By Jogyata Dallas
On a length of NZ Peace Run in the 90’s, our team stopped for a night in a motel in the far north. A Chinese company had gifted us a box of wish lanterns, those paper globes that would rise up into the night sky, illumined and buoyed aloft by a candle and carrying your prayers to the Gods. At midnight we unpacked and trialed several of our lanterns, hoping to feature them and delight the children at a school the very next day. Our five trial balloons rose up from among the surrounding apple trees, bobbed about in the late night breeze, then as though responsive to a beckoning hand danced across the black sky in unison before speeding upward and away into the dark curtain of night.
Minutes later the motel owner and his wife rushed out to tell us they had just witnessed five UFOs taking off from their orchard: ‘It was unbelievable! Five space craft in our orchard – we must have disturbed them, they shot away at incredible speed, hovered, then vanished into the sky!! Incredible – right there, we saw them with our own eyes!!!”
We never had the heart to tell them their UFOs were paper lanterns – besides, we all believe in alien visitors and we all love a little mystery.
We were jogging along a South Island road, barely at a shuffle after a long day of hills and miles.
A girl waiting by the road asked if she could join us for a while, and could she carry the torch? Of course she could! We said to her, ‘no hurry, if our pace is a bit too fast for you, just take your time, no need to tire yourself keeping up’. She said her name was Nina.
Later we discovered that our new companion was Nina Rolleston, our NZ Olympic marathon champion who could run a 2.25 marathon. We were charmed by her humility, and laughed at our concern that our 10 minute mile pace would tire her.
On one occasion we hosted a grand Peace Run dinner in an Auckland hotel ballroom. There were many VIPs, several Olympians, media folk and past and present Peace Run patrons.
Months earlier I had met and befriended a Congolese diplomat and he was delighted to accept our invitation to the dinner. But there was no sign of him after our initial speeches and welcomes, and mobile phones did not exist in the early 90’s. I wandered out to look for him, presuming he was lost somewhere in this cavernous hotel. Adjoining us was another grand event, the Annual General Meeting of the NZ Civil Engineers Union – thinking that our VIP may have strayed, I peered inside the room, and sure enough there was our Congolese friend piling his plate high with food from their banquet table and deep in conversation with a whole new group of animated civil engineers. He looked so happy with his attentive new friends, the champagne was flowing and the bonhommie infectious, so I decided to leave him there, his inadvertent but more glamorous adventure at the engineers’ soiree. Our humble Peace Run dinner could not compete with that. We would meet up again some other time.
That great running coach Arthur Lydiard, mentor to so many Olympians and an athletics trailblazer, was among our stable of patrons for our 1987 first ever Peace Run. We went to meet him at his seaside home in east Auckland, armed with the prototype peace torch, a homemade invention consisting of a brass flower pot screwed on to a length of brass rod acquired at a plumbing supply depot. A wad of cotton wick, doused in some flammable fluid completed the emblematic torch. I warned Arthur to hold the torch well away from him, arms length, as once lit a huge gout of flame would shoot up from the brass bowl, black smoke erupt, a brief wall of flame. Photo time – I lit a match, tossed it into the temperamental brass bowl, but Arthur’s reactions were too slow. The flame shot skyward, singeing the great coach’s eyebrows and forelock, searing the front of his woolen shirt and filling his living room with the aroma of burnt hair. Undeterred, the coach of great Olympians held forth, expounding on his philosophy and triumphs despite the sudden change to his appearance. I was smiling in disbelief at Arthurs lost eyebrows and charred appearance, but he mistook my smile as once of earnest interest and held forth – our Peace Run team retired to an outside porch, giggling away at Arthur’s transformation, leaving me alone to pretend that nothing untoward had really even happened.