Two Decades On The Abel Tasman Trail

DSC_4366This weekends Able Tasman Coastal Classic will have its usual strong field (a quick look at the start list and the likes of recent Naseby 50km winner Ben Aynsley and the top 2 finishers at this years Routeburn- Luke Hurring and Dallas Wichman are my pick as as the first 3 across the line), but more importantly than the front runners, is this will mark the 20th running of the Able Tasman Coastal Classic.

Back in the early 1990’s trail running was in its infancy with the amount of events happening in New Zealand being able to be counted on a few fingers. A few athletes were beginning to question their allegiance to tarmac and time keeping.

Averil and Graeme West  had had enough of marathons along the bitumen and sitting in Nelson’s Chez Eelco Coffee Bar one Sunday 1993 morning,along with Marie Lenting plus  Joanne & Greg Fraine, the 350 Year Celebration banner of Abel Janzoon Tasman was spotted hanging on the Dutch proprietor’s wall.

That was enough to spark off an inspiration and from there the beginnings of one of the nation’s most popular trail runs began. In September 1994 a sell out 250 strong field lined up at Marahau but it was all but a disaster. A 100 year storm lashed  Tasman Bay that day, drenching runners on the way out then making them sea sick on the boat trip back.

“It was terrible” remembers Averil, “ We had all these runners wet and freezing and we got then straight on the boats headed back to Marahau.

_DSC1645But the weather only got worse and the boats could not come back to get us. Here we are , the race organizers, stranded and huddled  together until the bus arrived to take us back over the Takaka Hill.

At least we weren’t bored on the drive back to base as Graeme had a “few” calculations to determine, as finishers times were required for prizegiving an hour or so away…no swank portable computers available in those days with results all needing reconciling by pen & paper, made harder by the handicap starts “

Most races would have been ruined but competitors that day looked past the obvious and saw the Abel Tasman Coastal Classic for what it could be and they kept coming back

Paul Webster

Three have “survived “ since the beginning and Chris Gates, Owen Rowse and Colin Rolfe will line up for number 20 on Saturday. Barry Rowe will notch up his fifteenth while four others  Steve Clementson,, Rob Blackburne, Gary Dick & Roland Meyer will  have ten or more finishers to their credit.
Organisers , Nelson Events, have had plenty of voluntary support over the run’s history with Motueka’s Search & Rescue Team using the event as a valuable training exercise while the Motueka Round Tabler’s man the aid the drink stations and enjoy their weekend camaraderie.

They will be back assisting the celebration as will 350 plus runners from all over the country plus a few venturing from overseas.

All signed up months ago for a race aimed at giving them what they want…..simply a runners reason for a weekend away and earning their “stripes’ by completing the 40km journey from Totaranui back to Marahau along Nelson’s “jewel in the crown” coast track

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