Tip Track Marathon

There is a track that almost every Wellington trail runner knows jokes about and dreads. It’s called the Tip Track. It goes up for about 3.5 kilometers on an unrelenting gradient from Owhiro Bay up to the Hawkins Hill Radar Dome. The area is part of Te Kopahou reserve. The Tip Track gets its name from Wellington’s southern landfill site as the track passes the area. Regardless of where the wind is blowing, there is no escaping the stench of the ‘Tip’. So why on earth would anyone want to traverse this track up and down six times? We are about to find out from the founder of the Tip Track Marathon, local trail running connoisseur Brad Coleman.

Brad Coleman (left) Founder of the Tip Track Marathon in Wellington

Could you tell us a bit about what the Tip Track Marathon is?

The Tip Track is an infamous trail near Owhiro Bay. Its infamy comes from the climb involved (about 400m+ vertical gain at 3.5km), the hard and rocky track, the stench emanating from the Brooklyn Rubbish Dump where the track gets its name from (Tip), and the often brutal Wellington northerly that blows that stench right up your nose. It’s a mixture that makes an expired can of Double Brown seem more palatable.

The Tip Track is not flat

The Tip Track is not flat –  Photo by Barrett Hocking

The Tip Track Marathon (TTM) simply sees a runner (or a walker) ascend and descend this track six times, which roughly comes to 42kms in distance and 2500 meters of climbing.

Obviously, running up and down such a track doesn’t appeal to everyone, and this is where the true beauty of the event lies. The people that show up have such an incredible attitude, both supporters and runners, but especially the runners. They run up and down the track, putting themselves through hell, and spend the day smiling and cheering other runners on. The smiles never disappear, and it is just so captivating because you know they are suffering immensely.

Entry to the infamous Tip Track

Entry to the infamous Tip Track – Photo by Barrett Hocking

I should also stop calling this an event, as it’s an insult to all actual ‘events’ worldwide. The Tip Track Marathon is free, low-key, and is simply a group of people getting together to do something slightly sadistic (or fun). It begins with the firing of a cannon signaling to the runners that they can start their ‘race’ up and down. The cannon is symbolic to give you a taste of what the day is all about.

Tip Track Marathon Cannon

Tip Track Marathon Cannon – Photos supplied by TTM organiser(s)

What was your motivation in setting up an event like this?

Originally, the Tip Track Marathon (TTM) was set up as a joke, as I wanted to see if I could do it and tried to convince a few others to join me for support. I was surprised when a whole bunch of nutters (I mean runners) turned up and joined me all day. On that inaugural event in 2017, I managed four laps of utter torture and decided in future years that timekeeping and drinking beer was more my forte.

The day was a blast and people kept asking if I would do it again. It wasn’t a hard decision. Who am I to deny a bunch of masochists an avenue for persecution?

But seriously, there is something special about this Wellington running community isn’t there? I suppose my motivation to keep this going is about bringing that community together for a day. It’s pretty simple when I think about it. I just want to spend a day with a bunch of friends and celebrate this zany running community of ours.

We also have a nominated charity each year. Rather than charge an entry fee, everyone puts some notes into a bucket to go to charity. It’s one of the best cons I’ve ever come up with. (just kidding)! Last year we raised around $700 for the Mental Health Foundation, and this year I’m confident we’ll go well over a thousand dollars. There’s certainly a feel-good factor in that. Sadly, a former TTM finisher Cassie was diagnosed with breast cancer recently. She has had to return home to Colorado and this year (2019) we are raising funds for her.

Cassie Fund Raiser

Cassie Fund Raiser from WoRM – Wellington Running Meetup – Photo Supplied

Why do you think people should do this event and which international pro runner would you challenge to take on this event, who would it be and why?

Why? Because you think you can’t. Because you’ll make friends. Because life can feel like an endless, monotonous nightmare and this will give you a topic changer when your overweight, catatonic work colleague starts talking about their kitchen renovations. Apologies, I am a cynic and am susceptible to a rant.

I’d encourage anyone to come along though, even if they don’t feel capable of the full six laps. You can do as many laps as you wish, or just sit on the sideline and support. There is a festive atmosphere and so many strangers finish the day as friends.

Well, if I can have any runner, then it’d have to be Eliud Kipchoge. See if he can run a Boston Qualifier on the Tip Track. In the ultrarunning scene, I’m a fan of our very own Ruth Croft. She consistently tears up the trail ultra scene and seems like a good sort, so she’d fit in.

Local & international participants taking on the Tip Track Marathon – Greg from Ireland on the left and local trail champion Will on the right racing neck and neck

What sort of training is required to successfully complete the event?

To complete all six laps you need to be reasonably fit. It’s physically taxing without a doubt. But it’s the mental side that needs the most training, as that is most likely what will cause you to quit.

You’ll need to complete some runs that take you out of your comfort zone. The sort of training run that you dread and don’t want to do. A personal favourite is to run on a treadmill with techno music blazing and the Shortland Street (A NZ based TV soap) omnibus on. If you can get through that then you are ready for the Tip Track Marathon.

The finishers of 2018 Tip Track Marathon

Who are the main supporters of the event?

Wellington Running Meetup (aka WoRM) are big supporters. They help create the buzz and atmosphere surrounding the run. It’s humbling having a dozen people approach me in the lead-up offering to help out in some way. Also, the team at WUU2K (Wellington Urban Ultra) is superb. I’ve borrowed equipment from them free-of-charge, and they have kindly offered a free WUU2K entry the past couple of years. Special mention to Will Cass for bringing his (now) infamous cannon as well!

Tell us a bit about yourself, what running and the Wellington running community means to you?

I turned to running, so that I could maintain fitness following a cricket injury and soon became addicted. Wellington’s trails captivated me and provided me an outlet to help deal with mental illness, which is almost a cliché amongst runners, but it is such good therapy. I’ve run a couple of ultra’s, including the 102km Tarawera Ultramarathon in 2017, where I was pipped by Jim Walmsley in a photo finish. The photo, unfortunately, showed me at the halfway point, so Jim took the win. One of my favourite hobbies is ‘running holidays’, where I go to some remote area and run the trails. A highlight being running through the Grand Canyon a couple of years back. I also believe insulting people is a valid form of communication, and I’m going to stop talking about myself now before this turns into a Tinder profile.

The Wellington running community is unique in that it’s so vibrant and welcoming. I like that very few people in the community are normal, as I prefer weird people with insecurities and interesting perspectives on life. These people, combined with Wellington’s unbelievably accessible abundance of trails, make this place so special.

What advice would you give to a newbie runner?

Get on the trails! It’s so much more fun than road running. And join up to WoRM and come along to some runs. Everyone is as weird as you and you’ll soon make friends.

Tip Track Marathon, Wellington, New Zealand – Usually held in November every year. Check out the Tip Track Marathon Facebook Page for event details. The day is a celebration of the Wellington running community. It is a social, unofficial event and no entry fee is charged. Each year we do take donations however and proceeds go to a selected charity. Come along for a run, to support, and for a beer and meet some new friends along the way.