Te Araroa Expedition: New Zealand North-South Ultrarun Begins

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Last week I mentioned that British ultrarunner Jez Bragg was getting ready to attempt a speed record on the Te Araroa trail in New Zealand, which runs the entire length of the country, north to south. Today Jez actually got underway by officially launching the Te Araroa Expedition at a place called Ninety Mile Beach in Cape Reigna. He now hopes to cover 3054 km (1897 miles) in just 50 days, ending in a town called Bluff at the southernmost end of the country.

For his first day out, Jez took it easy by “only” running 100km (62 miles). That’s a great start for a long distance run like this one, but the trails are a bit easier in this area. As he moves way from the city and gets out into the wilderness, conditions will be a lot more challenging and difficult. Still, he has to be pleased with his start and reading his initial blog post, it seems he’s feeling good about the run ahead.

The Te Araroa is a relatively new trail, having just opened last year, but it is already garnering plenty of attention amongst thru-hikers and backpackers alike. Jez is hoping that he’ll be able to set a speed record for its entire distance, and to do so he’ll need to run between 60-80 km (37-49 miles) each and every day. While out on the trail, he also expects to burn about 6000 calories per day as he spends about 80% of the time on off-road trails.

Just which speed record he’ll be attempting to break remains to be seen. As I also mentioned last week, Australian ultrarunner Richard Bowles is also out on the Te Araroa and is hoping to set the mark himself. Richard actually set a goal of completing the entire run in just 60 days, but it now looks like he’ll miss that mark by 2-3 additional days. He should finish things up this coming weekend, giving Jez a target to set his sights on.

You’ll be able to follow Bragg’s progress both on his own website and on the North Face Journal. It should be fun to see if he can catch the Aussie over the next month and a half.

Kraig Becker