Since I began running six years ago I’ve heard many running stories that all resinate with each other. At the start it’s hard to run. We think we’ll never get there. 1km may as well be a marathon; it’s just so hard. But something magic happens and we push on and keep trying. One day we look around and we have transformed ourselves into runners. Our concept of ourselves is blown out of the water and we are reborn as people who know how to push through and endure like never before.
At The Great PukeokaHu Man v Horse Race I met a true running character with a running story that warmed my heart. A quiet man with a sparkly smile; he was at the event on his own. He sat down next to Pauly and I at the Friday night dinner and we got to know him just a little. I appointed myself his cheer squad to which he laughed and thanked me.
He told us that he runs in Vibram Five Fingers; loving the feel of the ground under his feet. I asked him if he’d read Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run. You’re not the first person to suggest that to me, he said. Sounds like he’s taken on a lot of what Born to Run is all about without even reading it. I have a feeling that he and Caballo Blanco would’ve been mates, if not mates at least kindred spirits.
He loves the outdoors. Has been tramping or bush walking as we call it in Australia, for years but had only recently started running. His running career is all of eight months old. Along the way he’d managed to drop many kgs and gain a fitness level he’d not known before. I wondered if his oversized jacket was an indication of how much weight he’d shed.
Eight months and here he was about to be at the start line of one of the most challenging marathons known to man and beast? He told us with a humble smile that he’d be slow and right at the back of the pack.
Saturday morning arrived and there was our new friend complete with Vibrams and poles. He was ready. What really struck me was how happy he looked. He was excited to be taking on the challenge.
At the half way mark I was surprised to see our new friend way ahead of the pack which included quite a few horses. He was motoring on those Vibrams and poles. Then when I went down to cheer Pauly on at the 36km mark that runs near the road, I only just got there in time to see him go by. He was absolutely flying!
I didn’t get to see him finish, he was finished way before Pauly got to the 36km mark. There is a wonderful photo on the Facebook page showing him clicking his heels together just as he went over the finish line with pure joy bubbling out of him.
We saw him after the finish and had a good old chat. We warmly congratulated him on becoming a marathoner and on his most speedy race AND teased him about his slowness. It turns out that he didn’t have any bench mark to compare his pace with, he had no idea how fast he can run. Our friend had an unconventional approach to tackling those 42kms of ups and downs but it worked. What made him stand out was not how he looked in his minimalist gear but his happiness as he ran and how humble he was at the finish.
Eight months of running and then one of the toughest marathons around? It was a highlight of The Great PukeokaHu Man v Horse Race 2016 for Pauly and I to meet him. Our new friend personifies the very essence of what running is all about: running far, running happy and running for always. He has the spirit of Cabllo Blanco’s technique down pat without even knowing what it is – easy, light, smooth and fast.
I loved hearing his story and then cheering him on.
I hope we get to meet again.
Happy running 🙂