How running cured my post-quake blues
I love running in the rain.
Nothing makes me feel more alive than the cold sting of rain drops on bare skin and the rhythmic pounding of trainer- clad feet on tarmac, as I weave my way through wispy clouds of cold breath hanging in the frigid air.
Wrapped up after a hot shower, tired and cosy, I feel on top of the world.
Running when the heavens thunder down is just one of the delights I have discovered in the two short years since I began putting one foot quickly in front of another.
I consider myself a novice runner.
I have only one marathon under my belt and struggle to run anything more than 10 kilometres in one hour.
But what I lack in speed and ability, I make up for in dogged determination and boundless enthusiasm.
The first time I set out on the road was a shock to the system.
It was late June 2011, just four months after the February earthquake and a little under four months since a long-term relationship had abruptly ended.
I was working long hours in a cramped, smelly portacom by a noisy road, covering some pretty harrowing stories.
Jack Daniels and I had developed a mutually exclusive relationship and I would eat a bar of chocolate instead of cooking dinner. I had turned into a human hybrid of a distillery-chocolate factory.
Enough was enough and it was time to take action before my horse started buckling under the chocolate bulk.
One night I dug out a pair of tracksuit pants with visions of running for 30 minutes around the block.
I managed to run for 30 seconds between lamp-posts - my lungs burning and chest feeling like it was about to explode.
Undeterred, I kept up the attempts to run and after two weeks I managed a slow kilometre using copious power walking and bursts of running.
Almost every night I would shut the front door behind me and face the streets, come rain or plummeting temperatures.
During the snow of August 2011 I took off around the park with two plastic bags inside an old pair of trainers to keep my feet dry.
Then suddenly it was spring and I could run 5 kilometres without having to break for a walk.
As the evenings grew longer and the bitterness passed from the air, I found I had enough energy to ride my horse and go for a decent run afterwards.
One night after I took him back to his paddock I decided to run to the gate, an extra few metres to add to the route.
He quickly took off behind me and before I knew it, I had a running buddy.
Soon the gentle pinto was trotting alongside me once a week as we wound our way through pine-tree plantations and meandered round quiet, leafy paddocks in the balmy summer.
The companionship is delightful. He plants his huge face beside mine and I listen to his deep, hay-scented breaths as we run along, putting the world right together.
Occasionally we have to stop to investigate a rouge tree stump or a mysterious shadow that threatens the existence of equine-kind.
Other times we stop simply to soak up the surroundings and listen to the birds quietly singing and the wind gently rustling through the trees.
Now, almost two years since that first intrepid 15-metre run, I can run 10 kilometres to my horse, ride him, have a good gossip with my girlfriends, and run home again.
I have run a full marathon, a challenging and tough 42.2 kilometres. I didn't break any records but I didn't break down either.
On a recent break in Hanmer Springs I went running for an hour with my outdoor-education instructor boyfriend, just for fun.
Jack and I don't see each other very often these days and chocolate has turned from a prime nutritional source into a once-in-a-while treat. Running on a bellyful of Whittaker's really slows you down.
Above all, I get an incredible kick from being fit enough to run for hours, whatever the weather and whoever I am running with.