When I was in high school, it was some perverse joy of US gym teachers to round up the class full of awkward, sweaty teenagers, spend months teaching them how to throw a ball into a hoop or how to hold a hockey stick, and then with no endurance training, let them loose on a track and tell them they will be timed as they stumble their way through a mile. I could barely do it; even two years ago, I could barely run five miles (8 km).
And so it’s a wonderful thing that here in Tonga - where you walk a block to a meeting and when you arrive, you’re greeted with exclamations of “you walked all the way?” - I am proud to say I ran a half-marathon, through the ancient capital of Tonga.
We arrived just after eight at the Ha’amonga, a huge and mysterious trilithon near Niutoua on the East end of the island, to a group of brightly-clad, stretching marathoners. The half-marathon was named the “Officially Unofficial East End Ha’amonga Half Marathon,” and was dreamed up, organized, and run by several friends of ours wanting a challenge. Mark and I trained for about two months beforehand – well, I should say Mark jogged easily alongside me while I trained – but I’d come down with a nasty flu two weeks ago and was still just recovering. But, since this was the first time I felt I could actually run a half-marathon without dying, I had to give it my best; finishing was my goal.
|Asa led the pack of runners on his bike so he could time everyone's finish|
|Coming up to the water station halfway through|
|One of the ancient tombs|
|We all collapsed and ate lunch at the end of the race|
It was a great experience – and several firsts! A first for me to do any kind of distance running event, and a first for Asa, who biked the whole way, after not knowing how to ride a bike before he arrived. Mark very patiently and encouragingly ran alongside me the whole 21km (13m), even as we came in last!
|Everyone dipped their feet in the ocean next to 'Anahulu Cave at the finish|