There are running events and then there are running events. There are events that we sign up to, turn up to on the day, run to the finish line, get a medal and go home.
Then there is this one running event that takes running events into a whole new realm. An event of many facets and dimensions. A unique and special event that invites you, the runner, the rider, the support crew, to join in with the very spirit of the land and the community.
That event is The Great PukeokaHu Man v Horse Race in the highlands of New Zealand’s North Island.
Man v Horse 2016 had much to live up to after setting the bench mark so impossibly high for its inaugural year in 2015.
Would it be able to?
What a day it was. After last year with the rain and mud, 2016 turned on a pearler of a day. The sun was out. The wind was light. The tracks were dry. Runners, horses and riders were way too clean at the finish. The dry conditions turned the degree of difficulty down just a tiny notch.
There is simply so much I could write about this event.
The community of Pukeokahu turn out in force to support and work hard to make this event a success. They don’t pay lip service to community, they live and breathe it.
The scenery and terrain is the masterpiece of the gods. By the time they got to this part of their creation they truly were at their inspired and brilliant best. It’s their little piece of paradise that we humans and horses are allowed to play in for the day.
This year I’m pleased to say that Pauly made it before the cut off. No nervous nail biting for the Unsporty Woman. I had the loveliest day. After cheering the runners start at 9:30am, then 15 minutes later the horses and their riders I went for a walk up to Pukeokahu School – the event raises money for the school and the community hall. Then I went for a walk to see how far away one section of the course was that runs parallel with the road for a little while. It was just 2.5kms down the road from the hall and Pauly expected to be there about 3pm.
The course is a figure of eight. Spectators and supporters get to see participants at the start, in the middle and at the finish without moving from the hall.
By the time I returned to the hall the first horse and rider were approaching the half way mark, then 10 minutes later the first runner. From then on there was a steady stream of horses and riders and runners. I had lots of fun cheering. I was truly impressed with every participant. Some looked happy and like they’d just had a little skip in the park, others were starting to look fatigued (some runners were part of a three person team).
And who was rocking the back of the pack? Pauly! He was looking strong and was 15 minutes ahead of his estimated time to get to half way.
After lunch it was time to run down to the place where I would next see Pauly. This was a first aid point at the 36km mark on the course. Finally there was Pauly, not looking too bad considering but starting to look stuffed. After cheering him out of sight, I motored up the hill back to the finish line at the hall. Those 2.5kms were a total of 636m in climb. This place is hilly and mountainous to the extreme.
All up the 42km course climbs 2kms in altitude.
Just take that in for a moment. 2kms of ups in 42kms. Much upping and downing. There is nothing gentle and rolling about this course. The ups are serious and the downs just as. It’s a course that tests the mental and physical resolve and endurance of rider, horse and runner. It takes mental toughness to new extremes.
Last year the gracious organisers allowed Pauly to finish 30 minutes over the cut off time in a total time of 7:31:00.
This year he was faster by pretty much an hour in a time of 6:37:00. I am so proud of my husband. His training paid off on the day. He was equal last place. He finished. He beat the cut off. He enjoyed the challenge.
A horse and rider took out first place again this year (3.32:02), but with a runner not far behind (4:00:04). There were more teams than individuals running but I’m not sure of the times as yet. Teams consist of three runners (last year I did the first and longest leg of 16kms).
Man v Horse 2016: a huge success! Very well done Lizzie and your organising team. A huge thank you to the volunteers and the sponsors.
There are running events and then there is The Great PukeokaHu Man v Horse race. If you want to experience an event that envelopes every participant, that challenges and supports, then mark your diary for April 2017 and come and join in and find out what my words are trying to tell you. Come and experience something truly unique and different. Your body may well be exhausted at the finish but your soul will be revived and invigorated and the concept of challenge will have a new meaning.
Happy running 🙂
Ps Was I tempted to enter? Oh yes I was, sorely tempted. I was fair itching and twitching to be out there again minus mud. I had my running gear just in case a team needed a runner on the day. Will I run next year? I hope so. There are times when this Unsporty Woman can be a little sensible (four weeks until Great Ocean Road Marathon). I am pleased to report that being support crew at Man v Horse was just as wonderful as being out there running and decidedly less tiring! Keep up to date with planning for 2017 by following the facebook page. Read my post about the 2015 race here.