Last weekend (Easter break of 4 days) I signed up to be part of an organised weekend of running in Tongariro National Park. The event was organised by one our club runners Glenn Hughes who has competed in International Mountain Running events representing New Zealand. The biggest draw card for this weekend was that Jonathan Wyatt (six-time world mountain running champion) one of New Zealand’s top athletes of all time was going to be attending the camp! Read his bio here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Wyatt He has an impressive list of wins and also is as far as I know the NZ’s fastest half marathon time record holder in 1hrs 02mins 37secs! Talk about being fast! He is very humble about his achievements and to have him at the camp was just inspirational.
Update from Michael via comment 6th April 2013 – “Rod Dixon is the fastest NZ half runner (1:02:12 in 1981) but Jono is the NZ 10km record holder (28:04 in 1996).”
The camp was held at Discovery Lodge and scheduled from Friday afternoon with a first group starting at 3pm. Unfortunately I was late leaving Wellington and got stuck in Easter holiday traffic going up North along the coast. However I got to camp and went for an easy solo run in Whakapapa Village. There are so many nice trails to explore! In the end I ran along to a place called Silica Rapids on one of the trails. In the evening we had a great dinner and discussed what the rest of the weekend would look like in terms of running.
Saturday morning after breakfast we got transported to start of the Whakapapnui trail which leads all the way up to the top ski field in Whakapapa via the Whakapapaiti Hut. (It’s just end of summer here in NZ so no snow). The plan was to follow this trail and regroup at the hut and then climb up to the ski field area. Of the 14 runners I was the slowest in terms of average pace on trails and climbing. Luckily we formed two groups and I was in the ‘slower’ paced group. Somehow on the way (mainly because I was slow :-)) I got a bit side tracked and lost myself and soon realised I took a wrong turn. Nevertheless I was able to back track and re-join the others who were half way down looking for me. We ended up climbing up to the ski area with some great views over the valley below.
From top of Ski Field
Here is what the trail looked like. Around the 10k mark I took a slight side trip 🙂 Total of about 18ks run.
Elevation Profile for Run up to ski field
I was pretty bashed after that run! At the top we enjoyed some great views and coffee from the cafe!
Running Group with Jono Wyatt and others
That evening we ended up in Owhango where some of the runners did a another trail and went to the Owhango pub for dinner and back to base for a well earned rest and sleep!
On Sunday we set off again and decided to do part of the Tongariro Northern circuit. The trail started from Whakapapa Village and to some degree it was a reverse of The Tussock Traverse event I did in January this year. This was an awesome run of about 22ks, not much of climbing and through some great trails! I really enjoyed this day! The trail ended on the Desert road where we got picked up. We then drove to the town of Turangi for lunch/coffee and then on to Tokaanu for some recovery in the famous geo thermal hot pools! Great day!
Whakapapa Village to Desert Road
In the afternoon/evening we all relaxed and shared stories then watched a movie about Kilian Jornet, A Fine Line. Great movie and highly recommended. It was a great weekend and I made some new friends and heard so many great stories about why each of us have chosen running and being in mountains, trails and enjoying life!
Monday morning we did another easy trail around Lake Rotopounamu near National Park and then after breakfast said our good byes and headed back to Wellington!
I am planning to organise another event myself for those who would like to explore some new trails and get out of their comfort zone. This was definitely outside of my comfort zone but I enjoyed every bit of it!
Group getting ready for another run!
Here is a great video featuring Jonathan Wyatt!