The Dividends of Conquering Mountains

The Great Hakka Marathon

Standing there on the start line surrounded by fog-encompassed mountains and the World Heritage Hakkas, your tiredness from your midnight arrival in this mountain oasis becomes but a distant wisp of fresh air. Your pollution filled lungs, post Beijing and Shanghai running, are having a party of their own!

As the gun goes off, the energy from the last hour’s photo shoot is quintupled as you set off into the cool, wet conditions, uncertain as to what terrain to expect. The start is very run able, so you set out at your comfortable sweet spot pace of 4min14km/sec. Given your small accident with the washing machine and your headphones the other day, you have no other choice but to share the beats of your featured song for this race on repeat, ‘Tonight.’ It’s hard to tell if this is the driving factor or whether it’s more a cultural thing in speed races in China, but you soon find two southern Chinese men running just a little too close into your comfort zone bubble. You try to close your eyes and focus on the positive energy. As you pass through each of the World Heritage Hakkas and villages, you are grateful you are running sans headphones to soak in this community here, all outside their homes to cheer you on for the biggest event of the year for them.

A few slips and slides on this trail and wet cobble, but otherwise you’re loving this net downhill; where Larissa comes to life — wee! As you’re bopping along, with your two supportive runners in your comfort zone bubble holding the pace for you on both sides, you exchange your first words:

“Here, young lady. I’d like you to have my hat.” The tanned man direct the comment at you in his perfect Chinese, taking off his triangle hat to reveal a sweaty cap.

“Oh thank-you. You are too kind. I am too warm to put any more gear on!” You politely decline in your conversational Chinese.

You pass 10km in a 2017 PB of 40 min48 seconds. You feel great, simply running this race to feel, knowing the second half will be net uphill.

At the turnaround, you follow one of your buddies turning right. It is a mere few seconds that pass before you are jumped on by one of the volunteers redirecting you left for your race.

“Bye friendly man,” you quietly say to yourself as he runs off into the distance.

The last half, whilst net uphill (your biggest weakness in running), is so energizing. You get to greet and cheer all the runners soaring toward you on their way out to half way, high fives and photos all round. One runner, whom you met only days before at RunnersHai Shanghai, stops to take a photo of you. “You’re coming first!” he screams excitedly.

Grabbing some bananas here and there, you bring this race home as hard as you can. Conquering your biggest weakness, hills, you cross the finish line as first lady to be swarmed by selfie requests and interviews.

Standing firm after a good twenty minutes of this, you politely make your way to get changed into some warm dry clothes and cheer on the other runners!

A big thank-you to Macquarie University Sports for this opportunity. To the acts of kindness from some of the other internationals when I got lost trying to find my host’s accommodation after the race; I never got your name but thank-you. And to Eva; you’re support was above and beyond.