 2.30pm)
“Wow!” – yeh, in my mind I suddenly become a demi-god. My mood picks up somewhat.
My greatest moment arrives another 30minutes later: Jeff’s low point. I know. The winner of the worst team member award and most horrible person goes to Rosie. But as the weaker link I couldn’t help but feel a little proud of the one short moment where I felt in better shape.
“You basically just carried me up that hill,” Jeff said.
My emotions peaked. These were the exact words I had said to him countless times and yet never heard myself. This was a momentous occasion.
Christopher McDougall’s comments about women being equivalent runners to men over ultra-long distances came into my head. I felt strong, powerful, worthy – “the feminist runner”.
OK – so it was short lived, I felt like dying about 20 minutes later.
The whole second day was a walk in the park for Jeff and a grumpy, emotional struggle for me. I may not have won the war but I can now look forward to claiming the occasional battle.
Fastpack Journal is an adventure travel blog of two runners embarking on a unique and ambitious project to “fastpack” some of the world’s best through-hikes.