Brace for the cold, then race
Former Olympic Games runner Liza Hunter-Galvan tossed her beanie and gloves to her mum yesterday on her way to her fourth consecutive Christchurch Airport marathon title.
Lalita Hunter – a first-time entrant in the 10km walk at 67 – needed her daughter's winter woollies.
The temperature teetered around minus 2 degrees Celsius at 8.30am yesterday when more than 4000 runners and walkers coaxed frigid limbs into motion at the start line on frost-coated Orchard Rd.
Elite athletes stuck to their singlets – some literally – on the first official day of winter. But weekend warriors, unconcerned with aerodynamics, wisely donned warmer garb.
Evergreen Wellington athlete Gabrielle O'Rourke, the women's half-marathon winner, rated the conditions at the start of the race as the chilliest of her long career.
She quipped that she couldn't feel her feet in the first 5km. The 47-year-old – who won the full Christchurch marathon title in 1994 – said it was the first time in many years she had contemplated wearing tights.
"I don't remember wearing arm warmers and a long-sleeved top in a race before. It was freezing, but hey, the upside was, it wasn't windy."
The athletes almost needed ice skates down Savills Rd in shady spots framed by a row of hedges. Men's marathon winner Sam Wreford was "basically just down to a walk in patches, wobbling over the road, trying to find a dry spot". But it didn't stop Wreford recording a personal best of 2hr 16min 28 sec.
Runnerup Steven Lett said the ice was so tricky he felt "like a giraffe", trying to find his feet.
The first finishers in the 10km race flashed home before the sun was out. Their lips were still blue, but a singlet-clad men's champion Matt Harris quipped that "at least you didn't need to worry about hydration".
The freezing conditions didn't faze men's half-marathon race winner Callan Moody. "I love the cold, I'm from Dunedin."
O'Rourke, who has won three Christchurch half-marathon crowns, struck a chord with the crowd when she said the event was "all about participation. The elites are just the icing on the cake".
Hunter-Galvan reckons it's made for people like her mum. "She came from a different culture where women weren't encouraged to be active. She's taken up walking for her health and fitness, and she enjoys it."
The Olympian finished in 2hr 43min 40sec – her fastest time in Christchurch – but she waited another hour for "mum to get in".