Trail Running at Xterra Wellington…Fun Times!

xterra wellingtonSunday 12 May (Mothers Day!) took me to Wellington from my base in Wanaka to have a run in Race 2 of the Wellington Xterra trail race series, organised by the well respected team of Evelyn Williamson & Mike Thomason; these two know how to put on a really ’fun’ event and they have been behind Xterra Wellington since 2008.
Despite Prime Minister John Keys recent comments that, “Wellington is dying”, I can assure you that as far as the Wellington trail running scene goes, Wellington is very much alive and well, with a total field of 500 runners competing in race 2 of Xterra today!
‘We never thought we would see the day when over 500 people lined up at one of our XTERRA Trail Running Events’ say Mike and Evelyn.
Their philosophy is for all competittors to come ‘personally’ prepared, you need to carry gear for all conditions and look after your own well being; don’t expect ‘on course’ hydration or nutrition hand outs, (except for the mini “chocolate fish” treats, randomly handed out at a variety of locations around the course, yum).  Otherwise you are own your own and you need to plan and prepare for these events, carry enough fluids, food and clothing for all conditions, keep it real and expect the unexpected!
Race day, and I hooked up in Wellington with former Junior World Triathlon Champion, Sarah Harrow and her Scottish partner Rob and we made the journey by car out to the Orongorongos in the Rimutaka Forest Park on the East side of Wellington Harbour, I was excited and had no idea what to expect.
Mike considers the Orongorongos to be the spiritual home of XTERRA Wellington Trail Running. “I just love it there. This is where we held the very first Wellington XTERRA back in 2008 and we feel just a little bit proud that over the past few years we have exposed it to a lot of people who never really knew it was there. You will have witnessed today just how beautiful it is. It has a great mix of terrain and captures exactly what trail running in Wellington is all about; big climbs, great views, luscious native bush, a good mix of technical and open trails, and all within 30 minutes drive of the CBD (almost!)
“And then you throw in the Wellington crowd” Mike says,”What we like most about these events is the people who come to them; they all seem to come with exactly the right attitude. They want a good solid run, they want to get muddy and fall over, and they aren’t afraid of a bit of hard work. But most of all they seem to have developed a great sense of camaraderie. This was what we hoped to develop all along, not just an event, but a community”
 So the stage is set!!
The three of us had opted to do the very demanding 20km ‘Long’ Course, this was the longest and most difficult of the 3 choices being offered and duly attracted some of the elites of the Wellington trail running scene. As Mike said, the long course had the perfect mix of terrain to test any off road runner, a long, steady, steep climb to sort the men out from the boys, loads of technical single track, forest, farm, mud, sweat and the odd tear or two too I would imagine, certainly many a curse!
xterra 2 wellingtonFrom the gun the pace was torrid and the front runners bolted out of the starting gates quickly establishing that this race will be both fast and furious at the business end.
Initially the terrain is firm, single track, undulating through native bush and forest, the pace is so quick there is no time to appreciate the scenery, but it is fun and the technical trail keeps you absorbed.
After about 5 km the track starts to climb and although ‘runnable’ it is very steep, enough at least to keep the pace relatively slow and steady and there is a lot of inter changing of positions as the steeper pitches put the pressure on those that haven’t done the hill training necessary to push it hard.
Race start. Photo: Logan Akers
After some 4km of climbing I’m happy to reach the summit in 4th place and not far from contact with the young guns out front, I’ve also passed the leading women and feel pretty good after a long lay off with ITB injury issues.
Where there is ‘up’ there is ‘down’ and so the long, exciting downhill section of this race begins and what a great downhill this turns out to be, almost 9 km of very technical terrain, tree roots (just itching to trip you up), clay ,mud, wet, slick surfaces, trees and vines to dodge, so yes, you  really need to be on your game and although it is very fast you need to maintain good control and be agile and adaptable to what lays ahead.
Finally, the track hits the bottom and the last 5 km is relatively flat to the finish, like the start it is single trail, very fast, undulating with lots of short sharp pitches and short inclines, little foot bridges keeping you alert with their damp, slick approaches. and exits.
Eventually the trail pops out of the bush and into a lovely sunny clearing and there is a good contingent of supporters cheering competitors home, finishers are rewarded with a sticky raspberry bun and a banana.
I’m very happy to finish in 7th position overall and 1st place in the over 40 division, but  more importantly I’m happy to finally be injury free and ready to take on the next “off road” running challenge. Sarah finishes close behind me and has a great run home for 2nd placed women, Rob gives it his all and arrives at the finish with bloody legs and dripping with sweat after an epic race and some big falls along the way.
Make sure you include ’at least’ one Xterra Wellington Trail Run in your planning for events to do, there is an Xterra Series in Auckland also and the final event in that series at Waihi doubles as the NZ Trail Running Champs… if you are going to this one I’ll see you there!!
Meanwhile have fun on the trails and don’t forget to check in with Grant and Jane at “BCR” (Back Country Running) for in depth news and reviews and all things trail running in NZ and abroad, cheers!
AT -  Team BCR Correspondent

About Andrew Town

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4 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Hi,

    Can you please provide photo credits when using my photos.



  2. Hi Logan,

    My apologies for the oversight, I submitted this article for BCR and omitted to acknowledge photo credit.


  3. Reults (long course)

    1st Ben Clendon Open 1:41:56
    2nd Eric Duggan Open 1:42:01
    3rd Edwin Crossling Open 1:43:45
    4th Brad Monaghan Open 1:48:08
    5th Nathan Martin Open 1:48:11
    6th Andrew Town Vet 1:49:50

    1st Marjolein Cook Open 1:50:56
    2nd Sarah Harrow Open 2:00:55
    3rd Lizzie Wesley-Smith Open 2:04:21
    4th Miyoko Inagaki Open 2:10:00
    5th Kim Manford Open 2:14:57
    6th Anna Ross Open 2:17:27

    • thanks Andrew! Sorry, I had got this up. cheers Grant

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