Finally, I made up my mind to sign up for the Aoraki Mt Cook half marathon event held on 23 Sept 2017. In this post, I will share my personal experience and itinerary, as well as some tips to join the race on a tight budget.
Mt Cook is located in South Island and is the highest mountain in New Zealand. In my opinion, Mt Cook is one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand and is a paradise for anyone who loves hiking and enjoys stunning mountain views.
The Mt Cook Marathon is listed as one of the world’s most beautiful road marathons in Runners World Magazine. But, this is also the most expensive running event that I have been so far – about NZD$500 including flight tickets (from Wellington), bus transportation, accommodation and entry fee. I had been thinking for a few months and finally registered to this event on 9 Sept as the birthday present for myself. 🙂
Before the race started
The 21km Half Marathon, 10km and 5km will start at 10am which is a bit late for me, because I hate to run under the sun in the noon. Well, I admit that I am a bit different from other people because I prefer running in the cold while many people love the sun.
It turns out to be a very sunny day. A few thousand people come for this event in Mt Cook.
During the race
The road is mainly flat so it is very easy to run, plus the event is quite well-organised. Also, the scenery is stunning… what a beautiful backdrop to run in! No wonder it is such a popular race that attracts people from all over the world.
However, the weather was so hot because of the blazing sun; in hindsight, I should wear a short. There are many water stations at the beginning and end of the race (same spots because it is a loop), but I felt that there were not enough water stations between 5km to 15km – only one water station from my memories. I was so thirsty and hungry at that time.
By the way, I like that they provided power snacks because I was so hungry and had 3 packs of them (am a bit embarrassed that my stomach growls automatically at 12pm…).
~ A Small Accident ~
Before the halfway through my race, I fell down on the stone road and injured both my palms and left leg. It hurts. Luckily, a female runner stopped and gave me some plasters. I was super grateful for it as the plaster make me stop blooding and keep my wounds warm on this windy day, and she also checked on me a few times to make sure I was alright. She is very kind!
This is where I fell down. It is quite dangerous so better to stop running and walk instead whenever you see this. I admit that I am clumsy but a few other people told me that they felt the same too. We hope the organizer do something to fix it by maybe putting something on top of it.
I can’t stop myself from taking photos and selfie in the middle of the race because it was so beautiful!! 😂
Every time when I am in the race, I don’t know why I am asking for trouble. But every time when I want to give up, I tell myself to hang in there a little bit more… I am resilient!!
After The Race
I took more time to complete the race as compared to my performance last year in Wellington. I stopped running and then walked for a while in the last bit of the race. The female runner who saw me fell down told me, “you were doing really great. If it were me, it would be the end of me.” I appreciate her kind words and I am proud of myself too. 🙂
I have to admit that I am very disappointed with the Finisher Medal. First of all, it is not really a ‘medal’ as I believe it is a coaster. Secondly, it is too standard because it does not show which category you are in, so it means I received the same medal as the 5km runner although I ran 21km. Oh yeah, there is no goody bag at all, unlike other running events.
I rewarded myself a big meal after the race. I recommend Old Mountaineers’ Café, Bar & Restaurant. The food is good and the view is great.
Overall, it is a great running event because it is really beautiful. In addition, it is a pleasant run because the event is well-organised and the road is flat. I am glad to complete the race but I most probably won’t come again since it is so expensive. Anyway, it is a good once-in-a-lifetime experience.
21 Sep: Flew from Wellington to Christchurch. Stayed at YHA Christchurch.
22 Sep: Took the bus from Christchurch to Mt Cook departing at 7.30am. Stayed at YHA Mt Cook.
23 Sep: Did the half marathon. Stayed at YHA Mt Cook.
24 Sep: Took the bus from Mt Cook to Christchurch Airport. Arrived at 7.40pm and stayed at Jucy Snooze Christchurch nearby the airport.
25 Sep: Flew back to Wellington in the morning.
Since I decided to join the half marathon last-minute, I spent quite a lot of money for this event – about NZ$500.
Flight ticket is the most expensive item. Also, the bus has an inflexible timetable (depart too early / arrive too late) so I have to stay in Christchurch for 2 nights which is also quite costly – but I do not want to drive because I am not good at driving for long distance and knowing that I will likely be too tired after the race.
Tips to join Mt Cook Marathon on a budget (for solo traveller)
1. Book flights and accommodations early
Aoraki Mt Cook Marathon is a very popular running event, so book as early as you can to save cost! The earlier you decide; the more money you can save. I use google flight to look for cheapest flight and use booking.com to book my accommodation.
2. Stay in the hostel instead of hotel
I highly recommend YHA Mt Cook hostel. By the way, I stayed at YHA Mt Cook for 2 nights and met 3 Malaysians who joined the half marathon too!
3. Buy NZ$1 bus ticket
If you are not living in Mt Cook, it is likely that you will need to drive/take long-haul bus to this place. There are two long-haul bus companies in New Zealand: Intercity and Nakedbus. Both of them sell NZD$1 ticket but you have to book it very, very, very early.
4. Or buy Intercity Flexipass
If you missed the NZ$1 bus ticket like me, you can buy Intercity Flexipass anytime. Although it is quite expensive – NZ$125 for 15-hour bus ride, it is very flexible (can cancel 2 hours prior to departure) and is likely to be cheaper as compared to buying individual bus tickets.
5. Go travel at the same time
Spread the cost! If you have a flexible schedule, why not travel to other places as well? The South Island in New Zealand is best-known for its beautiful nature, I would recommend driving (if it is a feasible option for you) so you can also visit other places.