Monthly Archives: October 2017

  • Becoming a Centurion | David Byrne

    Date :

    16th October, 2017

    Published By :

    Paul Charteris

    Written by David Byrne.

    When I first began my trail running journey it was thanks to the inspiration provided when working at Ultra-Trail Australia as part of a film crew. At the time it had been many years since I had been a runner (In a former life I was a middle distance track athlete) and I was a hefty 65 kilograms…yep, it’s still pathetically light but for me it was some 7kg above race weight!  As I stood in awe of these superhumans that were conquering the mountain trails I thought to myself that this is something I would someday love to do. So not long after I dusted off my old joggers and started pounding the pavements of Sydney. This was back at the end of 2013. It took six months or so to find some fitness and before long I was toeing the line at various trail races in the Blue Mountains west of the city. One good result lead to another and my newfound motivation kept growing, so to did the distances I was running. Always in the back of my mind was the goal of giving 100km a shake.

    The tipping point for me eventually taking the plunge was seeing a video online of Tarawera Ultra Marathon in all its glory. It wasn’t just the amazing field of competitors it attracted or the spectacular location, but that it looked to me to be a complete package. It was an event that was as much about your experience of the local culture and environment, as it was about the challenge and subsequent reward of completing the race itself. I figured that if I was going to finally do the seemingly impossible task of hauling my frame around such a vast distance, that I wanted to do it at an event that took the journey to a whole new level – and Tarawera sure didn’t disappoint!

    For a first time 100km runner Tarawera is about as ideal an event you can find. Don’t get me wrong, for the experienced ultra runners out there it certainly should be right at the top of your list. But for those who are nervous about their ability to make the distance or like me want to do events that offer more than the run itself, Tarawera is perfect. The course is stunning, traversing lush rainforest on groomed trails, single track and forestry roads. It’s relatively flat, so there are none of those ominous mountains that your dread throughout the day. However the smooth profile and nice underfoot terrain does mean the intensity is well and truly up! There are loads of friendly volunteers that make life easy as you go through the check in process, and plenty of well-stocked aid stations on the course where once again the volunteers make you smile as you’re battling your way through the day. The race aside, in the lead up to the big event there are all sorts of fun activities you can partake in. A cruise on a lake to see parts of the course, a traditional Maori welcome, pre-race yoga and even a rogaine with dogs! To cap the whole thing off there’s also an incredible celebration dinner.

    My experience in 2016 when I finally became a centurion will be something I’ll never forget. From the moment I arrived in Rotorua and breathed in the sulphur rich air I was full of excitement and nervous anticipation. Walking through the expo and watching the athlete Q and A added to my eagerness to run. Standing on the start line in light drizzle as the Maori’s danced and headlamps flickered was a surreal experience. Then finally when the race began there was a wave of energy as the huge field set off into the darkness. For me it was a relief to get underway. Immediately the nerves disappeared and I found myself totally immersed in the moment. As the day progressed I was racing hard but still managed to take in the surrounds. Huge redwooods, lush green ferns, creeks, rivers and waterfalls – the course had it all. Though for me the best part was crossing the finish line and hugging race director Paul. He stood there all day and night and everyone that crossed that line got a welcoming embrace from what has to be one of the kindest and most genuinely caring folks you’ll cross paths with.

    2018 will be my third trip back to Rotorua. This time around I’m tackling the 100 mile race. Why? Well it gives me even more time to be out and enjoying the awesomeness of New Zealand!­

  • The Trail Ultramarathon I will always remember.

    Date :

    3rd October, 2017

    Published By :

    Paul Charteris

    I farted in a guy’s face during my first ever trail ultra. That day was a defining moment in my life.

    The trail ultra that I think about at least once a month is the first race that I did over the marathon distance.

    It was in California in March 2006 and the race is called Way Too Cool 50k. It takes place in little township also called Call in Northern California and incorporates some of the Western States Trail. It was the first long distance run I’ve done more than a marathon. I approached the race with a huge amount of excitement and I was also shit-scared.

    Way Too Cool was a fair bit further than I’d ever run before. And the word ultramarathon just really scared the pants off me. Being scared, it also spurred me into a huge amount of training and I was extremely dedicated and diligent in my approach to that race.

    There were a lot of highlights in that race. I remember running with a group of friends to Auburn Lake Trails which is about halfway through the course and just having a great time with a lot of like minded runners.

    On the way back on one of the steepest hills coming out of Browns Bar I bent over to put my hands on my knees to power up a very ugly steep hill. At that moment, I farted. Because the hill was so steep, the runner behind me had his face pretty much at my butt-level. “Gee thanks” he said. Sorry -I replied. It was quite the fart – and I am sure that runners three or four back would have heard it. That’s trail ultras for ya.

    When I finished that race, it was a transformative moment in my life.

    I remember running along the hard-packed red dirt by the roadside and turning the final right hand corner and crossing the finish line. Greg Soderlund – The Race Director was there.  I basically collapsed into his arms and gave him a hug and the emotion just poured out. I just started crying and crying and crying.

    For me it was truly a special moment – not just because I’d run the 50k distance – but because where I had come from to get there from being unhealthy and to being overweight and lonely to accomplishing something that was, to me, truly remarkable. It was a special time and pivotal to where the journey of the last 11 years of my life where this journey was born.

    It fuelled the desire to give back to people – something equally transformative in their own lives.

    Tim, myself and the Tarawera team are so lucky to do what we do with our trail running events. That feeling the moment you cross the finish line, the hours, days and weeks after. Don’t lose it. Hold onto it, harness it and use it to create good in your lives and for those around you.

    That moment was 11 years ago and the memory is just as strong today as it was back then. I’d like to think that Greg Soderlund would be proud of what we’re doing today. The sport of trail running has changed so much in those 11 years but the feelings that it creates has not.

    Everybody has their own story. The emotions that we see at the finish line – we know they come from somewhere real. We can never know all the stories and behind those finish-line tears – we just know we’re lucky to witness them and play a role in people’s lives – even if for just one day a year.


    – Paul Charteris
    Rotorua, October 2017.