Gabby O’Rourke from Wellington recently raced the Lion Foundation Rotorua Marathon. The following interview gives an insight into how her race went…
How did the Rotorua Marathon go?
To be honest I found it a bit tougher out there than I'd hoped. I was in good shape leading up to the marathon, but from 15km it just felt harder than it should have. The head wind for the last 17km didn't help as I was on my own apart from the bike escort (the top three runners had cyclists with them), but I was grateful for even that. It was a matter of just hanging in and gaining strength from the amazing supporters I had out on the road.
How many Rotorua marathons have you now completed?
This is my fourth Rotorua Marathon. I've have two third placings before, so while it's my slowest, it's my best placing.
Her previous Rotorua Marathon places are: 1991 (3rd), 1994 (5th), 2004 (3rd)
How did this Rotorua compare with the others?
There didn't seem to be so many runners at my pace this time around, but it's been quite a while since I last raced the marathon at Rotorua so it's all a bit vague. I have really enjoyed taking part in the quarter marathon in past years and going out afterwards to support the marathoners, so it was good to be able to actually do the full this year.
It was really neat that there were record entries across the four events and to see a great turnout at the prize giving. The event is a great way to encourage people to get fit. I honestly admire people who struggle to exercise because for many it’s hard work, so I honestly hope they are proud of their achievements and use it to motivate themselves to keep up a fitness regime.
How did your training go prior to this marathon?
Training went really well which is why I'm a little disappointed my time wasn't closer to 2hr 50min. I'd had six months of solid training and a number of weeks at well over 160km, much of which was at effort including 30km split tempos, hard track workouts and long steady runs including a number of runs around Wellington's famous Makara loop.
Late February I ran my best half marathon by two minutes (1hr 17min 52sec) since 2004 and did a 16km time trial in 59mins four weeks out. Maybe I just overcooked by a week or so. I would've loved to have gone to Boston this year which was two weeks before Rotorua, but Mum's and my Division 5 Lotto win didn't quite cover the flight costs, so Rotorua was the next best option.
How did you feel early on and how did this compare with how you felt later in the race?
I felt good up to 10k. The km markers were a bit over the place so it was hard to know what the pace actually was - I was hoping to hold 4min/km for as long as I could. Lisa Robertson took off from the gun and Liza waited until the first hill before disappearing into the distance. At that stage I had some guys to run with but by half way I was struggling a bit and from 24k was on my own. The second half was only three minutes slower than the first so the slowdown wasn't as bad as it felt. I was really blessed with the most amazing support team.
My training partner Richard Brent and his partner were out supporting over the early stages then drove back to where the road reopens where Sarah Biss showed up with a "Go Gabby" sign along with my coach, Melissa Moon and Mum who had all travelled up from Wellington to support. Having them there spurring me on constantly over the latter part of the race and giving me splits and encouragement was just amazing. It really helped me stay strong mentally because that was a harder battle to fight.
There were lots of mind games going on including not wanting to let people down, telling myself I'd worked blimin hard for this and one that came up was that if I didn't finish, I wouldn't get the two week break after the marathon that I was REALLY looking forward to.
I was told post-race that it was great fun watching the race unfold - alright if you weren't out there! I thought my biggest fan (Mum) would be upset to see me suffering out there, but apparently she was loving the drama and got very excited when I caught up to Lisa. It was just the best feeling crossing the finish line and being able to veer straight over to her and give her the biggest hug. She knows how hard I've worked and knew the relief I felt at finishing in one piece and in the top three. Then my Dad appeared! I don't think he's ever seen me at any of my previous 43 or so marathons, but he was in Rotorua for a spell at QE Health and walked up to see me finish. It was very special and quite emotional to have Mum and Dad both there.
Was there any point when you thought that you might win?
Yes, but that was before the race started - LOL. Of course the goal is to go out and try to win and a part of me believed I had a chance, albeit an outside chance. You can't determine how well others are going to run so you just get out there and run the best out can.
I knew Liza (Hunter-Galvan) would be a really tough competition, as well as Lisa (Robertson) but felt she was taking a bit of risk running so soon after Japan, although she is also very strong.
I had to re-evaluate how I was running once I passed Lisa (Robertson) because I was starting to get a bit of cramp and didn't want to blow up totally and have someone from behind pass me. Given the huge gap ahead of me I figured I was running for second so eased back a little from about 35-39km just to play it safe then dug it in over the last 3km.
A marathon is a long way - what motivates you to race the 42.195 kilometres?
It's the only distance I can kind of hold my own in. Also I do really enjoy the long slog of training (most of the time). For some insane reason I look forward to long hard sessions - or maybe I look forward to the satisfaction they bring post run.
What are your upcoming racing plans?
I'm actually considering doing the Christchurch Full Marathon at Queen's Birthday. I've recovered so well. I had really hoped to be able to push myself so hard at Rotorua that I'd be sore for days but my legs feel fine so I'm just enjoying some down time and jogging once a day for 10 days before re-evaluating if it's realistic to have a crack at sub 2:50 down in Christchurch.
It's very weather dependent down there as I don't run well in the cold but it's also a really well organised event so I'll definitely go down - I'm just not sure if it'll be the half or the full. At 15km in Rotorua I said to myself that I was 'over' this marathon thing but after a 5k jog the day after the race I was already considering Christchurch. Meantime I'm am thoroughly enjoying the emotional break from intense training and seeing what it is to be more or less 'normal' - but only for a few more days. Kevin Ross (my coach) reckons that by the weekend I'll be biting at the bit to get back into some' real' training - I think 10 days is a nice number:)