11 January 2022

When 66-year-old Dick Breukink crossed the finish line of the 102km race at the 2021 Tarawera Ultramarathon (TUM102) in February, he vowed to never run that far again.  

Nevertheless, invigorated by his experience and his love for trail running, an idea sparked in him – could he get a group of 50 people and inspire them to tackle the 50km distance (Bachcare TUM50) at the 2022 Tarawera Ultramarathon by UTMB. 

“I stumbled across the finish line of the 102kmand I remember this as if it was yesterday, I was hanging on the fence and I said to my kids make sure I never ever do this again, but wouldn’t it be lovely to have 50 people doing 50km,” said Dick. 

Determined to follow through on his idea, Dick teamed up with his good friend Rob Hammington who also ran the 102km distance in February and in doing so, became the oldest person to ever finish the TUM102 at 75 years old. Dick set up a Facebook group called Fifty for 50 and Rob was tasked with helping him organise training events and encouraging others to sign up. 

“Rob just walks beside you and the next thing you know you’re signed up to something, that’s the way it goes,” said Dick. “So, I said let’s do the Fifty for 50 group. I was sure I could find 50 friends and particularly my focus was on getting people to do it for the very first time who thought they couldn’t do it, so we can convince you that we can.” 

Convincing they were. What started out as a local group based between Hamilton and Cambridge with a target of 50 members turned into something much greater, amassing over 180 runners and walkers as far afield as Hawaii 

“We were finding these people through friends and walking groups,” said Dick. “Rob and I have been walking through the forest in Rotorua doing some training and we walk next to people and we say we’re doing some training and the next thing they’ve signed up for the Fifty for 50.” 

“I use my age a lot and I truly am not an athlete,” said Rob. “I just seem to have this ability, I don’t know where it came from, to persuade people using myself and say look you know me, you know I’m not an athlete but I get out and do stuff so come with me. 

“I sign people up in the supermarket, I went on jury service one day and got chatting with the woman next to me and she signed up. It’s the enthusiasm that we have for this wonderful sport and obviously it shows in what we say and do, and people get carried along by it.” 

Dick and Rob say the group is an even split of men and women with an average age in the 40s. The oldest member of Fifty for 50 is 81-year-old Eileen Odgers. 

“She’s going to do it and I know Eileen and she’s going to finish, unless she breaks a leg or something, and she will be the oldest person to ever do the 50km as far as I’m aware,” said Rob. 

The Fifty for 50 group meet regularly for training runs and social catch ups. The group often chose to run through the Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua, which makes up part of the TUM courses, followed by breakfast and coffee at a local café.  

“The thing is, even though it’s an individual sport, people still enjoy seeing what other people are doing. I think it’s the social element of the whole thing that really keeps people motivated,” said Dick. 

When the race weekend rolls around in February next year, the Fifty for 50 members signed up to the Bachcare TUM50 are planning to meet up on the Friday night pre-race to have dinner together. Dick says they plan to run individually but will hopefully meet up again once everyone has finished to celebrate over drinks. 

For Dick and Rob, the Tarawera Ultramarathon by UTMB is an event they hold dear to their hearts and an experience they can’t wait to share with the rest of the group. 

Tarawera is really something special,” said Dick. “The volunteers are amazing, I’ve never ever seen people in the middle of the night so happy to give you a cup of soup, to talk to you and give you food, their aid stations are not aid stations, they’re buffets. So the food and the volunteers, no matter what time of the day you come, are just absolutely incredible and I’ve done a lot of events, I’ve never seen such fantastic people.” 

“For me it’s got something magical about it, Tarawera. From the day I did the first one I was in absolute awe of the whole thing,” said Rob.