This was simply the most amazing event I’ve ever had the privilege of entering. Will I give it another try? Absolutely!!!
I’m still not really sure how to describe this race; but there were some clear themes that came through before, including and after.
The event was to raise money for the Pukeokah Hall and School. Talk about a huge and unique way of raising funds! They don’t do things by halves in Pukeokahu. They have a tiny school of just 11 students. This is a remote part of New Zealand and without this little school children would have to travel great distances twice a day. The community is right behind the school and the hall and it showed loud and clear. There were pre and post-race dinners. The kitchen was full of women cooking, dishing up food and cleaning up – all in the highland uniform of gum boots, jeans and bush tops. I doubt that anyone in the district was at home, they were all there helping and putting in their bit for the big event. Outside men, women and young people were buzzing around working hard to ensure that the event was successful. They all looked happy!
The organisers and their huge team of volunteers marked the course with fence pegs, pink arrows and red dots for the gates to go through (it took a whole day; markers were every 100m – that’s a lot of marking!). I have been on many courses but never have I seen a course so well marked AND this was a 40km course in remote mountainous, hilly terrain. Once on the course I wasn’t worried about getting lost at all.
It has snowed the week before and the course had been partially covered. This melted. Then it full-on poured the night before. I heard it at about 4am. My heart sank. But the rain cleared by 10am which was great, but this meant the course was sodden, slippery and muddy.
How do you describe the hills? Relentless. Constant. Steeper than steep. How do you describe the descents? Huge! Slippery. Muddy. No flats anywhere! Gates to open and close, markers to find. After a while the frustration at constantly slipping became more a mental game than a physical one. No, I won’t sit here in the mud and cry, I will keep plodding-sliding-plodding on. From time to time there would be a brief lull from the mud and it felt like heaven! Oh the joy of grassy banks. At one point I’m pretty sure I heard a stag roar!
I lent my GPS to Pauly because he was doing the full and I was only doing the first 16kms (his is being repaired). Honestly I missed my darling Polar RC3 GPS so much. I had no idea how far I’d run. There were drink stops every 4kms ish – but that got hard to keep track of. The course almost became maze-like and I felt trapped. But with a big deep breath in, I’d look for the next marker, say Girl Power (thanks Shaz) and keep on going.
I got to run the first leg of the relay. 16kms. It was decided that I was the more experienced runner so therefore I’d run what was determined to be the hardest leg. Ben ran the middle 10kms (about 1:20:00) and Alex ran the finishing 14kms (about 2:00:00). Strapping young men in their 20s. Ben and Alex soon discovered that even though their legs were a little shorter, they were just as tough and slippery! All up Paul ran 41.92kms so the relay leg distances are a bit sketchy (Paul thinks my leg was more like 17kms). I took 2:46:00 to run the first leg. I just couldn’t run down the hills as I had anticipated. Ben and Alex would have to be the most gracious team members, they were so ok about me being so slow. They made up a huge amount of time and The Internationals finished in 6:05:00. The team consisted or an Aussie, a Brit and a Kiwi.
This would have to be the most beautiful place to run a muddy endurance event. Despite the tough conditions never once did I feel worried about getting lost or that help was too far away if I should need it. It would have to be the best organised event I’ve ever participated in. This meant that even with the constant concentration of just putting one foot in front of the other that my mind could go to another world because of feeling safe and the awe inspiring scenery. It was like running on the very roof of the world. At one point I was so high up I could look down at the hilly terrain all around me as far as the eye could see.
Will I do it again?
Absolutely! I would love to do it again. Next time I’d like to run the first 20km loop on my own with a view to trying to get to the second relay change over point (about the 28km mark). I don’t think I could finish it in the current cut-off time. Even Pauly wants to have a re-match. I shall tell you about his run next post and it wasn’t the best!
Been there done that got the tee shirt
How’s this for the most awesome race tee shirt??? The volunteers even put each entrant’s time on and they were handed out at the presentation. The participants who had made the tough call to pull out were cheered and clapped and given a tee shirt too – it was all about participating and doing your best. This just reinforced the inclusive nature of this strong rural community.
What do I take away from the event?
- Community is strong in Pukeokahu. The rest of the world could learn much from the way they all pulled together to make this huge event happen.
- That endurance is just as much about mental toughness as it is physical (not a new lesson but a reinforcement in big ways).
- That I love my GPS and running naked is just not what I want to do.
- That tough runs don’t last but the joy and happiness of finishing lasts forever!
I recommend this event to anyone who wants to try something completely different. It wasn’t a road race, it wasn’t a trail run, it was described as an Adventure Race. It sure was adventurous!
Come to a small highland community and learn what it means to endure with the most fabulous community support.
Results – official results aren’t out as yet so these are from memory on the day
- Winner: A horse and rider, 4:02:00
- Fastest Male Runner: 4:30:00
- Fastest Female: just over 5:00:00
- Fastest Team: just behind the fastest male runner, about 4:35:00
- The International Team: 6:05:00
- Pauly: 7:31:00!!!! Can you believe that? More on this next post.
Happy running 🙂