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Michael Smith – Moonlight wrapup

This time last week, I was standing on the beach of Skippers Canyon waiting for the start of the Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon. While I was anxious in the lead-up I was reasonably calm on the day. As calm as you can be, with 42 km and 2500 m of climbing between you and the finish at Moke Lake.

The forecast was nor-west with a southerly change, with a potential downpour at 11 am. The storm didn’t eventuate, with the weather staying mild, with a refreshing drizzle for the final three hours. I was grateful it wasn’t a 30 degree Central Otago Day.

The race started with a gentle stroll along the canyon edge, before heading steeply away from the Shotover onto some narrow tracks which contoured across the landscape. The terrain was an interesting mix of rocky outcrops, water races, tussock fields, beech forests, and river beds.


Looking back towards Stoney Creek Siphon, about 5 km into the race

There was no pressure to run up any of the hills, and I found them actually relaxing and an opportunity to eat and recover. My breathing was under control, and was able to work the bigger leg muscles, rather that burning the calves. Before the race I’d bought a new pack with bottles on the front, and they proved to be a winner, with refills at aid stations only taking a few seconds.


The first real climb of the day. Plenty more to come!

Before making it to Moonlight Lodge and Ben Lomond station there was a glorious scree descent before heading into the river. The ankle gaiters proved to be a winner as well.

By the time I made it to the lodges, I was starting to slow down. Despite eating and drinking a lot, my head was hurting a little. One of my friends caught up to me and we ran together for a bit. He’s a veteran of multiple Kepler Challenges, and I was thinking perhaps he is a bit older and wiser than me and better at pacing, but he said he was struggling with some of the terrain.

The climb up to The Point was long, but pretty. There were a few more false summits than expected.  The descent  to Moonlight Creek was the low-light of the day. It was long and steep, and my quads were screaming. The slog back up Sefferstown Hill was a welcome relief.

The last 5 km along Moke Creek was lonely. The people I had been running with for the last hour had disappeared into the distance. Each creek crossing sucked a little more energy. At this stage it’s a mental game.


Descending towards ‘Death ridge’. Not really that deadly, but a neat track.

The finish

My time was 7:29:14, which put me 29/42 in my category and 58/132 overall. Not too bad for my first marathon of any description.

I wasn’t feeling too beaten up (apart from the quads), and was generally in an ok mood. I was disappointed for slowing down at the end.

After a shower, nice dinner with friends in Arthur’s Point, and an early night I was felling better.

The drive back to Christchurch was nicely broken up with a leisurely raft down the Tekapo River with Whitewater Canoe Club (WWCC) who where there for a recreational  dam release. It was a hot day and the water was a welcome relief.

Notes for next time

  • Don’t start too far back. There were lots of people going really slowly down some non-technical descents. I’m not sure if this is because the 30 km and 42 km events start together, or just lots of people aren’t used to this sort of terrain (which was the easiest of the course!) Going slow wastes time and energy. Fortunately I was able to sneak past on the outside.
  • Don’t start too fast. I felt really good for the first 15 km, but perhaps should have taken in a little easier and paced myself.
  • Train for downhill. My quads were smashed at the end.
  • Keep the hips loose. Kayaking is not the ideal training for running. (I knew this beforehand…). Running on narrow tracks particularly works the hips.
  • Have fun.

Not a bad fake smile, for 5+ hours into the event