Marathon comes with death warning

16:00, Mar 12 2014

Warning: You will likely die.

You know how some things make you get goosebumps? While reading the safety briefing for 42-kilometre Motatapu Off-Road Marathon there was a bit in bold that definitely caused all the hair on my body to stand on end.

It read; "Last 6km to finish. This is a steep descent. There is a cliff on the right hand side that if you go over you will most likely die."


Then I looked at the elevation chart. My pulse quickened, my blood pressure shot up and a sick feeling stirred in the pit of my stomach. What the hell had I signed up for?

Fast-forward 12 hours and I'm on the start line.

I was also probably breaking every pre-race rule. I was in a new top, new socks, had made a last-minute shoe switch and had eaten a slightly different breakfast.


Within 30 minutes of starting, a sharp pain in my side left me winded. For the next kilometre I ran along making weird breathing noises and pushing on my side - I hadn't had stitch for months!

While I went down with a group of friends we all quickly dispersed. However, Sarah and I ended up doing the entire thing together.

The plan was race smarter, not harder.

We walked up a lot of the hills (as the majority of people apparently did), caught our breath on the downhill and sped along the few flat parts.

About 20km in my knees started giving me problems. A little alarm bell started going off in my head about the last 12km as downhill is my weak knees' worst enemy.

However, come 30km the grin didn't leave my face. In fact, I'm pretty sure my cheek muscles got as much of a workout as my legs!

At 36km I hit the area where there was a possibility of death. The adrenaline junkie in me escaped and I took a few small (quick) steps to the right-hand side to see this deathly drop.

Gulp. Backwards I scuffled.

My hill training paid off on the steep descent as I managed to stop my legs flailing about. This last section also took a lot longer than the rest of it as the majority of river crossings began - and as it turned out so did my favourite part.

The earlier river crossings had been fun, but multiple crossings wereawesome. The cold water soothed my burning legs, I dipped my buff in before pulling it back over my head to cool down and the game of not falling in stepped up a level.

Cyclists - who had merged with the runners - whizzed past me. But, in some cases, they fell prey to the depths of the water. Arms and legs flailed, bikes flung about and bodies unintentionally went swimming.

Yes, I didn't do the time I wanted, but did I care as I crossed the line? Not at all. 

If I had to describe the race in one word it would be stunning. Stunning scenery and location - honestly, I couldn't think of a more scenic run. 

And, to top it off, my friends and I all went for a dip in our running clothes in Lake Wanaka that afternoon - our very own ice bath.

If you have ever thought about doing Motatapu then just do it (thanks for the slogan Nike). 

I'm already looking forward to lining up at the start next year . . .

Thanks again to Complete Performance for help with my training. 

Did you do the Motatapu this year? What was your favourite part? Would you do it again? Comment below, email me on or follow me on Twitter @YoungRachelS

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