We had a chat with Chris Martin who is the main man behind Big Sunday Runs (BSR) based in Wellington. BSR brings together a tough breed of trail/mountain running enthusiasts who prefer the rugged off the beaten track mountain missions. They have a soft spot for the Tararua Mountain range in the North Island close to Wellington. Here’s their story.
The Kea Track Club had its genesis in October 21, 2015 – almost by accident, you could say. Steve Plowman, who had been coaching runners for 37 years, had all but decided to retire from coaching when he was approached by three runners whose coach had left town and retired. The rest, as the saying goes, is history. We talked to Steve Plowman to get an insider’s view of the Kea Track Club and what makes it unique.
Here’s another great summer day plan, this time from Dena. The Jumbo-Holdsworth Circuit is one of the most popular routes in te Tararua Ranges, and for a good reason. The 24 km loop takes you over a great variety of terrain and scenery, and is very doable as a day trip from Wellington. You’ll experience a beautiful flowing trail along a lush river valley; a technical, steep ascent (or descent, depending which way you decide to tackle the loop); some true alpine ridge-running with spectacular views; and a long, fast, fun descent down the very runnable Gentle Annie track. Make sure to pick a nice day to thoroughly enjoy your adventure!
The description of the route to the Mt Matthews summit is a real treat from Emma! This is an epic adventure you can look forward to and schedule for a nice summer day. The ascent to the biggest peak in the Rimutaka Range is no mean feat, so please plan your day out carefully and be mindful of carrying all the gear that can help you out in difficult situations.
Chan & Orsi at the WUU2K Start
4:30am on a Sunday and we are up, excited and a little sleepy nonetheless. Matt who is down from Auckland for the WUU2K is already having his morning brew and by the look on his face a bit nervous as you would be when you are about to run more than 40kms on some of Wellington’s steep hills. We are all set to go to the start line of the WUU2K.
We arrive at the start in Kandallah Park, where most runners are gathered with head lamps shining and awaiting the 6:30am start. It’s a crisp clear cold winter morning with no hint of wind for which Wellington is famous for.
Gareth (Race Director) is there and looking a tad nervous, we can almost feel his excitement mixed with nervousness as he is calmly talking with his team to get the runners on their way.
We split up to take a few photos and absorb in the atmosphere at the start. Just before 6:30am a countdown started and all runners were off on to complete their respective distances.
We then drive to the first aid station on Makara Hill where Juliane and Nick have started setting up. Rhys our race marshal was at hand setting up traffic safety signs for the first road crossing to be put in place.
Chan on the Skyline
With my camera gear I head off to the Skyline trail just as the sun is coming up. As I get to about 30mins into the trail at a steady jog Tim Sutton and Andy Good float pass me with a wave and big smiles as if they were on a Sunday run (which of course they were). Both look strong and composed but lively. I didn’t even stand a chance of getting my camera out, so I make do with my phone camera to snap a quick photo of them disappearing towards Makara. I also update twitter as I wait for others to come past. The sun is almost up over the horizon and the first rays of sunshine is a welcome sight with the warmth it brings to where I was a bit exposed on the Skyline.
A few minutes later runners come by in a stream. Jo Johanssen and Jean Beumont is in the lead of the 60k with local runner Ngarama leading the 42k. Dena zooms past in third place on the 60k and looks real strong. I wait snapping photos and then decide that it’s time to make my way to Makara again.
Amanda at Makara Peak
From the first aid station on Makara road it’s a steep climb to the summit through switchbacks then on the a rocky 4WD track that has runners reaching for their knees to power walk up; good practice for the Tip Track later on. Makara peak is one of the two points in the WUU2K where the 60km Ultramarathon course diverts away from the marathon for an extra loop; this one goes down the leaping Lizard mountain bike trail.
The first runner Tim Sutton comes through the split well ahead of the time predicted; just three minutes after the course direction signs are hammered into the grass with a purpose-built Makara rock. The race marshall hasn’t even had time to put her face on yet, how very embarrassing. After Tim charges down towards the 60km loop a steady stream of happy faces rise up the hill with the sun and Makara Peak puts on a show to reward their efforts. This point is just over 13km in to the race so all of the runners are looking fresh, focused and have beaming smiles on their faces, especially when they are told that even better views await them up ahead.
The runners are moving so quickly it’s hard to spot people. Jo Johansen, as expected is cruising along leading the ladies in the 60km race. Nagarama Milner-Olsen waves as she floats past down the marathon split, no doubt on the way to send out more Strava emails as she picks off the Makara CR’s. She is chased by Letha Witham, a recent import to Wellington from the UK who looks strong, coming off a marathon PB just three weeks ago. GPR Editor and Race director Matt Rayment bolts past in a wolf pack lead by the notorious Scout carrying the dogdatory gear in some saddle bags. The marathon race is close here, will it still be close after 30 more kilometres?
Chan & Orsi – Makara Mountain Bike Park (Cow Camp)
We get to the second aid station where Grethe, Alan, Charlotte and Brenda have setup a MOO station to get all runners MOOVING. They look fantastic in their cow costumes. A few spectators along with friends and family who are supporting runners take up rest of the merry bunch.
Kelvin Meade is the first 42km runner to arrive at the aid station. He soars past with a quick stop to refill his water bottle looking strong. The second and third place runners come through just a few minutes behind followed by another few. The MOO station gets into full swing as each runner goes past and Tim Sutton still leading the 60k arrives at speed and continues on at pace to go up Salvation to top of Wright’s hill. Both 42km and 60km runners will share the same trails again until they part ways at the top of the tip track.
We head to the Finish line after getting some photos.
Emma from Owhiro Bay to Mt Victoria Finish with Dena
The morning was clear skied, pretty incredible for July, and also very exposed on the coast. Dave and Shaz were superstars in setting up the Owhiro aid station as an oasis in the rocks. We chatted about what good folks Gareth and Megs are in making this day happen. We unpacked more of the table and arranged it ready for our runners. I was reaching for all the layers I could find and soon added star jumps to the gloves, jacket, hat and long crops. More pacers and support crew turned up with every few minutes, all eager to err on being too early than risk missing their friends or family. Time ticked over while we estimated the time for our frontrunners to come the 11k or so from the Brooklyn wind turbine to us; and chatted as our little group increased in size with stories of supporters and pacers. I love these stories. There were friends, siblings and fellow run clubbers lined up as pacers; and as crew and supporters we had proud parents, wives, siblings, kids, friends, and dog walking Wellingtonians turning up to see what was going on. Three wee kids asked if we were holding a birthday party (probably noticing the crisps and Coke and jet planes). No but we are having a party! We peered more closely along the rocky shore. There was a false alarm or two with casual Sunday runners who we cheered for nevertheless. And then – there’s our first racer!
Tim Sutton cruises in relaxed as anything looking strong, happy and fast. He’s run 42 of our most hilly, technical, rocky, playful kilometres in a sweet 3 hours 45 minutes. He’s followed quickly by Andy Good who’s been running his first ultra and is in top form. The two of them are 20 minutes clear of the next few people; it’s a delight to see the leaders blaze through with cheeriness and gratitude at the people (and the food). We see Dean, Alex, Jo Johansen – go the ladies go!, Stu, Steve, and Jean. I jump up and down with glee while updating WoRM and Run Wellington with news on Facebook as I have it, stocking runners with electrolyte or coke or crisps or sweets, peering into the rocks to see my fellow runner, chatting with pacers and excited nerves for the little run ahead of us. This is multitasking.
Dave on our aid station sees Dena half a kilometre away running along the rocks and she rolls in looking strong, happy, and having a good day. It’s a brief stop to empty out those shoes of the bigger rocks. Gulp in a drink and a small snack. I switch gears into being her pacer. We’re off! My own body is creakier after the cold, than hers after a marathon distance of tough terrain. We blitz along at a healthy speed along the road before turning into the uphill Happy Valley, discussing the day so far and where people are. There are a few minutes of tactical chat also added to our pacer talk of weeks gone by. We turn upwards into the tip track. This $hit is getting real.
And then? The beauty of this is that all of these kilometres are Dena’s to tell. I feel so fortunate to have shared in that day. We ran together for 20 kilometres, in a cracking two and a half hours, over four decent (ok, two were monstrous) hills. I told stories, I navigated, I encouraged eating and drinking, I watched out for form, I updated friends and supporters on the finish line, I took photos, and I played helper.
We cruised up our last hill which was Mt Victoria. It was a bit of a count down here. With less than one kilometre to go, we hit the Mt Vic road and then – no kidding – we see a herd of friendly cows who were Wellington runners in cow onesies. The Moo2K and Mt Cow Cow jokes abounded. I will never forget them offering to pace some of our final metres, and looking to my right to see Dena in a herd of four onesied bovines. Stellar work, WoRM team! Then one final hill, a heck of a steep one. The end. We hung out on the finish line for over an hour, cheering hoarse for our peers and looking in wonderment at the panorama of hills that people had conquered that day. It was showcased to it’s finest in shining weather, eye tingling smiles, familiar faces and that feeling that anything is possible when you believe it so.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
Wuu2K organising team, you made something amazing happen. Thank you for making us a part of it ❤
The Vital Stats of the WUU2K
- Tim Sutton : 5:50:55
- Andy Good : 6:10:44
- Dean Ford : 6:47:33
- Jo Johansen : 6:39:02
- Jean Beaumont : 7:03:17
- Dena Valente : 7:20:40
- Kelvin Meade : 4:25:35
- Joseph O’Conner : 4:33:12
- Denis McCarthy : 4:33.36
- Ngarama-Milner Olsen : 4:58:24
- Sandrine Dourine : 5:00:14
- Letha Witham : 5:01:39
Photos from the day
- Barking Emu > Photos from Michael Baughen
- Top of Tip Track > Photos from Michael Baughen
- Bottom of Tip Track > Photos from Dominic Strogen
- Run Wellington Facebook Album