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Christchurch running repairs

At seven fifty five am its still dark and pretty bloody cold.

The big black speakers boomp out a rhythm of muted bass thuds, rather comforting. Like a big collective heart beating somewhere. People drift in by ones and twos, shuffling beneath the ruined cathedral and the scaffolding of structures still waiting to be finished. They’re used to waiting in Christchurch; this time only until eight o’clock, when something definite and positive will happen, when we’ll all move forward together.

The first New Zealand mid winter marathon was run in this city, in 1978. The event has continued to be held ever since, derailed from its usual course by the earthquake, now back to its inner city route. I’d been wanting to run this course for years, but when the June date came round there was always some meeting or gig or other commitment taking priority.

As if on cue a nicer than average gig in Palmerston North beckoned, too bad, this year the race comes first. While I can still sort of run. Having done my final full marathon I dithered over taking on the half and just signed up for the 10 k this time.

Very glad I decided to come down.

ASB Christchurch is a fantastic event. Huge, well organised, with the added challenge of mid winter mainland weather. Today was actually not too bad, windless, with rain impatiently holding off. We lined up at the start, jiggling, nervous, all facing our various uncertain. Seconds before the instruction to “go!”, the lightest drizzle began fluttering down. This persisted for the first hour, affording most of the 10k runners a dryish journey. Soon after, the clouds dropped their load on the rest of the field and the heroic stationary volunteers.

Along we ran through Christchurch. Past the empty lots where prequake houses had once been, past half built buildings with the air of being abandoned mid project as too difficult to finish. Past the metal road block barriers, over rough stretches of surface full of quick fix pothole fills. At several points we were bhoyed up by drummers in opened fronted tents. One guy soloing on a full kit, a group of five hand drummers with two other musicians on shakers. The beats could be heard blocks away, running in time with them provided a territfic lift. Here and there, groups of folks waited with hand printed signs “Go nana!”, “Go Carol” . Some younger people’s placards read “The best things in life are sweaty” and “This time I want you to finish first”. After half an hour the runners who’d over dressed were shedding jackets. My “Workers should be running the country “ T shirt prompted “Like your top” and “Aint that the fucking truth”. There were several Batman ( and women) outfits, a fluffy blue onzie and at one stage a large lady glided past me trailing big butterfly wings.

Hagely park was sombre, dripping and muddy. Still one of my favourite spots in New Zealand.

Almost all too soon the finish line stood ahead, flanked by rows of waving cheering people. Some finishers highfiving a series of strangers as they triumphantly came in. Beyond the finish we stumbled to a halt. Milling about in our homo sapien hundreds, half naked, devouring bananas. I went away, showered, changed and returned to watch the marathoners finish. My pick of the bunch was a smiling young woman coming in weighed down by a full pigs outfit, holding up a sign on a stick demanding NO FACTORY FARMING.

At prize giving the head race organiser welcomed the return of the race to its pre quake route and said we were rebuilding the event just like we were re building Christchurch. The guy meant well, but I fear it will be ages before the neglected, lied to , defrauded people of Christchurch get the rest their city back up to the standard of their marathon. My thanks to the organisers, and especially to Sarah and Carl for looking after me so well. Looking forward to Christchurch 2019.

© Scoop Media

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