It wasn’t all plodding along

Around the first of December, I was sidelined (from running, not walking) by a not very painful left metatarsal stress fracture (or maybe a stress reaction), a pretty common injury among runners, but the first one I’d ever had. I got it by feeling my oats and running too many miles beyond normal one day. A classic. A stupid. Unfortunately, a typical for me.

But walking, which I limited myself to, was no problem. No pain, no issues, no concerns. I might have had a problem if I’d followed Googled advice to wear grotesque protective footwear: “a stiff-soled shoe, a wooden-soled sandal, or a removable short-leg fracture brace shoe.” (On the other hand, I had been looking for the right pair of boots.) Tramping in New Zealand was fine, and I’m about to try to start my sun-up staggers again, gasping and moaning and once again bitterly envying that corps of ladies elegantly gliding their way along the roads while I look at months and months to get  back up to speed. (Well, not speed, but….)

All this is to explain why I didn’t run a mile at Wanganui, as I had at Oxford. I did, though, make a pilgrimage.

I wanted to pay my respects to Peter Snell, whose statue went up at Cook’s Gardens, I think at the same time the old grass track was replaced by a modern all-weather surface. Doing this was harder than I’d expected. I couldn’t find Pete. I wandered down along one grandstand, watched some young people playing soccer on the infield, exited the grounds thinking perhaps the statue was just out front, and decided to start asking around.

A lovely retired plumber who had emigrated from Nottingham in the early 1950s had a foggy general memory that such a statue existed, but was eventually forced to refer me to the good people at the St. Paul’s Church Community Centre Citizen’s Advice Bureau (otherwise wonderfully known as Te Pokapū Whakahiki Pātai mai i te Iwi Whānui). They, just across the street from the park, had not the foggiest clue, and sent me along the road to the Wanganui District Council, where, thankfully, explicit directions included everything but a GPS coordinate. Unfortunately, I still couldn’t find Pete (bodes well for walking across Scotland, eh?). Scannings, wanderings, wonderings. Finally, there he was, tucked in halfway up the stands at the end of the back straight.

Here I am, explaining to Sir Peter that his arm action could use a little work. He hardly blinked an eye. I think he was chuffed to learn that a young Wellington bartender and I had several days earlier agreed that he (Snell, not the bartender) was the greatest miler of all time.

(I also went to the Waitakeres, north of Auckland, where Arthur Lydiard trained Snell, Halberg, Barry Magee and others on the hilly winding roads and trails. It was easy to see what wonderful and challenging training terrain this is. And there were lots of runners and cyclists out doing their things.)
Lots of dissolute living during these second two weeks. There were palm trees. (Here at Rotarua).

There was good food in lovely places, as here in Blenheim at the lovely outdoor bistro at the Hans Herzog winery.

And there was utter dissipation, here with a nice Sauvignon Blanc in the spa at  Blenheim’s terrific Argrove Lodge.

And, as the ads say, MUCH, MUCH more!

I loved New Zealand. I’d go back in a flash. Or on Air New Zealand. Either way. But soon, please.


It wasn’t all plodding along — 1 Comment

  1. What a great post. I thoroughly enjoy these world-wide pilgrimages of yours. So – okay Peter Snell was pretty good, but what about the more modern rivals – Seb Coe and Steve Ovett? Thrilling racers!

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