Human excellence in the Marathon

On Sunday the 2nd of June the Christchurch Airport Marathon is going to see more than 5000 people strive to get to the finish line in the biggest running event in Christchurch. There will be young kids giving it a go in the Kids Mara’Fun, the 10k walkers and runners, the Half Marathon runners and those crazy people who choose to participate in that magical marathon distance of 42.195km. The Christchurch Airport Marathon is such a great event for our city as it gets all levels of exercisers out there giving it a go. 

Today I thought I would try to give you a perspective on what the top athletes will be feeling as they prepare and line up for their race. These are the athletes who are striving for a place on the podium, to beat the course records and who are trying to be first across the finish line. 

There’s something about human excellence which appeals to me. I think it’s a privilege to see high achievers do what they do best. One of the downfalls of watching high achievers in sport is that we usually see them when they are surrounded by other high achievers. This can dilute our ability to understand their greatness. I always think that they should have a lane at the Olympic running track events for a really good local athlete, that person in your local area who you consider to be an amazing runner. Put that person up against the elite athletes in an Olympics race and they would be out of sight in seconds. This would give perspective on athletic excellence. 

If we have a look at the current male world Marathon record we see that Patrick Makau of Kenya holds it in a time of 2:03:38, even as I write this, this time blows my mind away. Let me try and put this into perspective. Imagine you go to the gym and do a warm up on the treadmill, after your 5 minute warm up you programme the treadmill onto the speed of 20km, you jump on and see how long you can hold that pace. I would estimate that probably 70-90% of the population would be lucky to last a few seconds at that speed, they would be sprinting their fastest and holding on for dear life to hold this pace. I’m considered to be a really fit guy and I think I would be pushing it to hold on for somewhere between 3-5mins. Patrick Makau actually goes slightly faster than that for just over two hours! He sat on a 2:56km pace for that whole race, it’s phenomenal.

If we look at the female world record, Paula Radcliffe from the UK has done a 2:15:25 at a 3:12km pace. Once again my mind is blown away. The treadmill speed for you to try to beat is 18:75km. These athletes show us what human excellence is and they have tested their physical and mental selves to levels that 99% of us could never even understand. It’s an impressive thing to see. 

While we probably won’t see a world record time at the Christchurch Airport Marathon we will see some impressive top runners looking for that rare ‘perfect day’ performance that all athletes dream of. These guys and girls will be fast!

One of the special things about the Marathon is that the every day athlete can be out there competing and participating in the same race as the professionals. If you think about it, there aren’t many sports where the everyday athlete gets to be in the same event as the elite in that sport. We don’t get to tackle the All Blacks or try to block one of the basketball Breakers as they drive to the hoop in an important game. When you stand on the start line at the Christchurch Airport Marathon, you will be surrounded by some of the top runners in New Zealand and while you may not be able to experience what it’s like to run at their speed, you will be sharing a challenging day where all of you are hoping to do your best. 

So well done to everyone who has signed up to this iconic Christchurch sporting event, there will be some tough moments but when you see that finish line you will experience that amazing feeling that comes from taking on a great challenge. 


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Bevan Eyles