The Big Easy Mountain Marathon, New Zealand’s Highest Mountain Marathon, takes place Janarury 26th, starting at the “Snow Farm” high on the Pisa Range and finishing in Albert Town just outside of Wanaka. Race director, Terry Davis from Highland Events has given us a few great insights to the race that has firmly established itself among mountain runners (and mountain bikers) in the Southern Lakes area. The race has even attracted Luis Alonso, who has picked the Big Easy Oceania marathon as part of his ‘Grand Slam’ 7 marathons on seven continents.
So why the name The BIG EASY?
The BIG EASY was originally set up as a MTB ride/race we added the marathon after so many runners said to us they’d love to run over that course. Anyway, The BIG EASY is really a ‘harking back’ to the good ol’ days of understated Kiwi coloquialisms. So many races these days are the ‘Challenge’ or ‘Epic’ or ‘Adventure’… I actually genuinely believe it IS an easy course – easy when compared to the Lake Hawea Contact Epic (125km MTB race), Easy compared to the Bannockburn Pub to Pub Gutbuster (70km MTB race)…
What about compared to other trail Marathons?
Again I still reckon it’s got to be one of the easier ones around. Starting at the Cardrona Snow Farm you are already at 1500m above sea level, you only have to run 9km and climb about 500m (mostly gradual gradient) to get to the top of Mt Pisa at 1960m above sea level – (we think that’s the highest altitude a marathon distance is run over in Australasia). From the top you have an absolutely awesome 21km of vertually continual downhill. mostly it’s a nice runnable gradient but there is about 5km as you get closer to the bottom of very steep downhill that I encourage folk to walk down to save their joints!! After the downhill you still have 12km of ‘crosscountry’ running to get to the finnish at the Albert Town Tavern (where a nice cold Speights summit awaits you!) – this is the tough part of the race – only one short sharp up-hill then the rest is nice ‘undulating’ across farm land until just near the finish where you have to run through the Cardrona river (ankle deep) – this is lovely and refreshing after often a very hot last 12km!
So what’s with the ‘Soft Options’?
Yeah calling MTB and Run options that finish after the big downhill ‘soft options’ is not likely to encourage too many people to do them! But hey we give the customer what they want – a few folk said they’d like to finish at the Lake McKay Station woolshed and not have to bother with the last 12km of cross-county. So we’ve given people that option but hey, we’re not going to pretend that they haven’t gone for the Soft Option! I thinks it’s quite appropriate – fit’s the atmosphere of the event where the focus is very much on ‘fun’ and not taking yourself too seriously.
Plans for the future?
We currently have a Lil’ Easy family MTB 17km… thinking we might as well add in a 12km cross-county run for those on holiday in the Wanaka area – not really up for the mountain run but would like to do something to burn off some festive season calories. Not sure what we’ll call it yet – maybe the ‘I can only be assed with 12ks’ ??
It is not to late to enter the Big Easy- check out the Highland Events website for more details and how to enter
Big Easy Marathon Video by Mal Law at Running Wild