If you had asked renowned broadcaster and mum of one Rachel Smalley a few years back if she would ever consider herself a marathon runner, she might have looked at you like you were a little crazy, but fast forward from that hypothetical conversation to 2016 and that is exactly what the host of Newstalk ZB's Early Edition is, a fully-fledged marathon runner.
Smalley returns this weekend to the scene of her first ever half marathon when she again lines up in the New Zealand Sotheby's RE Half Marathon at the Air New Zealand Queenstown International Marathon. Remembering the weather bomb that hit the inaugural event back in 2014, it is perhaps surprising that Smalley laced up her running shoes ever again, let alone became addicted to running long distances!
"I remember in 2014 getting to 17k mark and thinking 'I don't ever want to do this again', but despite the weather it was a beautiful course and once I was over the finish line the feeling of euphoria kicked in and I knew would do a few more. Since then I have done four marathons and here I am back this year."
Smalley has certainly seen some amazing parts of the world in her short time as a runner too, choosing perhaps one of the least likely places to run her first full marathon.
"I ran the marathon in Beirut a year ago, that was my first and I have since run the Air New Zealand Hawkes Bay, Christchurch and Chicago events. It was pretty much one year since Queenstown that I ran the Beirut marathon."
Smalley confirms that she never once saw herself as one day completing a marathon, let alone multiple events.
"Never at all, the interesting thing is when I was fronting on television in 2013 and the Boston bombings went off I wasn't a runner then, I remember that happening and the reports back here in New Zealand. For various reasons it was soon after that I picked up a pair of shoes and now I have qualified and am going to run Boston next year, it is all a bit nuts really!"
Smalley says it is not exaggerating to say that her first foray into running back in 2014 has changed her life, and very much for the better.
"Queenstown in 2014 was the springboard to overhauling my life really, I recognized how good running was for my mind more than anything. Running for me feels like an indulgence, particularly as a working mother when you don't have much time for yourself, but when I train (without my phone) I have time to think, plan and get my ducks in a row.
"I was in Queenstown in June and took a day off our skiing break and I ran the course again and decided that yes, I want to have another go. I took a picture that day and sent it to my coach Gaz (Gaz Brown) and said 'I want to run the Marathon in Queenstown'. He said no, you have done too many full events, you need a break, but you can do the half - and that is when I decided I would come back and here I am."
"Central Otago is my favourite area of New Zealand, but when you are running your first ever event it can be a blur and the adrenalin is pumping. So when I went back in June this year I took my time, looked around the reminded myself how beautiful it is and was remembering that first race back in 2014. I think I will become a bit of a regular in Queenstown, I really wanted to run last year but it was too close to Beirut, but I think I will be back a few times, it is definitely the most beautiful course in New Zealand, of that there is no doubt."
Smalley loves everything that the region has to offer and has a busy weekend planned.
"We will hit town on Saturday night with a group for dinner and then I am having a nice long lunch on the Sunday at Millbrook - I am staying out there so I have also booked a nice massage on the Sunday morning before lunch so it will be a great weekend It is so smart to have the race on a Saturday as they do in Queenstown and Hawkes Bay, it means we can have a night out on the Saturday and relax and enjoy the region on the Sunday.
"Gaz has done a great job coaching me the whole way, I have a little bit of a tweak in my calf so I will manage that, but Gaz loves Queenstown too and this will be such a nice way to end what has been a great year."
Smalley says there is nothing like family to remind her that there is always room for improvement on the day - even if she is running primarily for the love of it!
"Every time I race I come home and Finn (Rachel's seven year old son) says to me - 'did you win mum' and I have to say no, I didn't win, and he says okay so you need to try harder next time mummy. So he keeps me well and truly grounded and in check. But I think I can improve on my best time if my calf keeps in check - I am hoping for something in the 'one hour forties' this time."
Smalley will be one of many enjoying the event this weekend, with a record 9,544 signed up across all events including the Kids Run, the AIA 10k, the New Zealand Sotheby's RE Half Marathon and the Air New Zealand Marathon.