Wanaka, New Zealand: You Know, It Wasn’t Even That Hard

OK, so I know I was in that final stretch of giving you (and myself) some closure on Wanaka. I was wrapping it all up. But today I told my friend Jen (Jess’ little sister) the story of how I participated in the Challenge Wanaka — equivalent of the Ironman Triathlon, without the recognized brand endorsement — and I realized that it was a pretty funny story that I hadn’t put up here yet.

As usual, on Friday night Garth and I got quite drunk at the bar. Saturday morning I suffered the consequences of a screaming headache and general malaise. I’ve always prescribed a cure of exercise, and it has always worked, so I managed to get myself motivated enough for a run in the late afternoon.

My Wanaka run loop started at the house on Mt Iron Drive and followed the road as it connected back onto Anderson Road, just before the T-intersection with Aubrey Road. As I jogged down the slight hill towards Aubrey, I saw a stand set up just off the road, manned by volunteers with a cache of paper cups. I saw another runner coming down Aubrey from the right, passing the stand. The volunteers gave him some water and he continued running. Well that was nice of them … but why? It was then that I saw a number on his back.

Ohhhh my god, the triathlon is going on today, I thought as I turned onto Aubrey running in the same direction as the participants. So there I was, running alongside people who had just completed a 3.8 km swim and 180 km bike ride, and I just couldn’t stop smiling. Drivers would pass and wave and honk their horns, probably wondering “Hey, how come that guy got to carry an iPod?

We continued to run down Aubrey road, until we reached a man standing in the middle of the street, directing runners to the right to continue along the defined course. The volunteer was yelling, “Yeah guys! You can do it!”, when he stopped and looked at me, his head cocked to the side. His face lit up in a smile and he shouted “Aw come on man, you can do it too!! Follow ’em!” “Haha, nooo thanks,” I said, “I’m not gonna be running a marathon today.”

I continued running, but got no more than 100 meters down the road when I started hearing alot of clapping and cheering. “YAAYYY BJ!!! YOU CAN DO IT!!!” Oh god what now …

I looked up to see a friend and small group of people set up on the corner in lawn chairs, jumping up and down and clapping. I started shaking my head and waving my hands “No, no, I’m not in the race! See, look at my iPod!!” Some guys that were sitting with my friend drinking beers caught on when I finally ran up to them “… I thought something didn’t look right …” I explained to my friend that I forgot about the event and just had the unfortunate luck of timing my hangover run exactly with the last leg of the triathlon.

I ran down my usual path, but kept coming across triatheletes. Finally, I jumped off course and ran down towards Eely Point. Ahh, no way they’d be down here … But sure enough, they were running past again. A woman who had a house on the course was standing in her driveway, spraying the competitors with water from her hose. She readied her aqua-weapon and aimed it at me as I ran past. I shrinked back, and threw my hands up like Count Dracula against the light from an open window. “Don’t shoot!” When she realized I wasn’t in the race, she holstered the hose.

I finally emerged onto the main road back into town and saw what I was in for. Across the water I could see there was a large mob of people gathered around the finish line on Ardmore Street, on the waterfront. Racers were still coming towards me, and I really didn’t think I could stand any more crazed looks, so I just stopped running and walked into town.

My friends had a good laugh when I told them the story, and now anytime there’s a fun run, marathon or any type of group outdoor physical activity, they tell me I should show up near the finish line, run across and pretend I raced the whole course. And of cousre, I go around and tell everyone that I ran the Challenge Wanaka marathon.

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