Almost 8500 runners competed in Sunday's Auckland Marathon – one of the last major events to sneak through before the latest Covid-19 restrictions came into force. Only one runner, though, completed the arduous 42km barefoot.
In something of a throwback to caveman days, Ben Sinnamon sacrificed the soles of his feet by subjecting them to repeated asphalt pounding all in the name of a good cause – to raise funds and awareness for the KidsCan charity.
Sinnamon, 36, runs a school fundraising organisation which first connected him to KidsCan.
Two years ago, in the last Auckland Marathon event before the 2021 postponement, Sinnamon took on a similar barefoot challenge by completing the half.
Welcoming daughter, Mila, into his life provided the push to complete the full distance barefoot, in the 30th Auckland Marathon anniversary, this time around.
"I've learned a lot about KidsCan and how they help Kiwi kids who don't really have the basics," Sinnamon says. "Learning about how much of a problem it is really opened my eyes. I thought what's something unique that I can do to raise a bit of noise, and a bit of money, because if we can all do something small, we can help make big change."
Becoming a father made the plight of others, and the privileged upbringing many experience without knowing it, hit home.
"That was the main driver for the run I just did. My daughter is almost two but she's got everything she needs. She has good food; lots of clothing, a warm, dry house to sleep in every night. That's not the case for tens of thousands of kids.
"Sometimes you forget how hard it is for people if you're not seeing it day to day. It's worth pinching yourself every now and then and realising it's not a level playing field. All these kids start off in a rough position, and it's not their fault.
"Having a daughter made me realise they're so helpless so we've got to do everything we can to try give everyone those essentials."
In sweltering heat Daniel Jones took out the men's marathon in 2:20:22 while Auckland's Lisa Cross turned back the clock to secure her second title, 10 years on from her first in 2011.
Sinnamon completed the 42km in a tick under six hours (5.58) after hitting the wall around the three-quarter mark. Training in the lead up to the event consisted of long runs in shoes to avoid injury and a summer spent barefoot - stone trails over Christmas in Wanaka proving handy to harden his exposed soles.
"It was tough but I took it slow - I was just trying to get it done. I had really good pockets of support which helps keep you going. I hit the wall about 32kms in. That's when it got really tough and you start to think 'this is silly' but I slowed right down, took on lots of good nutrition and water and took it step by step.
"Taking it back to the cause and why I'm doing it and these kids are going through hardship from day one so that's what kept me going."
Sinnamon's heavily blistered feet at the finish, and shellshocked limbs, paint the picture of a job complete. Ice baths, creams, potions and rest are much needed. The almost $5,000 raised on his fundraiser for KidsCan helps offset the pain, somewhat.
"We're almost 24 hours post-race now and it takes me five minutes to walk from my bedroom to the kitchen so it's not going so well at the moment. My feet are unscathed. I'm tender and sore but that's just running 42km. I don't know if I'll be doing any running for a while, but give me two weeks and I'll probably be looking at something else.
"Even if people don't donate it's about having conversations with friends and family about what KidsCan do, and the inequity there is around kids starting off in life."