A few weekends ago I completed my first half marathon! I had been training for it for a while but I was still nervous when the day finally arrived. The race was around Rotorua and in the Redwoods Forest area. I had heard good things about the Redwoods area, so I was very excited to get to experience this place by running through it all. The race started early, and as my friends and I prepared to run, we heard the announcer say that it is one of the only places in the world you can run a half marathon around an active geothermal area.
When the gun went off, we started. It was a foggy morning and I quickly realized that all of the markers for distance were going to be in kilometers, making this different than all of the 5K races I have done in the past. I also realized that I was not experienced pacing myself for kilometers. We ran up and down hills and through trails, which was my favorite part! It was very pretty, and I was so focused on looking at all of the nature that the run flew by. I also passed a couple of geothermally active spots. As I got closer to the end, the kilometer markers were definitely getting farther and farther apart, but I finished strong with a time of 1:41! I felt very accomplished.
The past weekend, I got to see Cape Reinga, the very tip of the North Island. Besides being very beautiful, as most of New Zealand landscapes are, this place is also significant in Māori culture. It is said to be the place where spirits of people depart once they pass. Additionally, it is the place where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. The Tasman Sea was said to be the calmer female sea, whereas the Pacific Ocean is said to be the rougher male sea. Where they meet, there is a line of waves crashing into each other heading out into the water, perpendicular to the land. This is said to be the creating of life. There is also the iconic lighthouse there, which looks out into the water.
One of the things I love about New Zealand and the culture here is that the land plays a significant role. It is cool to see how the Māori are connected to the land and how New Zealand as a whole puts such a large emphasis on protecting the land. You could fell Cape Reinga was a special place. I’m glad I was able to experience it.
We visited the Te Paki sand dunes as well, where I tried sand dune surfing for the first time. This was definitely a highlight. My friends and I took turns racing down the dunes and everybody left completely covered in sand.
This study abroad experience has taught me to pay more attention to my surroundings and really take in the land. Each new place I visit in New Zealand is so unique, and the landscapes are all so different and amazing. Whether running a race or taking a hike, I hope when I return to the United States I will still remember to stop and really take in what is around me.