Comfort. Stretch. Support. Three critical factors when it comes to women’s running shorts, and I reckon RunFaster has nailed them.
I’ve tried all sorts of running shorts over the years – loose, form-fitting, 2-in-1 – and found that most ride up, roll down, chafe, and irritate me to tears. But not RunFaster. These tights-style shorts are made of quality Supplex material that’s stretchy and comfortable with a supportive compression feel (there are also seawater and chlorine-resistant active swim material options). I don’t find them heavy or hot to wear, even when running in the height of south-east Queensland’s stifling summer. They’re breathable, moisture wicking, fast-drying and have a UV protection of 50+.
Key to RunFaster’s comfort is the double-layer waistband. There are two waistband options: mid waist (finishing just below the belly button) and high waist (finishing just above the belly button). Both waistbands smooth any lumps and bumps, giving a flattering look to all shapes and sizes. I’ve tried both options, and neither slip or roll down when I run, which has happened to me with other mid-to-high-waist, firm-fitting shorts. Nothing is more annoying than having to pull up and re-adjust your shorts mid-run!
The high-waist option offers extra support for women who feel they need it. It’s comfortable to wear during pregnancy, as it stretches and supports a growing bump, while women who want to get back into running post-pregnancy will appreciate the extra tummy support, too.
RunFaster shorts come in a variety of bright and fun prints, with side pockets to fit your phone, keys, cards or cash. Lengths include long (just above the knee), mid (mid-thigh) and short (a bit below the butt!). Sizes are S, M, L, XL, 2XL and 3XL. RunFaster also has a range of tights (5/8, 7/8 and full length).
Best of all, these shorts last – you certainly get what you pay for here.
Trail running is a niche sport, and a lot of trail runners like it that way. But as more people are converted to the trails, we need a collectivevoice and pathway for development. A group of Tasmanian trail runners is taking a bottom-up approach to this, creating a state association they hope will empower athletes and lay the foundation for national representation. Story by Lauren Shay.
Tasmania’s wilderness is trail running at its best. Raw, gnarly and breathtakingly beautiful. You could even say Tassie is to Australia what Chamonix is to France in terms of pure trail–running awesomeness.
More people around Australia and the globe are heeding the call of Tasmania’s glorious trails and wild adventures. But there has been no collective body to ensure the sport grows in the state sustainably. There’s been no united voice to represent and empower runners, to protect and maintain the trails, ensure the state takes trail running seriously, and nurture athlete development.
That is, until now. The Tasmanian Trail Running Association (TTRA) strives to be the voice of the state’s trail running community. Following its inaugural AGM in early November, the executive committee includes president John Claridge, vice president Lincoln Quilliam, treasurer Leanne Evans and secretary Nick Campbell. Committee members are: Chris Price, Raylea Rowbottom, Neil Hawthorne, Matt Pearce, Bree Hunter, Carolyn Davis, Daniel Nunan, Kate Hiney, Aaron Leeman-Smith and Coby Gore.
The association aims to connect, include, develop and empower runners and race organisers, and work with authorities so the sport – and the trails – can flourish. The TTRA will benefit not only local runners and organisers, but also visitors to the state and, indeed, the national trail-running scene.
I talked to John (Australia’snational representative to the International Trail Running Association – ITRA) and Lincoln (tarkine Ultra race director) about the TTRA, the benefits it will bring, and the implications it could have nationally and even globally.
Why does Tasmania need a trail running association?
John: About 10 years ago,I was heavily involved in the Australian Three Peaks Race as a runner representative on the committee(Three Peaks was a non-stop off–shore sailing and running event, starting at Beauty Point, near Launceston, and finishing on the Derwent River, Hobart). It dawned on me that trail running had no representative at all from a government point of viewora contact point of view. It needed a representative body. I decided to get some like-minded people on board, and Lincoln was one of the first people I talked to about what I wanted to achieve.
Lincoln: I returned to Tassie a couple of years ago after living on the mainland for a while, and was frothing on the trail running scene! Tassie is an absolute trail–running paradise. After starting the tarkineUltra and talking to Johnno and others, it was clear that trail running in the state was struggling. It wasn’t getting traction with the authorities, and it wasn’t viewed as a serious sport. We needed to have a formal bodyto represent the sport in all its forms – from your recreational runners and events to crazy wilderness adventures, from athlete development to world championships, from race directors to tour operators. We aim to represent all forms of trail running in Tasmania, to be the voice.Mountain biking has done really well in Tasmania, but trail running is 10 to 20 years behind it in terms of organisation, representation andbeing factored into master planning.
John: We draw parallels with mountain biking all the time, and rightly so. If you look at the numbers, trail running is much, much bigger than mountain biking. But we have never had the same level of support. I feel pretty strongly that a lot of that is because mountain biking in Tasmania came about because of Cycling Australia. It found another niche it could develop. We don’t have that national or international body fighting for us. ITRA and the World Mountain Running Association have been around for a while, but we don’t have that body in Australia to say, “We’re this big, we’d like this sort of support.” So, we’ve reverse engineered it in a way. We thought, “Well if we’re not going to have the support on a national level, we need to start from a state level and put our foot forward.”
How do you think the Tasmanian authorities and general public perceive trail running? Do perceptions need to change?
John: In the past, there has been a big issue with trail running. There’s been the argument that we create a lot more damage and make more of an environmental impact than bushwalkers, but that’s simply not true. It’s not so much that we want to prove this to them; it’s more that we want to work with the authorities so they can understand where we’re coming from.
Lincoln: I see it as just a lack of familiarity and a level of comfort. Without an organisation representing trail running, it’s hard for people to become familiar with us. And the fact that the Australian Mountain Running Championships had just 70 people in total in 2017, that sort of number communicated to the authorities that, “Oh well, if the championships only get 70 people, it’s not a real sport.” But of course, that’s mountain running, not trail running – or you could argue it’s a form of trail running. You’re not going to get droves of people to a mountain–running event. So, it’s just about raising that level of awareness, so people don’t feel like they can just ignore us and we’ll go away. We all know trail running is booming and we want to work with Parks and Wildlife to avoid issues.
Parks staffsee hundreds of underprepared bushwalkers get into trouble. So, when they see trail runners in the wilderness who aren’t carrying tents, they think, “Well, that’s just going to be a nightmare for them.” We understand why they’re concerned, but we’ve got as much right as bushwalkers to be on the tracks, and that’s why one of our first actions will be to put together a trail etiquette guide with minimum mandatory gear recommendations. We want to make safety a priority.
The health benefits of trail running are absolutely massive, too – obviously, the physical aspects, but also those mental health aspects you get with being immersed in nature and that sense of community. We want to really emphasise that.
What benefits will the TTRA bring to Tasmanian trail runners and runners who visit from interstate and abroad?
Lincoln: Access to all the permitted walks as runners is one thing we can’t solve immediately, but it is something we will work on. For example, during the permitted season, a runner is supposed to buy the full five-day bushwalking permit if they want to go on the Overland Track. Obviously, trail runners don’tmake anywhere near as much impact as bushwalkers do. We are quicker and spend less time on the trail, and we certainly don’t stay in the huts, so the cost of the bushwalking permit doesn’t reflect the usage. Also, it’s not fair on the bushwalking community. We’re effectively given five days of use, but we’re only there for one day, so a runner’s permit would remove that capacity. We want to ensure the authorities understand what trail running is and how we are different from bushwalking and mountain biking.
We want to help race organisers, too. Starting a new race in Tassie is difficult. Often, a nominal permit limit of 100 runners gets slapped on any new event. For larger-scale runs, logistically, that’s not financially feasible. Again, it’s about building that familiarity and comfortability with Parks to enable Tassie to achieve its potential as a global trail-running destination. We’ve already got some amazing events, but others could be held.
John: Importantly, the association is not planning to do any events itself. I was very adamant – and the whole committee is, too – that we don’t have that conflict of interest by trying to run our own events. We want to provide a framework for visitors, competitors and organisers. Our aim is to create a small leaflet, like a trail etiquette guide, that can be handed to tourist runners for when they enter our wildlife areas.And that goes for organisers, as well. We’d like to keep a professionalism in the sport and our events around the state.
Lincoln: Certainly, we are notgiving trail-running events or runners a bad name. We just want to provide a kind of code of conduct. Of course, it will tap into leave–no–trace principles and talk about respecting other trail users, like mountain bikers and bushwalkers, and how we need to take care of ourselves in terms of safety. Because we runners cango further into the wilderness and don’t carry tents, we need to make sure people are aware of the safety and survival gear they should take for different seasons and, importantly, know how to use it.
Another point is that Tassie has a lack of resources to maintain tracks to an appropriate level. The volunteer systems are there, but they aren’t necessarily the easiest to work through. We’ve had a group of 20 trail runners keen to trim tracks at the back of Mt Wellington. There have been three rescues on that track within a period of six months due to lack of navigational markers and an overgrown track. We’ve had these people raring to get out there and get it done for the last 10 months, but it hasn’t happened yet, mainly due to COVID. So, that’s another key thing we want to do – connect with the trail runners who are keen to maintain the tracks on a volunteer basis. We’ve got amazing landscapes, but unless the trails are reasonably maintained, you’re just bush bashing the whole time, and the experience won’t be that great.
John: It goes hand in hand with being proactive with Parks and letting them know we want to help them.We want to have a good working relationship with them.
Lincoln: Moving forward, we’ll also be present and visible at trail running events in Tassie, engaging with our community on a face-to–face basis, adhering to COVID-19 guidelines of course, so that we can understand our community and they can get a feel for what we do.The more communication, the better, so that our entire trail–running community will feel adequately represented.
Do you think trail running in Australia lacks opportunities for athlete development? Will this be a priority for TTRA?
John: The one thing that defines sport in most people’s eyes is that pathway from grassroots to elite-level athletes. Our athletes are amongst the best in the world, but if you mention Kilian Jornet or Emelie Forsberg, most people don’t have a clue who they are because trail running is not a mainstream sport. There’s no framework for it, either. For example, I won all my cross countries at high school, but I was never picked up for athletics because I never did track and field. I was a state marathon champion, but I was always on the trails. I would like to see the next generation have that framework set up for them.
Lincoln: We definitely want to get into schools to make sure kids know what trail running is and the benefits it holds. We don’t want to compete with cross country as such, but we want to work with schools to figure out how trail running fits and where the value is. That will be a longer-term objective.
What does the future look like for trail running in Tasmania?
Lincoln: Personally, I think Tassie could be a global destination for trail running, but it’s not just about visitors, it’s more about Tasmanians getting out there and enjoying our wild places. There are, of course, plenty of trail runners already out thereenjoying our backyard, but trail running is still not quite as mainstream as it is in Chamonix or Queenstown in New Zealand, or other places that havemountains on their doorstep. We do have a strong local community anda healthy suite of well-respected and well–run events and tours.But we’ve got so much more opportunity and potential as well.
Other roles in trail running:ITRA Australian organisers representative, owner and founder of Ultrain, event director Triple Top Mountain Run
What trail running means to you:Trail running is my centre and source. It is the only non–human entity in my life that gives me perspective and the drive to do all that I do. I believe we all need some sort of contact and connection to our natural environment, and trail running allows me to do this with a further reach into truly wild places.
Favourite Tassie trail:Tasmania is one spectacular trail network! But if I had to narrow it down to three, Arm River to Mt Oakleigh (purely breathtaking views), Greens Beach to Spring Lawn (amazing coastal run) and OuraOura – Tassie’s best VKM!
Best moment on the trail:Finishing my 10th Australian in the Three Peaks Race or watching my partner win UTA 100 in 2019.
Worst moment on the trail:Being the race director at the event for Leanne’s worst moment! And the resultant six months of injuries for the friend who tripped.
Trail snack of choice: Honey sanga and ClifBars.
Favourite sock colour: Black and blue.
Position: Vice president
Location:Hobart / nipaluna
Other roles in trail running: Creator and race director of takayna Ultra, co-leader of Hobart Trail Runners, track maintenance contractor and volunteer, wilderness adventure run frother!
What trail running means to you: Solstice in nature and the most effective means of getting out in the bush/wilderness with legends to tackle epic challenges.
Favourite Tassie trail:Tough, as there are so many awesome adventures out there and many I am yet to run on! Three Capes Track is a highlight for runability (the highest quality multi-day track in Tassie), some of the world’s best seacliff landscapes, a fun and solid day for distance and elevation, best year–round weather, and friendly parks rangers with nice, fresh rainwater at the huts.
Best moment on the trail: In the snow on kunanyi / Mt Wellington on Hobart’s doorstep with legends who also froth on running in the snow! Neoprene socks and calf protection also help.
Worst moment on the trail:Missing the aid station at the event base at the Hounslow Classic (der… just look, right!?), hence no water for two hours and the dehydration setting in on the 1,000m climb in the midday sun…
Trail snack of choice:Homemade Anzac biscuits.
Favourite sock colour: Black.
Other roles in trail running:Event director and founder of Kate Reed parkrun (trail).
What trail running means to you:Trail running is my escape from the busyness of life. It keeps me grounded and provides the perfect opportunity to experience nature and the wilderness solo or with a group of like–minded people.
Favourite Tassie trail: This is a tough one. There are so many awesome trails in Tassie, a number of which I am yet to experience. I love mountains with a good climb to an amazing outlook, but we also have some amazing coastal trails. The Walls of Jerusalem would definitely be up there as a fav, as is the South Coast Trail.
Best moment on the trail:I can’t pinpoint a single best moment, as I can recall so many.There is something special about coming across native wildlife. Additionally, some of the views and scenery I have experienced have been sensational.
Worst moment on the trail:Running a local event and coming across a friend who had tripped and hit her head, resulting in a concussion. Several of us carried her out on a makeshift stretcher to the waiting ambulance.
Trail snack of choice:Salted, steamed potato or, for a sugar fix, black jellybeans.
Favourite sock colour: Patterned.
Location:Hobart / nipaluna
What trail running means to you:My chance to escape in nature and maintain physical and mental fitness while appreciating my surroundings.
The Surf Coast Century 100km and 50km ultra trail marathon has received the green light to proceed on 5 – 6 December 2020 in Anglesea, Victoria, with limited entries remaining for solo competitors and 90 relay teams remaining
After processing the Victorian Governments COVID-19 road-map to reopening and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’s announcements on Sunday 8th November, Torquay based event organisers Rapid Ascent are very excited to announce that this year’s event can go ahead.
It will now become one of the only ultra-marathon event opportunities in Australia for 2020, accessible to more than just Victorians with state borders also opening up.
Confirmation of the event’s go-ahead comes after it was originally postponed from the 19th September. This was followed by many months of planning and replanning the delivery of the event such that it can be done so in a COVID-safe way .
Rapid Ascent’s approach has always been to pursue every opportunity their events to be conducted and for the competitors to be able to achieve their goals in what has been a roller coaster year.
“We genuinely love what we do here at Rapid Ascent – conducting races that put smiles (and grimaces) on people’s faces in some beautiful parts of the country, and our dream was to enable runners to do what they love before the year is out.” said Sam Maffett, Rapid Ascent’s General Manager.
Maffett and co-owner of Rapid Ascent John Jacoby are elated with the positive news.
“We have tried to stay positive and confident that the Century would go ahead, and we believe our determination and willingness to adapt to the ever-changing COVID situation has put us in a position where we are now able to proceed with the event at such short notice.” said Jacoby.
“We know many participants have put their heart and soul into this race – as have we – and we cannot wait to deliver these running dreams come December!” added Maffett.
Rapid Ascent emphasise that the format of the 2020 Surf Coast Century presented by MINI will be different compared to previous years in order to fulfil the COVID-Safe restrictions and keep runners and the broader community safe. The main point being to ensure that there are no group gatherings of more than 50 people throughout the event. Other proposed changes include:
A limited field across all races.
100km solo and 50km solo event to be conducted on Saturday 5 December, 2020.
100km relay teams event to be conducted on Sunday 6 December, 2020.
Wave starts of 40 runners across a 2 hour period.
No support crew or spectators to attend during racing.
All participants, volunteers and staff must adhere to strict COVID-safe guidelines.
Full details of the event’s proposed COVID-Safe plan are available on the event website HERE.
Although Rapid Ascent have field limits and other restraints in place, the event’s ethos remains the same as always – to provide a rewarding run through a simply spectacular course surrounded only by wilderness, wildflowers and a handful of friendly volunteers.
The 9th edition of the Surf Coast Century presented by MINI will start and finish in Anglesea. Runners will tackle a challenging and scenic 100km or 50km course either as a solo runner or in a relay team of between two and four runners.
The course takes competitors from Anglesea to Torquay on the beach the whole way and then along the cliff top tracks and hinterland trails to Moggs Creek and Aireys Inlet before returning back in Anglesea on the Surf Coast Walk.
The 2019 event attracted 1,400 runners and almost 3,000 spectators from all over Australia and contributed $4 million dollars to the Surf Coast economy with even greater numbers originally forecast for 2020 prior to COVID-19 and the associate effects.
The much-adored ultra-run has built a reputation as one of Australia’s ‘bucket-list’ trail running events due to it being one of the more unique 100km ultra courses in the world – and now one of the only ultra-marathons of 2020.
Trail runner and ultra athlete Majell Backhausen explains why takayna Ultra, in north-west Tasmania, is full of heart, connection, and like no other event he has experienced in the world of trail running.
I’d like to acknowledge and pay my respects to the traditional owners of the lands which this event is held, the people of takayna. And pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.
As I scan the space in Marrawah Hall, it’s possible to identify WHAT everyone as individuals is doing here in north-west Tasmania on a still and golden Thursday afternoon. Volunteers in the kitchen don aprons and move around with purpose, urgency and a calming smile. Members of the Bob Brown Foundation scurry around with information banners and projector cables ahead of the welcoming formalities, polite and patient members of the registration team pass out t-shirts and the reassuring words; ‘good luck and enjoy your day’ and runners/fundraisers with running packs and numbers in hand walk past with an excited step and a smile full of nerves for the early start and a breathtaking run along this rugged coast, unsure exactly what this year’s predicted storm could truly mean.
As the evening progresses I start to feel and further understand the one collective reason WHY we are all here in North West Tasmania on a still and now dark Thursday evening. It is the same reason which first brought me to takayna Ultra and the reason this event is like no other race I’ve experienced in the world of trail running.
Months previous to this evening, I was contacted by Jess, a friend who’d reached out like many other runners to check the legitimacy of this “race”. My reply has always been, “It’s more than a race.” And when I presented Jess, with my curiosity about why she eventually decided to come, I was moved by her response: “This run is something that is in my heart. After a really difficult summer in Australia, we’re all feeling the impact of how precious the planet is and this is a run about connecting with that and immersing ourselves in something beautiful… for a particular cause at such a critical time in our planet’s history and future.”
takayna is powerful country.
“When I have walked the country of takayna I have been overwhelmed by the strength this place lends to me… I have seen enough to understand the beauty and the significance of what she holds for my people and for the future generations. takayna is a place so rich in heritage, a place that offers up the stories of the old people like nowhere else. takayna gives me a strong cultural connection, a feeling of pride within and fuels a deep and profound need to protect her.” – Heather Sculthorpe, takayna country, culture, spirit, Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre/The Bob Brown Foundation
takayna/Tarkine region of north-western Tasmania is home to one of the last undisturbed tracks of Gondwanan rainforest in the world, and home to one of the highest concentrations of Aboriginal archeology in the hemisphere.
It is currently under threat by indiscriminate logging, mining and off-road vehicles. For years The Aboriginal community in Tasmania has maintained their responsibilities to Country as best as they can through patrols, management plans, political campaigns and court actions, as well as rekindling spiritual connections and paying respects to country through ceremony. Through the second running of takayna ultra, we now stand side by side in this challenge to effect lasting change. Our collective belief has brought us together for this “important cause and joint quest” as described by Aboriginal community member Chelsea Everett, from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre Inc. in her Welcome to Country.
And for the runners who’d spent month fundraising, training and creating awareness of takayna/Tarkine region, it was time to celebrate this joint quest the one way they want to, “Moving through it running, the connection to this old country is totally different,” as Paige, takayna 22 female winner, describes it.
In the face of a classic Tasmanian west coast cold front, takayna Ultra 65km and takayna22 runners embraced the sideways rain and blasting southerly tailwind, surrendered to the soft sand high on the golden beaches as the massive storm swell raised the sea to engulf the normally wide and hardened beaches of the course. The calm drizzle welcoming runners at first light amongst the button grass plains was now a distant memory along with the off-track sections allowing runners to weave their own natural lines through the landscape deepening the connection to Country.
This elemental adversity whilst running simply creates an even greater sense of achievement so starkly evident at the finish line on the exposed nungu/West Point, where runners for this one day in March outnumber surfers at this famous and powerful big wave Tassie surf break.
And for myself and the other non-running participant or this event, with the help of brisk Tasmanian wind cutting through our jackets and rain seeping through our seams, we have felt the energy created at this event connecting us even more to this wild place and inspiring our drive to further protect these venerable, sacred and irreplaceable lands. Because “it’s not until you go out in nature and actually take your time to enjoy it do you realise how special it is,” says Hilary, takayna Ultra Runner and Fundraiser.
Being present at takayna Ultra opens you to a feeling you just don’t get at any other “race”. It connects us as individuals and to Country, providing a call to action for trail runners and so many in our society with a cause to direct our energy towards for real action on climate change and significant movement to further protect the wild places that remain on our home planet.
In the honest words of Sanja, one of the 113 takayna Ultra runners and fundraisers, “The reason why I am out here is for my time to immerse to let it all seep into my pores and potentially to cry out there, eat a lot of sand and get smashed by the wind and that refuels me to fight for the cause of the Tarkine and to protect this magical place.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stated “I Have a Dream” and inspired the civil rights movement with the power to change a country. The Bob Brown Foundation has a dream to have takayna/Tarkine protected as a World Heritage-listed National Park, and returned to Aboriginal ownership. As Bob Brown speaks, he fills the air of the Marrawah hall with this dream and now myself, new and old friends of takayna Ultra have been able to help take this dream closer to reality.
As I write this, the collective beliefs and efforts of everyone involved in takayna Ultra 2020 has raised over $180,000 to help support The Bob Brown Foundation continue its courageous campaign.
“It’s not just about running and physical activity right? It’s about running with purpose and passion and… campaigning to save what is special.” – Helena, takayna22 runner and fundraiser
Our need to belong is not rational, but it is a constant that exists across all people in all cultures. It is a feeling we get when those around us share our values and beliefs. When we feel like we belong we feel connected and we feel safe. As humans, we crave the feeling and we seek it. And it’s marrying this train of thought with my feelings as I scan the space in the Marrawah hall that helps me understand why I find myself yet again in north-west Tasmania for another running of takayna Ultra.
As Krissy Moehl, Patagonia Global trail running ambassador and environmental advocate, puts it, “The story of a long-distance runner is not unlike the challenge of the work non-for-profit organisations like The Bob Brown Foundation face,” and I think this is why takayna Ultra is such a success, the shared reason WHY we are here connects us on a very visceral level.
A thought we can always return to for a sense of reassurance and purpose during the times of activism ahead.
82-year-old Hubert Zohrer. Photo: Michael Werlberger
Organisers and participants – including a daredevil 82-year-old runner – had to overcome more challenges than usual at the third staging of the inov-8 Descent Race on the world’s most notorious ski slope.
Featuring an insanely steep gradient of 80%, the legendary Streif – on the Hahnenkamm mountain in Kitzbühel, Austria – is regarded as the toughest on the world cup ski circuit.
In this innovative event format, runners raced 350m down its fearsome slope, negotiating near-vertical blind drops as they went.
Strong storms forced Saturday’s event to be postponed 24 hours, with the organisers and participants working together as one team to ensure a successful, COVID-19 compliant event was held on the Sunday.
Runners from the UK, Italy, Germany and Austria individually slalomed their way down a course marked by red and blue ski flags. Many completed it twice, with their times added together to decide the final results.
To prove age really is no barrier, 82-year-old Austrian Hubert Zohrer took to the slope and ran the first heat in 2mins 15secs. Hubert, who left the second heat to the youngsters, said: “It was very steep but great fun.”
The winner, thanks to an incredibly fast first heat (53:88 secs), was Rene Claussnitzer, from Germany. Despite a fall in the second heat that resulted in a leg injury, Rene held on to win with a combined time of 1min 50.99secs. Second-placed Michele Roth was just 0.40secs behind, with Gregor Rom in third.
Men’s race winner Rene Claussnitzer. Photo: Michael Werlberger
In the women’s race, Lisa Groll, winner of the inaugural event in 2018 and second last year, reclaimed top spot on the podium with a combined time of 2mins 44.86secs. Maria Magdalena Uberall took second place, with Veronika Schlogl in third.
Women’s race winner Lisa Groll. Photo: Michael Werlberger
The top-three in both the men’s and women’s races – plus the evergreen Hubert – all wore inov-8’s MUDCLAW G 260 V2 shoes with Graphene to get tougher grip on the downhill course.
The race was organised by Georg Uberall, an outdoor sports retailer from Kitzbuhel, who said: “It was a difficult weekend with the storm on Saturday, but thanks to the adaptability and commitment of everyone we were able to stage a brilliant race the following day.”
Lee Procter, Communications & Ambassadors Manager for inov-8, added: “Everyone got to grips with the tough course and demonstrated both skill and bravery to tame the world’s most notorious ski slope. There is no other race in the world quite like it!”
In 2019, New Zealander ROGER LESLIE completed the formidable yet breathtaking Swiss Canyon Trail ultramarathon. He gives Trail Run Mag a recap of his remarkable adventure – packed with everything from mind-bogglingly steep ascents and descents, to stunning scenery, to helping an injured runner, to ice-cream!
The 5am blast of an alp-horn released the pent-up energy of 500 runners into the brisk pre-dawn of the Val de Travers in Canton Neuchãtel, Western Switzerland. The front runners disappeared in a swirl of frost breath and bobbing lights. The normal early race chatter was in French, but comforting just the same.
I was more nervous than usual because I had done no serious training in the six weeks I’d been in Europe. My normally competitive nature was on hold and my race plan was no more ambitious than lasting the distance. I had, with unusual foresight, only entered the 82km event with 3,000 of vertical, but I suspected I’d need my headlamp again before the day was over. I’ve found that such whimsical nonsense as “you’re only as old as you feel” is a poor substitute for actual fitness.
The race briefing the night before, apart from being in French, could have been given by Terry Davis at the Northburn. There was the same apparent delight in the delivery of doom and danger, the same sadistically happy smile and gestures, and the same holding up of course-marking paraphernalia, but those were the only things I understood. The key to staying on track, it seemed, was in the bright yellow tape with the race name, and so it turned out. I was to be guided and encouraged by hundreds of metres of this tape as it forbade wrong turns and called “this way!” at crucial intersections.
As I ambled along, I felt pleasantly fed. The hotel in Couvet (a race sponsor) had put on a special breakfast from 3am. It was surreal to walk down the stairs to the smell of warm croissants at what is universally accepted as an ungodly hour. The hotel staff should have received a race medal, too. This was my second ultra in Europe and both had offered a free breakfast, which was gratefully eaten.
The Swiss are a compulsively tidy people, even when they run. As we circled around the edge of a private field, everyone remained in single file with no-one cutting across the grass, as I’m sure would have happened at home. I saw no rubbish dropped along the trail. The rising sun shone at last through the tall pine trees, warming my face and surrounding the heads of runners in front of me with golden halos. I was in my happy place, determined to enjoy this before time, inertia and gravity wore the shine off my euphoria.
As we started to climb Le Soliat, I fell in with a Swiss German from Zurich and, for the first time, was able to converse with someone. He, like me, was a veteran of such events and a lot of fun to be with. He filled me in on the history and place names of the area. It was great to hear the French names roll off his guttural Swiss German tongue, names like la Côte-aux-Fées and Fleuriers. He told me some of these trails had been used for thousands of years and that the Swiss had always preferred walking as a mode of transport.
The exit of the main canyon was 1,000 metres above the entrance and, as these were the only way in and out, I thought this would not be a good place to be in heavy rain. Many of the steps were hewn out of the limestone and often a handrail on the cliffside was the only security offered. The Swiss seemed to assume people found in such places were responsible enough to manage their own health and safety. The views were spectacular, the waterfalls transcendent, and as we plateaued at 1,400 metres, we were met with the age-old melody of Swiss cowbells. There were farms up there in the stratosphere. The cows themselves seemed not to be surprised by the passing of strange processions of numbered people, and continued grazing and clanging their bells.
The mid-race mountain peak was Le Chasseron and from there I could see Mont Blanc, standing white and aloof beside its sisters Matterhorn,Eiger and Jungfrau. I had hoped to meet my crew here but the map I had given them was more topographical than road oriented, and they were enjoying themselves in different alpine terrain to me.
I experienced my only navigational glitch while descending Le Chasseron. I failed to see a right-angle turn where the 100km trail re-joined the 80km after the “loop of despair’”and I started following the yellow tape in the wrong direction. I was met by two angry Frenchmen sporting 80km numbers who had gone several kilometres in the wrong direction before turning back. They bustled me back to the missed turn and a confrontation with the unfortunate youth who was, instead of marshalling runners down the correct path, absorbed with his phone. Their Gallic fury was mighty to behold. The poor chap was sitting on a rock, phone forgotten, staring open mouthed, and with mounting fear at their trek-pole-waving tirade. He seemed to believe, and with good reason, that he was in physical danger. I didn’t need French to get the picture; the “peep, peep, peep” phone pantomime and the threatening poles carried a clear enough message. The exchange was over as quickly as it had begun. The lad sat back down on his rock, apparently promising to do better and concentrate on the job at hand, while we three set off down the steepest descent I have ever done.
I could call it a goat track but I don’t think any self-respecting goat would have been happy there. There was loose shale underfoot as we zig-zagged down through the woods and I had to, more than once, resort to tree-hugging to avoid potentially fatal plunges. I was just being a baby, as it turned out, because I saw such a fall when an athletic young runner had a spill that seemed to go on forever. I watched helplessly as she slid, rolled and tumbled until her fall was finally arrested by an unpleasant-looking clump of dog rose briar. I could scarcely believe she was alive let alone unbroken as I inched my way down to her. I gathered her loose equipment as I went: drink bottle, poles, race number, hat and, incredibly, one shoe. Language incompatibility prevented me from doing a proper patient assessment but apart from bruises, bleeding, abrasions and a rapidly swelling goosebump on her head, she was in remarkably good shape. She seemed to want to be left alone to lick her wounds and extract herself from the foliage. I promised to report her accident and ambled on.
As I traversed a picturesque forest glade in the Butts area, a Swiss Maiden in traditional garb was sitting on a log with an accordion. She sprang up and with some accompaniment from a cowbell, she filled the air with beautiful music that was hard to walk away from. Perhaps she wasn’t real and this was the meaning of Côte-aux-Fées.
Later, on a road section, I caught up with my crew. They were a great combination of my wife (a veteran of such events) and a young friend who was a veteran Swiss. They had ice-cream, and Swiss ice-cream 10 hours into a 15-hour event is as idyllic as it gets. They re-established the happy feeling and put a spring back into my flagging steps. They were on top of the map now, perhaps the real meaning of topographical, and they reappeared twice more dispensing ice-cream and happiness. Like a horse quickening its pace as it smells the familiar stables, I homed in on Couvet with 80km of Helvetian splendour behind me and the welcome sight of perhaps the best French word of all – Arrivée.
As I came up the finishing chute, I heard my name and then something else was said for which there was additional applause. A young Dane who finished just after me asked, “Did you understand what they said?” I admitted I hadn’t. He replied, “They said you are the oldest finisher so far and that you are also a hero for helping an injured runner. Congratulations!”
Maybe I need to learn French.
I have a list of things the Swiss do best. So, to watches, army knives, cuckoo clocks, democracy, chocolate and cowbells, I must add ultra trail events.
The Bob Brown Foundation takes its Great Forest Case to court on 23 September, and this could set a precedent for the preservation of millions of hectares of Australia’s wild places.
With The Great Forest Case, The Bob Brown Foundation is challenging the regulation of native forest logging in Tasmania, with the aim to unravel the notorious framework under which logging across Australia is carried out. Arguing that the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) is not a valid agreement, BBF want to strike it down.
Australia’s government is in a cosy “hands-off” arrangement with the state governments, which essentially exempts logging from national environment laws, allowing large-scale destruction of native forests which are the habitat of nationally significant species. Currently, there are 6 million hectares of Australian native forests which are available for logging under RFAs.
Several of our iconic species are seriously under threat from logging, including the Swift Parrot, Masked Owl, Tasmanian Devil and Giant Freshwater Crayfish. The Swift Parrot is currently listed as critically endangered and is likely to go extinct in the next 10 years. The Tasmanian RFA is currently allowing for Swift Parrot habitat to be logged.
It is too much to bear, at times, that irreplaceable forests and the critically endangered wildlife that depend upon them are still being lost. My best antidote is to get up every day and keep taking action for the forests, wildlife and climate. It is to answer with action, as the logging of endangered species habitat and vast forests of Australia is indefensible. It is time for native forest loss to end.
Honour the memory, the bravery and the hardship faced by our World War 2 soldiers in Kokoda by taking part in the March On with Soldier On Challenge – raise funds to help our modern-day heroes and help prevent veteran suicide.
To do this, you can choose to take on the Mountain Challenge where Soldier On can offer you the ultimate experience on home soil by taking on one of Australia’s most iconic and challenging walking tracks – the ten Aussie summits in Kosciuszko National Park. This is your chance to push yourself by adding some tough mountain miles to your adventure in the very nation that our brave soldiers have defended, all while raising funds for Soldier On.
Or, simply choose Your Challenge, and register to walk or run 96km – the length of Kokoda – throughout the month of March and start fundraising for Soldier On. To learn more about these amazing challenges, please visit https://fundraise.soldieron.org.au/
Australia’s largest and longest virtual team challenge is about to kick off! Groups of up to 20 can walk or run 1,300km virtually from Broken Hill to Sydney with the Run Against Violence Virtual Team Challenge.
From 30 August to 17 September, the route retraces the real-world 2017 StepsTogether Ultramarathon to raise awareness of family violence.
Why 1,300km? It equates to 1.7 million steps – the estimated number of Australians who experience physical abuse before the age of 15.
This year, Australian trail runner Lucy Clark, 34, turned heads when she recorded the fastest-known time on the Te Araroa, a 3,000km trail that snakes the entire length of New Zealand from Cape Reinga, the northernmost tip, all the way down to Bluff in the South Island. NICKI LETTS joined Lucy for part of her astounding feat.
A few weeks after finishing her record-breaking run of the Te Araroa (TA) in January, Lucy Clark could barely run 5km without her legs screaming to stop – not because she was injured, but because her body had nothing more to give after her record 66-day sprint along the 3,000km trail.
“I’m just really, really tired,” Lucy said. “It’s incredible to think that only three weeks ago, I was running 50km – sometimes more – every day. Now my legs don’t have any power. I wake up tired and am ready for bed by lunchtime.”
Before January, there wasn’t a reason why you would have heard of Lucy Clark. But in setting the female fastest-known time, or “FKT”, on New Zealand’s only thru-hike, she has become a trail-running celebrity. Completing the run in 66 days, 7 hours and 8 minutes, she shaved 11 days off the existing record, which was set by New Zealander Mina Holder in 2015.
Lucy has been running for 35 days and clocked 1,747km by the time my partner Mat and I join her on the Queen Charlotte Track on the northernmost tip of New Zealand’s South Island. Our mission is to pace her for 10 days through arguably the toughest sections of trail: the Richmond Alpine Track and Nelson Lakes. We are under no illusions that this is a holiday. For the past few weeks, Lucy’s husband and support crew chief, Tom Wright, has been messaging us with updates and instructions. This run is their life.
Mat and I arrive in the port town of Picton by bus and start scanning the carpark for the bright green campervan. From her first step on the trail, Tom has made sure he and the van are at every conceivable spot for Lucy, providing her with meals, logistical support, massages, a change of shoes (nine pairs of Hoka One One runners), and, most importantly, a bed.
We find Tom inside the van, hunched over his laptop. Camera equipment, Clif Bars, open chip packets and coffee-stained cups are strewn across the table. He spots us and grins broadly, rushing out to wrap us in a big bear hug. It’s been six weeks since we’ve seen Tom, and, to be honest, he’s seen better days. His usually manicured beard is overgrown and scraggly. Dark circles have made a home under his eyes. He looks like he hasn’t slept properly for, well, six weeks. Despite appearances, he quickly switches to uber-enthusiastic crew mode, showing us where to put our bags and pouring us a black coffee (“Sorry, I need to pick up more milk!” he apologises), while checking the tracker app for his wife’s progress.
“It looks like she’s about halfway, so we’d better make a move. It’ll take over an hour to drive to the campsite.” Lucy’s running 59km today – a feat of endurance that’s become normal over the past month. We’re eager to surprise her on the trail and run in the last few kilometres.
As the van snakes around the roads of the Marlborough Sounds, Tom regales us with stories of the past month. Until now, we’ve been obsessively following Lucy’s progress on Instagram, but the upbeat posts filled with impossibly stunning landscapes and funny emojis don’t tell the whole story. Like Lucy, we are diving into the unknown.
A few months ago, Lucy would not have described herself as an ultrarunner. Two years ago, she wouldn’t have described herself as a trail runner. She was a road runner. A fast one. When we met in 2018, she was training to crack 3 hours, 10 minutes at the Melbourne Marathon. She and Tom had moved from Melbourne to Bright, a running and cycling mecca in the Victorian Alps of Australia, just months before. But rather than hitting the mountain trails with new friends every weekend, she was running intervals along the concrete bike path.
That all-in attitude defines everything Lucy does. There’s a quiet determination – a silent push for perfection – that drives her. So, when she heard about the Te Araroa, just running it would never be enough. She wanted to be the fastest. Without realising, she was pulled into the endurance world’s latest obsession: FKTs. Since Kilian Jornet set the speed record on Kilimanjaro in 2010 (a 7-hour, 14-minute round-trip), pursuing FKTs on iconic and not-so-iconic trails has become a rite of passage among ultra-endurance athletes. Lucy wasn’t yet an ultra-endurance athlete, but that wasn’t about to stop her.
She started reading everything she could find about the trail. She reached out to the record holder, Mina Holder. And she and Tom spent evening after evening nutting out the logistics. This was where things got tricky. Opened in 2011, the Te Araroa is touted as New Zealand’s answer to the Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trail, but with one major difference: it has no dedicated trail. “The Long Pathway” is, in fact, a hodgepodge of farmland, beaches, road, coastal track, highways and mountain trails. It winds through cities, towns and remote wilderness. It’s every support crew’s nightmare. But the more Lucy researched, the more determined she became. By January 2019, the decision was made: Lucy was going to break the female FKT.
But they knew she couldn’t do it alone. If she was serious about breaking the record (77 days, 10 hours and 44 minutes), she needed to average over a marathon a day for 70 days. And to do that, she needed a coach. The first coach Lucy reached out to told her she was getting in over her head. He said she wasn’t experienced enough and perhaps a better goal would be just to finish the trail – not attempt the FKT.
It was a huge blow. Lucy had just raced her first-ever ultra, the Two Bays Trail Run 56km in Victoria, and placed sixth female. But now she was deflated. Doubt crept in. Was she reaching too high? Maybe the coach was right. Maybe she didn’t have enough experience to attempt something so ambitious.
Then she heard about Andy DuBois. Andy is one of the world’s top endurance coaches, and an ultra-athlete himself. Lucy took a deep breath and sent him a message. Andy’s reply said everything she needed to hear: “OK, so FKT of Te Araroa – awesome goal.”
With Andy in her corner, she threw herself into a gruelling training schedule. “It’s not really about speed. It’s more about building endurance and, even more importantly, building resilience – both mentally and physically,” Andy told me. Lucy would back up midweek interval sessions with hill repeats on Mystic, the mountain that quite literally sprouts from her backyard, then spend the whole weekend on the trails. Friends would meet her for a four-hour run and a coffee, only for her to run for another two hours after we’d left. When Tom decided to run the Melbourne Marathon (which he finished with a PB), Lucy signed up as an official pacer. This was less than one month before her FKT attempt. And all the while she had a full-time job, which required her to commute from the mountains to Melbourne every fortnight.
“I still didn’t miss a single session of training. Sure, sometimes I didn’t quite hit my paces, but I completed every session,” Lucy said. “I just figured that, in New Zealand, there would be crap days and there would be good days. So, every crap day in training was good training for the TA.”
This was put to the test quicker than she’d have liked. The first day of the challenge was a disaster. “I was really emotional at the start, obviously. Then I had to run 70km along a beach – the furthest I’d ever run in one day, and it was all on sand. Tom planned to meet me at the 40km mark for lunch, but I got to the campground and he wasn’t there. Luckily, I had one bar of signal and saw he’d messaged to tell me to keep going and not worry. So, I kept going, not sure when he’d meet me. Finally, he ran towards me. It turns out the road to the campground was closed, so he had to hitch a lift and run 10km along the beach to find me.” Reunited, they battled the headwind, Lucy sheltering behind Tom like a pro cyclist, their pace barely a shuffle.
“That night, I was totally wrecked. I tried to roll my muscles and eat something, but I was a mess. I also had blisters between my toes, which I’d never got in training. Andy messaged me and said, ‘Great, day one is over. Now you just need to get through the first week.’ But I’m thinking, I’ve got 69 more days of this! I don’t ever want to do that again; how will I do it for 69 more days?”
The next morning, Lucy ignored the anxious knot gnawing at her stomach and tried to be positive. Then she ran another 30km on the beach, followed by a punishing 26km on a state highway. “It was pretty soul destroying and there were more tears,” she groaned. “But I’d been told it takes about eight days for the body to adapt, so I knew I just needed to stick it out.”
Every morning of the first week was the same. She’d wake up in tears. Tom would console her, help her get ready, try to find encouraging words, then watch his wife run off into the distance. “It was so hard for him. But the whole time, I would tell Tom, ‘I want you to know that I don’t want to quit. I’ve worked so hard for this. It just sucks right now, but I don’t want to quit.’”
Then, right on schedule, on day eight, something shifted. Lucy started feeling like she was having fun. “Suddenly, I felt strong. I was able to eat more food and was moving way faster than expected. It was a lightbulb moment. I felt like I could do this, and I wanted to do this.”
That was the first day she didn’t cry.
Tom steers the campervan into a small, grassy campsite. Swatting flies, we quickly agree on a plan: we’ll head up and meet Lucy and run back to the van in time for dinner. He warns us, semi-seriously, that Lucy now only eats, runs and sleeps. This isn’t a trip for late-night chats over beers. We head up onto the Queen Charlotte Track to find her, and we’re not waiting long before she shuffles into view.
Lucy is slight and wiry, like a track athlete. She’s lost the muscle definition of mountain legs, which are now swimming in her tights. Her blonde hair is tucked under a Bright Brewery cap and she’s got the burnished complexion of weeks spent in the harsh sun. “Oh my god, I’m so happy to see you guys! I knew I’d see you soon, but I didn’t know when!” she squeals, taking out her earphones.
Running 5km back to the campsite flies by as we chat excitedly about the trails and our adventures to come. But back at the van, it isn’t long before we glimpse something new in Lucy. Something we hadn’t seen in her year of training: anxiety. Tommy spurs into action, heating pasta and sauce, putting bags of chips in front of Lucy, unrolling the stretching mat, and taking photos. But Lucy is oblivious. She’s hunched over the trail notes, checking the spreadsheet on her phone, and then rechecking the notes.
“I thought we could do the Richmond Ranges in four days, but what do you think? Is it too hard? Will we need an extra night?” She’s already hiked across the Tongariro Crossing in thick fog and gale-force winds, kayaked along the Whanganui River and got lost in the Tararua Ranges. Amazingly, she’s still nervous about what the South Island will bring.
Everyone has warned her this is the toughest part of the whole trail, and it’s been playing on her mind for days. The weather forecast doesn’t help. The Richmond Ranges has lots of river crossings, and the slightest downpour can cause the rivers to rise and become unpassable, which would jeopardise her meticulously planned schedule. We play out a few scenarios but eventually decide to leave the plan as is.
Early the next morning, I set off with Lucy for the last 15km of the Queen Charlotte Track. Mat swaps in for the next 40km along road and across farmland, while Tom and I mission to Nelson to buy her a new rain jacket. It’s a four-hour round trip. “We’ve got rain jackets, but she wants a better one just in case,” he shrugs. “If it makes her feel more confident going into the ranges, it’s worth the money.”
This is what Tom does. His every waking moment is dedicated to supporting Lucy. “He did literally everything for 66 days,” she told me at the end. “Washing, logistics, communications, cooking, shopping, filming. He was my masseuse and counsellor. He put his life on hold for months so I could do this, and I know there’s no way I could have done it without him.”
The raincoat was a wise purchase. Two days later, we head into the Mt Richmond Forest Park in torrential rain. Tom drops us at the point where Lucy had finished the day before. When I look across at her in the backseat, her face is fraught and she’s picking at her nails agitatedly. But as soon as we wave goodbye to Tom and start running, the mood switches. The anxiety of the past few days is gone, as if it was never there. Lucy is chatty and relaxed. She moves with real purpose, pushing forward with every step. Her stride is long and even, her poles swoop the ground. Meanwhile, I’m tripping over slippery roots in a desperate bid to keep pace. It’s becoming clear that, no matter how Mat and I are feeling, we have to suck it up and suffer through – there is no way we will be the reason she fails.
I learn something very quickly over the next few days: food is everything. Lucy has undoubtedly lost weight since starting her run, but it is not from lack of eating. She inhales packet after packet of Clif Bloks like they are air. The tell-tale rustle of a wrapper is our signal to refuel. If Lucy is eating, we need to eat, too. “Food is fuel,” she instructs us in a mock teacher voice. “I don’t even think about whether I like what I’m eating anymore; I just eat as much as I can.”
Good job we’ve packed so much food, then. Salamis, wraps, cheese, Clif Bars, nuts and chocolate are squeezed into the gaps between my thermals, sleeping bag, inflatable mat and a change of clothes. We’ve rejected tents in favour of sleeping in the huts no matter what. If all the bunks are taken, we will sleep on the floor. This is the only way we can travel superlight – essential when it comes to shattering a record.
In the huts at night, while Mat and I share salami wraps and a block of Whittaker’s chocolate, Lucy ploughs through peanut butter wraps, salami, chocolate, cheese and muesli. After dinner, while Mat and I laze on our bunks, she methodically stretches, rolls and massages from glutes to feet, all while cheerfully answering the same questions by inquisitive hikers with a patience that astounds me.
“Oh wow, you’re Lucy!” an English hiker gushes as we open the door to one hut. “I’m following you on Instagram. What you’re doing is amazing!” She hurries to make us all a cup of tea, which Mat and I are only too happy to accept, despite not being Insta-famous. Generosity like this is something Lucy has experienced from day one. Strangers have opened their homes, given them rides, run with Lucy, and offered icy drinks from car windows on hot days.
On day three, I watch as Lucy scrambles up a scree slope, singing, “Ain’t no mountain high enough,” through laboured breath. We’ve hiked and run for more than 90km, gaining 2,000m of vert each day. But this is our toughest push yet. Five hours criss-crossing the roaring Wairoa River drains our mental strength. Our legs are wasted and I’m more than ready to bunk down in the next hut. We reach Top Wairoa Hut two hours later than planned and find a couple of German hikers stoking a fire. Mat and I nibble on some peanuts, secretly hoping Lucy will take her bag off – the signal that we’re done for the day. But to my alarm, she wolfs down a cheese wrap and hustles us out the door. It’s 5.30pm. Four hours and a rainstorm later, we’re where she wants us to be. As I fall onto my bunk and listen to Lucy chat away to some hikers, I think, “She’s actually going to do this. She’s going to break the record.”
The next afternoon, we emerge from the Richmond Ranges. The last 20km to the trailhead is a slog through flooded paddocks before winding down a tedious fire trail. Mat has been suffering from painful shins since day two, so he drops back as Lucy and I power on. By 4pm, we are desperate for the van. Conversation dries up and Lucy’s energy is dangerously low. Miscalculating our arrival time led her to break her own rule: she didn’t eat for two hours. It’s a mistake you only make once.
I feel a bit like I’m hallucinating when the green van pops out of the trees and Tom bounces towards us, full of energy we wish we had. We collapse into camp chairs on the roadside, happy for him to fuss over us. He presents our favourite foods – a chocolate muffin for me, Doritos for Mat, a chocolate milkshake for Lucy – and chitchats happily about his past few days.
But the section isn’t over. The trail notes dictate another 8km along the road into the lakeside village of Saint Arnaud. Exhausted and uninspired by the idea of running on concrete, Mat and I offer to take the van so Tom can run with Lucy. The FKT rules command that she must cover every section of the trail by foot (except for a couple of pre-approved river sections).
“Let’s just get this done,” she says, shedding her multi-day pack and switching to a Nathan vest and Hoka Rincon road shoes.
More than an hour later, they find us in the hostel. Lucy hobbles to the shower, Tom and Mat organise the laundry (and beer), and I stare blankly at my bag. We have 12 hours before hitting the trail again for another three days of running. There is no time to reminisce over the journey we’ve just taken through the mountains. The app and trail notes come out, plans are made, bags are packed, and by 8am the next morning, we are ready to do it all again.
That’s the thing about an FKT – there’s no time to sit still. Lucy is constantly thinking about ways to shave a few more hours off a day, a few more days off the record. We march into the Nelson Lakes with a mission to be over the Waiau Pass (the second-highest point on the TA at 1870m) and out the other side by Christmas Eve. That gives us three days and two nights. Most hikers complete this section in eight days.
As we settle into a rhythm, we talk about Lucy’s mental struggles on the trail. How is she managing the anxiety that storms in whenever she stops moving?
“I just have to remind myself that you can’t get caught up worrying about things that haven’t happened yet,” she says.
“Sure, there are going to be some really scary river crossings, and there are nights after you’ve gone when I will be staying in a hut by myself in the middle of nowhere. And to say I’m scared about those things is an understatement. I just don’t know if I can do it by myself.
“But right now, there’s no point worrying about that. I need to focus on being here and completing this section as strong as I can.”
Her words remind me of a note taped inside their van, something her mum told her before the trip. It reads: “Eat the elephant one bite at a time.”
On our second day in the Nelson Lakes, we reach a section where huge chunks of track have been washed away by flood waters. For 2km, Lucy crashes through a wall of thick bushes and undergrowth, as though every tree stands in the way of her record. Her determination is palpable.
We run for 16 hours that day. And we make it back to the support van in time for Christmas. It’s her only full day’s rest on the whole trail.
It’s also our last day with Lucy and Tom before we fly home. But as we drink beers and play silly games, her mind is already running on the trail. Lucy is about to set off solo for the next three nights, which means tackling her biggest fears: crossing rivers, staying in huts by herself, loneliness. As we hug goodbye, Lucy is crying. “I know you can do this,” I tell her honestly.
Her eyes lock with mine. “I know I can, too.”
Lucy’s FKT was supported by Clif Bar, Hoka One One, Nathan Sports, Bright Brewery, Bright Physiotherapy and Soek Sunglasses.
This article featured in Edition 35 of Trail Run Mag.