Noumea is the capital of New Caledonia, a small island not far away from Australia (2hrs from Brisbane). It’s French Polynesia and has that brilliant mix of golden beaches, warm sun and awesome French food. It’s a paradise!!!
So as you can imagine when I received an invitation to race the 32nd Noumea International Marathon I instantly jumped at the chance! (hat tip to Mr Brendan Davies and Verity Breen for the recommendation too).
After getting back from Europe I have struggled with the damage that Ice Trail Tarantaise had done to my body and my training was, at best, haphazard. However my body came good at the 11th hour and I managed to get in at least 1 good week of training before the marathon. (training log here)
I wasn’t sure what to expect in Noumea, I knew that there was a rich history of New Zealand, Australian and Japanese runners who frequented the podium in Noumea and their times ranged from low 2.20s to mid 2:30s.
This year at the top of the men’s field was a couple of NZ boys, Johan and David both with PB’s at the 2:30 mark, a New Caledonian local Ludovic and then the Japanese bullet Takahiro who had a half marathon PB of 1:04 and was on debut in Noumea for the marathon. With a heap of prize money on offer it was sure to be a battle to the bitter end in this tropical paradise!
Now unlike the usual “big city” marathons the Noumea race had a very friendly and laid back feel, including a very entertaining pasta party the day before delivered in three different languages and topped off with a spectacular performance form a Japanese drumming band!
Before long race day rolled around and we awoke early to an overcast and slightly cooler than usual day for Noumea, still warm but not the 30deg temps it could have been. My nutrition plan for the race was pretty simple, an Endura Gel every 20mins and a bottle of Endura’s new Performance Fuel at every 5km to wash it all down. The race was catered for well with drink stations every 3-5km and the option for personalized bottles to placed at every station if needed.
The course had some changes for this year and was now a 3 lapped course, out and back along the stunning foreshore of Noumea that included 4 hills per lap to keep you honest!
I lined up shoulder to shoulder with the NZ boys and surrounded in a sea of Japanese runners! The starters gun fired and we were all OFF!!. Instantly Takahiro shot to the front and quickly off in to the distance with a large pack of half marathoners chasing. I settled into a comfortable pace with the New Caledonian runner on my shoulder and the NZ boys not far behind.
It remained the four of us for quite a while working together as we ticked off the first lap and a half of the course. The kilometres seemed to fly by as I found myself getting caught up in the scenery of the New Caledonian coast line and had to keep reminding myself I was meant to be racing!
At about the 28km mark things got interesting, until now I wasn’t working hard but then again things weren’t exactly feeling easy either. I spun around a turning can and powered out of the turn and without trying started to drop some 3:30s. I am not sure if it was my nutrition plan kicking into play or my Ultra experience coming to the fore but the change in pace quickly blew our little pace group apart and in a matter of a few kilometres over some hills I had dropped everyone and was now alone and sitting comfortably in 2nd place….WOW where did that come from?
A couple of kilometres later I saw Takahiro coming back in the other direction and he wasn’t looking so good. I spun around the second last turning can and headed out for the last out and back on the hilly section of the course before the finish.
Running into the hills a fellow runner shouted out that Takahiro looked toasted and I was gaining! Spurred on by this I put the hammer back down and the chase was on, I pushed the uphills harder and used my down hill running to descend fast. Takahiro came into view and I could tell he was on struggle street, sure enough I passed him at the 37km mark and he didn’t challenge my passing.
Now unimaginably I was in first, leading the Noumea International Marathon, off 1 week of training, I couldn’t believe it! But with Takahiro and his 1:04 PB plus the NZ boys in hot pursuit I wasn’t taking anything for granted and kept the pace hot until I entered the spectator lined streets surrounding the Hippodrome finishing area.
I strode across the line in 2:39 and in 1st place! The time was far from a PB but given the course had 700m+ of climbing and some keen competition I was extremely happy with the result!
The Noumea experience didn’t stop at the finish line though as I enjoyed the extremely well stocked recovery area including a great post-race massage.
The Noumea International Marathon really is a great event and I can’t speak highly enough about its atmosphere and location. It is so close to Australia but a true tropical paradise with great food, lovely people and activities to suit the whole family. If you’re considering a tropical holiday and want to combine it with a brilliant event then perhaps look into the Noumea Marathon and I might see you there next year!
Shorts: Ron Hill Advance Racers
Socks: Compressport Pro racing sock
Shoes: Adidas Adios Boost
1x Endura Gel every 20min
1x small bottle Endura Performance Fuel every 5km