Merino Muster

13. More than a medal

by Margaret Batty

The expression ‘to earn a medal’ makes sense, this is a currency of sustained effort, sweat and risk. I was one of many skiers garlanded with a beautiful snowflake medal at the finish line of the Merino Muster Loppet races in New Zealand on 31 August 2019. A powerful symbol of training, self-belief and achievement. I felt ridiculously proud.

Giving it your all

National anthems rang out for the podium winners, Japan for the 42km race, China for the 21km race and Thailand for the 7km event. Herculean successes representing the pinnacle of athleticism.

The spirit of the Merino Muster also embraces many extraordinary people who don’t make it onto the podium.

Golden moment

My outstanding winner was No 49 in the 1km kiddies race. This little 4yr old didn’t have the best of starts as the pack sped away, there were tears, she didn’t have enough weight to kick her tiny skis uphill.

Did she give up? Oh no, look at the smile as she proudly crossed the finish line,  embodying resilience and determination.

‘It always seems impossible until it’s done’: Nelson Mandela

Inspirational Italian

Next up on my podium, Gherardo Mercati who received his Worldloppet Master award after completing his tenth Loppet race, the full 42km Merino Muster. Impressive: Gherardo joins only 5044 other Masters across the world, more people have summited Everest. But get this, Gherardo is a cool 80 years old and has completed 10 ski marathons since his 79th birthday.    

‘How long should you try? Until.’ Jim Rohn

Together forever

As the afternoon sun bore down and the crowds had dispersed, Marcia and Jim Beckner, both over 70, quietly crossed the 42km finish line together, the last to complete the course after a gruelling six hours. What a partnership, what a team.

‘It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop’. Confucius.

Behind every event in New Zealand is a powerhouse of volunteers. Volunteering is in the Kiwi DNA.

Congratulating finishers for hours on end, was former Prime Minister Helen Clark (pictured above), a passionate cross country skier and supporter of Snow Farm NZ for 28 years.

Ladyship nominations for these two Downton Abbey gals who styled it out in furs and pearls, sipping champagne and startling racers with cries of ‘Well done Sir’ as they waltzed around the course.

Type one fun

The most consistent advice that I received before the event was too ‘have fun’ and ‘enjoy the day’ (thanks Jessie). I consulted the well-known Fun Scale to manage expectations. Type one fun is enjoyable whilst it is happening. Type two fun is miserable whilst it is happening, but fun in retrospect. Type three fun is not fun at all, not even in retrospect. Afterwards, you think, why on earth did I do that.

I was thrilled to enjoy the whole experience and felt euphoric at the end. Sure, my mouth was parched and my heartbeat loud during the Maori welcome, but that soon gave way to a simple sensation of feeling so good to be so alive. Pure type one fun all the way.

Boosted further when I discovered to my astonishment, that I’d won my age category (7km Female Under 60) and finished ahead of the herd of fancy dress cows!

It’s a wrap

For a moment in time we, the Merino Musterers, were the luckiest people alive. We had each chosen to ski, we had the gift of health and the good fortune to be at Snow Farm New Zealand, one of the most beautiful places on earth.

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