A pledge between two high school boarders of more than half a century ago will lead to two women making their marathon debuts on Saturday when most in their age group opt for more placid pursuits.
Former Westbrook School teacher Beryl Cleland and her long-time Gisborne friend Karen Pewhairangi both turn 70 later this year but superannuitant status hasn't dimmed their athletic aspirations.
Mrs Cleland first thought of walking the marathon when her daughter Robyn Binnie was involved in athletics in the late 1970s and her interest was re-ignited when she volunteered at a drinks station near Taniwha Springs over several years.
"We used to wait until all the walkers had gone through then rush back to see the finish. I said to myself then that I'd do it one day but it has taken a long time - with the years moving on I thought I better get cracking."
Dubbed The Pink Princess because of the colour of her gear, Beryl began her serious training in October under the guidance of marathon king Colin Smyth and wife Pat who will join the Survivors Club when she completes her 15th on Saturday.
"They've been absolutely fantastic in helping me out and I've walked in so many beautiful places during the training," she said.
A half marathon in the Whakarewarewa Forest last month in under three hours has given her confidence that she was on target. "I was over the moon with that and if everything goes to plan I hope to do the marathon in six and a half hours."
The walking group celebrated the end of their serious training with a champagne breakfast on Sunday and will reassemble for a fish and chip dinner on Thursday.
More than 1700 have entered the event which cements its status as the leading marathon in New Zealand. By late last week a total of 700 entries had also been received for the 5 and 10km walks which are staged in conjunction with the marathon.
- © Fairfax NZ News