Fritz Logan writes on his 2010 experience of taking part in the Hadlow to Harbour:
You're feeling good. You do a few knee-bends, breathe deeply. Yes! You're glad to be alive, glad to be here at Hadlow. The weather's perfect: cool, hazy, and with a light breeze. You do some stretches. You're relaxed but—no denying it—excited. And who's this? Why, it's the Geraldine contingent!
"Patrick! Lorna! Are you well? Are you fit?"
"Depends what you mean by 'fit.'"
The talk turns from fitness to super-fitness, from this 10K fun-run to some of the extreme runs taking place elsewhere on the planet: searing ultra-marathons across Death Valley and the Sahara, the fierce competitors slogging through the sandstorms, as good as dead without their water packs and plexiglass face shields.
"No need for them today, mate."
"Too right. No sandstorms forecast." Lorna nods to her right. "Hey, we've got company."
You look around, see that the crowd is now suddenly a thousand strong. Some of these have the distance runner's lean and hungry look; most of them look like us, full-figured and jolly in their groups' bright T-shirts: retailers and clubs and, appropriately enough, the South Canterbury District Health Board.
"Patrick," you say, "what's your goal?"
"Fifty minutes. Yours?"
"The finish line, whenever."
"Good man. The record is 29 minutes, by the way."
"We don't need that information, Patrick. Hey! There's the horn!"
And the run is on. You shuffle forward, packed in tight, thinking, Twenty-nine minutes, good grief. It'd take me that long just to fall down. . . . Patrick and Lorna have vanished through tiny gaps in the crowd. . . . You're moving along a bit faster too, now, weaving your way through the hilarious teams of friends, through the dog-walkers and pram-pushers, and around that St. Patrick's Day bunch with their huge green hats.
The first hill is behind you. Everyone is starting to warm up. The intersecting roads are now closer together; the paddocks have given way to tidy lawns and glorious gardens--roses and rhodies glowing in the strengthening sun.
You check your watch: half an hour already! That means the leaders are just about—well, never mind. You're getting tired. You're hot. But here's the drinks table. "Thank you!" Ahh. That's better. And, up ahead, there's the lady with the garden hose, high-schoolers splashing through the spray and squealing, a rainbow shimmering all around them. She points the hose and raises an eyebrow; you nod.
"EEEEEYAHOOOO!" That's much better. Hmm: this woman with the long dark hair and the pink pompoms on her running socks--where have you seen her before? Maybe here. She smiles.
"This is great!" she says, speeding up. "We're already at the half-way point, almost."
"That's right," you say, trying to keep pace. "Hey, didn't we have this same conversation last year, right about here?"
"I think we did!" she says. "Well, see you next year--same time, same place?" And she's off.
"It's a--" you gasp, falling back. "It's a date!"