The Last Day…

31 Jan

So the day finally came…61 kilometers from Cape Reinga.  As I mentioned, I was staying with the wonderful Rippingale family in Waihopo, a tiny TINY township north of Kaitaia.  The morning was ripe, and Jane, the Rippingale mother of 4, had a energetic breakfast waiting for me! I ate and just as I was departing, (at 6:30 AM!) their whole family emerged to see and cheer me off!  Throughout the whole run, I really didn’t have much of a physical cheering section.  I had tons of internet support and I am truly grateful for this, but having people yelling and screaming in proximity is just a different experience.  Hearing this encouragement for something so dear to me and that I put so much time and effort in to, was certainly one of the highlights of my run.  In the past I had played sports in front of 1-2 thousand people, and hearing cheers is something I am no stranger to, but this time eclipsed them all, despite being 2 adults, two teens, one 10 year old and a toddler shouting from their porch:-D

After some pics, I commenced the finale.  Little did I know that this run would make the top 3 toughest days!  I was told that the peninsula leading to the Cape was sad dunes.  I was thinking, majestic rolling sandy hills, with the occasional coastal view and photo opportunity.  The views and photo ops were there, minus the rolling hills.  More like near vertical climbs, tight switchbacks, and air drier than an Egyptian sarcophagus.  I took my first rest about 38 km into the run and realized that the larger of my two water bladders was empty.  I started rationing the remainder of my hydration which made it hard to swallow and eat the nutrition necessary to complete the day/run.  Oh, and did I mention it was about 30 degrees Centigrade(85 degrees Farenheit) after running in 60-70 degree Farenheit weather for the last 2 months.

Ok, enough complaining.  I ran all Christmas day starting early morning, resting around mid day and approached the Cape after about 8 hours.  The scenery was breathtaking and I had to stop several times to absorb the last few hours of my journey.  I stopped at a turnoff and was approached by some Asian tourists who asked for several pictures of me.  They had been traveling the 90 Mile Beach/Northland area for several days and had seen me on the road every day they were there.  Others stopped to see if I needed some water or a ride and I respectfully declined with a smile.  It’s all about the little things.

On a different level, the last day of running was a roller coaster.  At times simply surreal: losing contact with reality; semi-out-of-body experiences; lack of emotion completely.  Other times brought flooding, awe-striking sensual overloads: views from road sides only observed from certain angles at slow speeds; cycadas eerily clicking from all-sides, drowning every thought; pounding sunshine sucking the moisture from my pores.  Then came the effervescent affections: euphoric states of uncontrollable rancing(running + dancing); leaky eyes from the despair of remembering a lost father and his words of encouragement; the ecstasy of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel within an arms-reach; the evocation of strength in the realization that my father’s ultimate existence is through me, that his efforts of perpetuating his mark on the world lies in my ability to portray what it means to be his son; the fear and drive of recognizing that this is only the beginning (a beginning to what, I am not sure, but a beginning nonetheless).

Then I finished…and no matter how hard I tried to invoke excessive emotion, the only true feeling I had was thirst.

Cape Reinga is a popular tourist location and, even though it was Christmas Day, many had taken the drive to check out the northern tip of the country.  There is only one road going to the Cape, so anyone headed north that day saw me running.  Thus, I arrived with people staring.  A look of uncertainty, mixed with a dash of judgment, and a hint of gratefulness that they were a distance from my stinky sweaty person.  Eventually many of those looks succumbed to their curiosity and several groups of tourists approached me with questions of why.  After nearly 1 year of explaining my journey, I found myself on auto-pilot, telling of why running, and why New Zealand, and how heavy is my pack, and how many shoes have I gone through.  I tried to show as much appreciation as possible while still catching my breath and satisfying my thirst.

Eventually, I made my way to the light house at the end of the trail.  And sat down.  For about 30 minutes.  Didn’t really think about much.  Looked at the seas, the pole that points in random directions informing you that this/that great city is x kilometers away, the people there snapping shots of that one time in NZ.  Just as I worked up the courage to ask a couple if they would take some pictures of me, they beat me to the punch and asked the question of me.  So I did and they reciprocated for me, as the conversation lead to me spilling my story. Turns out they were from California too and offered me a ride south, but the wonderful Rippingale’s were en route to pick me up so I declined and began my walk back to the parking lot.  There I saw Jane and her two youngest running down to meet me on the path to the lighthouse snapping pics and hooting and hollering, telling everyone on her way about what I had just done.  It was great to see people who actually knew me again, and once again there were tourists asking about me and my journey.  I was more myself by now and happily responded to their questions while taking pictures and enjoying the interaction.

All in all, I am amazed I can recall this much from the day.  It was a blur, but then it was slow-going and painstaking.  I am ever-perplexed by this dichotomy of time.  Things feel so close and so far at the same time.  They feel so lightning fast and painfully slow in retrospect.  But they feel…and that’s what matters, I guess.  Ok, now I’m just ranting.

So we headed back to the Rippingale House and to my surprise and delight, some homemade Thai food awaited!  I munched and called my family back at home who were having Christmas Eve celebrations while attempting to document my emotions and happenings.  The rest of the evening flashed by and I found myself the next morning slowly realizing it was over.  OVER?!?!  Yeah, over 🙂

So the aftermath.

At this point, just over a month from the last day of running, I am still putting off the actual donation of the funds ($8500 raised; $4000+ donatable funds) until a few media connections workout and for some more funds to roll in.  What media connections, you ask? I am part of a Fraternity known as Phi Kappa Psi and I was recently interviewed for a feature article in our quarterly fraternity-wide publication, The Shield.  Huge thanks to Mike Gawley and any other Ca-Mu brothers who helped in landing this, and to Will Haskett at the Phi Psi National HQ for approaching his media editor and for finding time to hop on the computer and listen to me rant about my event.  Another huge shout out to Willie Lose at Radio Sport Auckland, Newstalk ZB, for approaching his producer about giving me a chance to preach about my event on his Saturday afternoon sports radio show.  Massive publicity boost!  Thanks to everyone who helped getting the word out…my words can not express the extent of my gratitude.

This about ties up the post.  Will be posting when the pictures go up on Facebook and when the money is donated, or any other related happenings.

WOW, I can’t believe it’s over…

Thanks to everyone out there who has kept up on my event and my posts.  It truly means the world to me!

Big Cat OUT!


One Response to “The Last Day…”

  1. Matthew Butler January 31, 2012 at 1:38 PM #

    Congrats Phil! Way to go.

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