The Athletics New Zealand year goes from April to March and so we may as well start with the end of March/beginning of April. That’s the kick-off of the harrier season: road training quickly leads into the cross-country season – relays, handicap and scratch races (all starting together), on grass and trails. This ends around the end of July. Then it’s back to the roads again with relays, handicap and scratch races.
The club encourages everyone to participate in the club away trips: the North Island Cross Country Championships in early July and the National Road Relays in early October (shifted to early September this year to avoid the pressures of the Rugby World Cup). Other away trips include the Rotorua Marathon, and the National Cross Country and Roads Championships (not as widely attended as the first two).
By early October, we blow the whistle on the harrier season and migrate to the track for sprints, longer distance racing and field events. That all ends in the last week of March. All through this (but outside the official harrier/track programmes) are road races, off-road races, multisport, triathlons and the occasional mountain race.
Handicap races are structured so that each competitor, of whatever ability, has a chance of winning the race. In the normal open handicapping, the slowest runners start off at scratch (or when the gun goes) and faster runners may start up to 20 minutes later. If the handicapping is spot on and everyone performs to the handicapper’s expectations, we should all finish together in a tight bunch at the end of the race. The following notes briefly describe the club’s handicap races.
Le Gaye Cup (Island Bay)
This handicap race (walkers and runners) is run slightly differently from the other handicap races throughout the season. It is a sealed handicap, meaning that everyone’s handicap is unknown before the start of the race. We all start together and the handicap is added to the finishing time. The person with the lowest total time is declared the winner. This 4.8k road race has one short, sharp hill 750m into the race with a rise of 55m (up Severn St South and down Robertson St). The remainder of the race is flat, curling back past the start and finishing on Mersey. The J-team race is around the Medway, Humber and Mersey Streets area. (One of my puzzles is the spelling of the name Le Gay. It’s spelt this way on the cup, but most of the club’s written historical material refers to Le Gaye. We need an historian to sort this one!). The map below is from my Garmin, measured with only GPS accuracy at 4.69k on the day.
Novice Cup, Galashiels Trophy (Eastbourne)
There are two sections in this race, one for past winners of club trophies (Galashiels), and the other for those who have yet to win one (Novice). This 5k race is run over a variety of terrain, including roads, an uphill bush track and Days Bay beach. The walk heads along the roads to the south. 5k running race records: Men: Dave Hatfield, 15:26 (1981); Women: Melissa Moon, 17:41 (2006); Junior men: Tim Hodge, 15:51 (2006); Junior women: Caroline Mellsop, 19:55 (2010). Measured by GPS, the distance is 4.94k and the elevation of the climb through the bush at the back of Williams Park is 60m.
Baudinet Cup (Titahi Bay)
The seniors’ 9.7k (or so) race is the most challenging, but also the most rewarding, and most popular, of the handicap races. The race is run over a mixture of road, farm tracks and beach. The race has a tough hill of about 1.6k in length starting at 6k and then finishes with a fast down-hill section and a return to the beach. A memorable race in the yearly calendar.
The under 20s have a sealed handicap 3.8k race down Te Pene Avenue and up Main Road, starting on Toms and then going to Tiriti Road. J-Teamers have their own race of about 2k.
Ballantyne Cup (Lower Hutt)
The senior distance is 9.14k measured by a GPS watch in 2010. Head through Strand Park, over the Railway Bridge and along the stop bank sealed path on the west side of the Hutt River, under the High St bridge until the fence. Go down to the gravel path back nearly to the bridge and then repeat the loop along the stopbank and the lower path. Go under the bridge and along the messy path near the river, cross the railway bridge back to the east side stop bank and finish on the asphalt path near the start. The under-20 race is 2 laps of the Railway/Ewen Bridge circuit (5.25k), while the under-14 race is 1 lap (2.62k). Walkers: same as under-20 race, but you stay on the top of the stopbank on the Strand Park side (about 5.26k). Probably the best shoes are road shoes – there is lots of asphalt. Pack a polyprop as we have often run into a southerly at this event.
Tanadees Cup (Evans Bay)
This flat 8k (4k for under 20s) race is held over an out-and-back course on the footpath from the Zephyrometer on the corner of Evans Bay Parade and Cobham Drive in Kilbirnie to Oriental Bay and back. For the past two years, we have changed the course a little (to avoid the northerly!): head one kilometre or so towards the airport and back and then three k or so north to the Balaena Bay carpark and return to the Zephyrometer. We meet first at the Kilbirnie Aquatic Centre.