Greatest Run Ever is one of the most popular parts of the show, the bit where we ask you to write in to us and tell us your Greatest Run Ever. It doesn’t have to be a race or a mountain summit - it might just be a run around the block - but it’s a run that sung to you for some reason. Inspirational, funny, sad, delightful, everyday stories of running. Send it in to us firstname.lastname@example.org or via our social media
May 22, 2019
Kia Ora guys,
I’ve been wanting to send in my greatest run ever since the beginning of Dirt Church. Unfortunately I just couldn’t think of anything that I could give that title too. Sure it could’ve been my first marathon, or taking on the west coaster 30km in 2017 as my first trail run or even conquering Tarawera 50km in February this year...but I just didn’t feel like any of those truly deserved the title.
But fear not gentlemen, I won’t waste anymore of your time reminiscing about what could’ve been because on the 13th of April 2019, I finally had my #greatestrunever!
I had entered the Waitomo 35km Trail run as something to focus on between Tarawera and Hawkes Bay marathon. It was never going to be anything other than a run to keep my legs ticking over the kms. And everyone seemed to claim it as such a ‘must do’ event that I figured why not give it a nudge. By the way they’re right, you really must do this event as it’s the only time you can run these trails.
I had a pretty average training leading up to the event and a week out suffered from the worst case of muscle fatigue imaginable. I ended up taking 3 days off running with the thought it might be easier just to pull out of the race but I didn’t. Race week saw me only getting a 5.5km run in and I essentially went into race day with no major expectations. I just wanted to finish and if everything went ok, I hoped to cross the line at the 6 hour mark.
The bus ride to the start felt like an eternity but upon arriving and walking into the Mangapohue Natural bridge I was speechless and extremely worried that it would pick this moment in time to collapse on all us unsuspecting runners. Thankfully it did not and it provides one amazing start line!
The run takes you up hills and into some technical trails through bush, over and under logs before crossing a stream at 3.8kms and getting your first look at the Marakopa natural tunnel. This is a reason to do the race in itself! I entered with four other runners and as I was the only one with a headlamp, lead them through the otherwise pitch black tunnel.
From there it was over more farmland, through streams and up and down hills that felt like mountains at times, all the while admiring the karst formations scattered throughout. I ‘pottered’ along eventually crossing a road and heading through a large downhill section with plenty of wonderful running to be had.
From here, we had to follow a gravel road back up to a bush trail that lead us down to the Waitomo Trail and onwards to the Glowworm visitors centre and the finish line at the top of the stairs.
At this point I need to apologise for my rambling and feel, just in case you haven’t picked it up yet, that I should elaborate on why this is my greatest run.
I did this entire event just living in the moment. My phone stayed firmly in my pocket once I crossed that start line. I never once stressed about how long it was taking me. I didn’t feel any need to push myself to try and beat an unrealistic time. I didn’t once feel like I needed to prove that I could do this, because I knew deep down that I could. There was no justifying myself to others on why I ran it like I did, because I didn’t need to. I laughed, I stumbled, I grimaced and I slipped over. But I smiled and chatted my way through the entire race and it felt amazing! I didn’t get any photos to share with others of the wonderful things I saw, but I have them firmly sketched into my memory, along with the smells, the sounds and the emotions that I experienced. I also made it across the finish in 5hrs 6mins which I am absolutely stoked with. Paul Charteris and his crew really know how to put on an epic event.
Living in the moment and just letting myself be free to experience the wonders around me is why this is and will be my #greatestrunever for a very long time.
Gordonton, New Zealand
May 15, 2019
Hi Guys, love your show and guests, here is my greatest run ever...
My greatest run ever was a run last summer with my daughter Caitlin who is studying in the States and was home for Christmas.
It was a typical hot and sunny Central Otago afternoon with the temperature climbing into the 30's. I was training for a half marathon and had an 18k to do so we thought the river track would be the best. It follows the river between Alexandra and Clyde and is shaded with willow trees, a nice place to run when it is hot.
500 metres from the end of the track is a rope swing into the river, just a knotted piece of rope hanging from a willow. It's a popular cooling off spot with kids after school and I often run past there and think boy that looks so nice! When we got to the swing Caitlin said I am going to jump in and you are too Mum! I looked at her and thought really? I don't know about that! Caitlin went first and yelled from the river come on Mum you can do it. I was a bit hesitant but I was so hot and it looked so inviting I didn't need much persuasion. I grabbed the rope, swung over and plunged into the cool water. It was just magic! Caitlin took a photo of us dripping wet, grinning from ear to ear and to record the fact that her old Mum had swung into the river!
I often run past that swing, have a wee smile and think to myself that really was my greatest run ever!
May 8, 2019
(Ed: this is a Greatest Run Ever special. This GRE featured on our show last year when Katie sent it in. Posted here in honour of her victory at the Riverhead Backyard Relaps Ultra)
Hey guys, Firstly huge thanks for the podcasts so far really enjoying them, keep up the good work! Here's my addition to greatest run ever...
In September 2017 I set out on a run around the perimeter of Wales. I'd never run further than a marathon. I'd only ever really run on roads. I didn't have any trail shoes (that soon changed).
Everyday was different and any of them could contend for my greatest run ever but one day in particular sticks out. I'd stayed the night before at an old school British B&B -Think china tea sets and a fourposter bed - I looked just a little out of place in my muddy run kit that hadn't been washed for a week.
I tried to explain my plan for the following day to the owner. I was aiming to set out at 7am for a 37 mile (60 km) route over some pretty rugged coastline. There was silence in response followed by a grilling about how this was 'utterly impossible' and breakfast wasn't served until 9am at the very earliest anyway.
Needless to say I snuck out at 7. The weather cleared as I reached The top of St Ann's head in Pembrokshire and I had this briefly hysterical moment of joy at being out there. 10 minutes later the heavens opened and I was soaked for the rest of the day. There was absolutely no way I was going to give in and accept the impossible. So head down, run on.
I arrived in town to where my hostel should have been just before dark. Google had lied. The hostel was actually 7 km inland. My phone died and I had no map. I went into the village pub to ask for directions and with impossibly perfect timing I asked just as a lady was approaching the bar who happened to be staying at the same place. Her and her partner kindly agreed to drop me off. After a few beers, and all of the food of course.
The day just completely encompassed everything that trail running is about for me. In a single run you can experience every range of terrain, weather, emotion and the kindness of strangers! I've been hooked on the trails ever since.
May 1, 2019
I’ll start with a confession. I have a long list of bad habits, and a very short list of good habits. One of the few in the latter group is running. I didn’t start running until I was 30. At the time weight gain, good health, etc., dictated that it was time to take action. For most of my early thirties I ran six times a week religiously. Around 35, I noticed I was slipping in ‘rest days’ more often. Six days had routinely dropped to five. When I hit 40, this suddenly dropped again. Four times a week was becoming the new norm. Travel, work, kids, social events just seemed to be getting in the way more often. Deep down I also knew this was rubbish, an excuse for allowing one rest day a week to become two or three. It also didn’t take a statistical genius to spot the trend and where it was heading.
So, halfway through my fortieth year I decided to join Streak Runners International (runeveryday.com).
Here’s the rules as they were when I started (and as I have followed them, with the exception of setting a minimum personal distance of 3kms – largely reserved for ski days):
The official definition of a running streak, as adopted by the Streak Runners Association, Inc., is to run at least one continuous mile within each calendar day under one’s own body power (without the utilization of any type of health or mechanical aid other than prosthetic devices). Running under one’s own body power can occur on either the roads, a track, over hill and dale, or on a treadmill. Running cannot occur through the use of canes, crutches or banisters, or reliance on pools or aquatic devices to create artificial buoyancy.
To get a streak listed you have to achieve a minimum of one year of continuous running. Then to maintain a streak, you can’t miss a day. Ever. No sick days, no travel days or other excuses. I’m now well over eleven years and aiming for my next goal which is 5,000 consecutive days.
My greatest run ever was about half-way through the tenth year of my Running Streak. It was also the day I feared the whole effort could go upside down. I had a surgery to deal with. A general anesthesia level surgery with an overnight stay ahead of me. The day of the surgery wasn’t a worry – I had a run in the morning before reporting to the hospital. It was the day after the surgery I was worried about.
Now at this point I should explain something. It’s not without an awkward squirm and a sense I’m revealing too much – but hey, it’s a running forum, so y’all will understand. The surgery was going to be on a rather personal part of my anatomy. I would love to boast it was going to be a substantial piece of surgery. The mirror however silently, politely, and objectively informed me that the job would be smaller than I would like to believe.
Now, considering the surgical location, which I think you’ve all guessed, one would imagine I should be setting aside concerns about keeping my streak going. It’s the junk dude – get some darned perspective here and forget it. But, heck no. I’d even gone to the trouble of sending an advance note to the medical team about my running streak. “Will I be able to run the after the surgery? Like, as soon as you release me from hospital?”
The first person into the pre-operation briefing was the Anesthetist. His comment - “I saw the file note on the running thing. Sorry, but you have no idea the discomfort you're going to be in tomorrow. You just need to forget about it now.”
Ouch. Not good. But I reckon my pain threshold is pretty high. And clearly he didn’t understand the Streakers mindset and determination.
Next visitor. The surgeon. “I saw the file note on the running streak. It’s clearly important so I’m going to do everything I can to make it possible. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to how big a job I have to do (I swear I saw him smirk a little at that point – I liked the guy al lot). It’s not going to be pleasant though. There’s also a chance you’ll still have a catheter. If that’s the case you can switch the tap off, roll the pipe into your shorts, and see how it goes.”
Regrettably for my ego, but fortunately for my running streak, it turned out to be a relatively small bit of surgery. And the catheter was gone by the morning.
I headed home late-morning with a bunch of extra padding courtesy of the nursing staff and immediately changed into my running gear. There didn’t seem to any point in waiting. Things were going to be what they would be for a few days. Best to just get on with it.
And it was my best run ever. After a day locked up in a hospital the outside air and freedom felt incredible. As did the rush of relief. With every pace my confidence grew. The preservation of my streak and ten-year goal kept getting closer. The pressure I’d been feeling lifted off my shoulders and made my feet feel lighter. For the first time in years I didn’t care about my pace – happy with a lazy ‘any-pace’ so long as I kept rolling along slowly. Yeah, it hurt a bit. Okay, quite a lot. Yet after 3kms I didn’t want to stop. It just felt so good (mentally), and so bad (physically). I listened to the ‘bad’ bit and common sense prevailed. I was ready for a celebratory beer. Common sense (joyfully) departed again.
April 24, 2019
Matt and Eugene,
I’ve been listening to DCR for a good few months now, a random podcast discovery which lead to a now faithful listener. Your chat and interviews are a breath of fresh air and a pleasure to listen to on my runs leaving me laughing out loud at times, much to the confusion of passerby’s.
Greatest run ever....I’ve thought over this since the first time I heard you mention it.
What to choose? Instantly I cast my mind back on all the places I’ve raced all over the world and the experiences I’ve had over the years.
Is it the PB’s? Epic mountain races with incredible views? the times I won races bursting into tears because it meant so much to me? Were these my greatest run ever?
No. I knew it instantly....
It isn’t one particular run that sticks in my mind but the ingrained memory of the runs I took with my mother daily 17 odd years ago...
Although I’ve always been super sporty, part of a family of athletes who were always at some practice or training of some kind, it wasn’t until I was 12/13 years old and wanting to get ‘a bit fitter’, ‘lose a little weight’ that I took up running properly, actually training beyond the school practice, training on my own time, for MYSELF..
Mum and I conjured up the idea that each morning before breakfast, with our dog by our side, we would jog to the end of the field behind our house. It couldn’t have been more than half a mile but it felt like a marathon..we both huffed and puffed to the end, by each other’s side, both committed to the task, committed to progressing.
With time the end of the field became the next field, the next marker after that and so on. Our morning ritual lengthening in distance, our fitness growing. Mum and I. We bonded in our pain and also in our success.
See here’s the thing, my mum, an athlete herself back in the day, a national level hurdler to be precise, she has been my ever present supporter as a child. EVERY single lacrosse/netball match, every athletic meet or training session, she was there. She was there, for me.
Now in my 30’s I smile looking back, somewhat laughing at our little run we took together and how we struggled side by side...how it was the start of my journey into who I am now, what I love doing, the discovery of a life long passion and sporting career..
Hundreds of marathons, crazy amount of ultras later, having represented my country at 100km, winning ultras outright, finding what I’m good at, what I can still be better at, what I LOVE....it all boils down to those early morning runs..to lighting the fire in me.
And yes, my mum still comes to these crazy races to support me. How cool is that 🥰
So my greatest run ever is just that. A jog with my mum, not even a mile. But it means the most to me.
Anyway, I thought I’d write in as I am currently deep in the heavy miles of a week warm weather training in Lanzarote (off coast of Africa) and guess who’s here with me? My mum. Just the two of us. Our annual ritual coming here, though she politely opts out all the 30mile training runs
April 17, 2019
Tarsh Turner, Te Anau
I think I have it - my best run ever! (Yet)
This was neither a race, nor any impressive distance. Here's the story.
I had two days in which to make a twelve hour drive, and I realised that some friends were having a birthday party at a hut, the trailhead for which fell roughly at the halfway point of my journey. I excitedly began my drive, brainstorming last minute costume ideas. The theme was the letters H and N, being the birthday girls' initials.
After a late start, and a slow trip, I pulled up at the start of the track at 7pm. I debated whether I wanted to walk in the dark, before coming up with the idea to pack light and run in. Stoked with my stroke of brilliance, I took off, enjoying a fairly technical trail, blowing away the cobwebs after so long in the car. An hour in, I was forced to turn on my headlamp. My energy levels dipped and I asked myself again, do I really want this? I chucked on some drum n bass and went for it. About a kilometer from the hut, my buddies spotted my light, and let out a huge cheer. Whooping back, I couldn't wipe the grin off my face. I stopped 500m out, and in the darkness I slipped into my Hero costume - undies over tights, and a cape made from my sleeping bag liner. As I arrived at the party, the cheers reached a joyous crescendo, and I found a 20-person human tunnel to run through, cape trailing... What an entrance! I collapsed in a fit of exhausted and ecstatic giggles, and as I rolled on the ground, tears streaming down my face, I felt overwhelming gratitude for the environments we have available to play in, and the wonderful humans who call this land home. New Zealand, you bloody ripper!
Thanks for your great podcast, it feeds my psych every week, and I love it. I'm currently working toward a goal of running all NZ's Great Walks in 2019, if anyone listening wants to jump on board to run one later in the year, I'd love some company to push me - or to collaborate on logistics!
April 10, 2019
Love the show guys, here's my greatest run ever.
My friend Zoe and I met doing triathlons. We were both really shit triathletes, but we had a lot of fun at the back of the pack. We were so bad that in some races the transition area would be packed up and everybody else had gone home when we would finish and find our bikes leaning against a tree. But we were masters of coming in under cutoff times.
As bad as we were overall , our running in particular was dire. We both treated running as a necessary evil at the need of a nice swim and a fun ride. Duathlons, with a run either side of a bike ride, were considered a work of evil.
But despite that, somehow we both started moving across to trail running around the same time, and moved from being crap triathletes to being crap trail runners. But trail running was better, because you could crap on for the whole race, which is something a bit tricky in a swim.
I did some of the Melbourne urban trail series and loved it. Then Zoe put me onto a run at Mt Dandenong - The Roller Coaster Run. It sounded nice. I had images of a rolling path through tree ferns, mostly running and occasionally walking to take in the scenery. And the 4 hour cutoff seemed ridiculous. There was no way it could take me more than 3 hours for 21km, regardless of how much of a shit runner I was. So I entered.
The race started at the top of Mt Dandenong, and that was the last I saw of Zoe for a while. The race starts with a long steep downhill of several kms, and Zoe has a rather unique style of going downhill. Basically she falls out of control down the hill. I, on the other hand, am the world’s worst descender. And on a steep hill sometimes go down the hill slower than up. So within about 15 mins I was on my own, dead last. A position I was very familiar with.
But that was fine. The course was way steeper than I expected but the aid stations were fantastic, the scenery was great, and being alone through all of that was fine. So I just carried on, and went the better part of two hours without seeing anyone. Then the climb back up to the top started and I slowly started to catch a few people, and at one stage caught a glimpse of Zoe on a switchback.
At about 18km I finally caught her, and we carried on together. It was steep, 25% at one point. But we just kept on trudging along and talking crap. We passed a vollie who told us we only had 500m to go, then 500m later another one told us the same thing, then it happened again. This continued for about 2km.
With the real 200m to go we realized we were very close to the 4hr cutoff that I had originally thought was ridiculous. We picked up the pace, and with the finish line in sight, realized we were going to make it – just. I’m not sure if it was a mutual decision, or one of us broke ranks, but with 20m to go we ended up sprinting to the finish line, luckily crossing together. Alas, when the results came out I realized Zoe had crossed the start line 3 seconds before me, and we finished 3 mins under the cutoff.
That race was my introduction to a mass of trail races around Victoria, and the end of triathlons for me.
April 3, 2019
My Greatest Run Ever
Old Ghost Ultra 2019
Being married to a running freak of nature (& I mean that in the nicest possible way) will always give you distorted views of time, pace and distance and so running longer distances was probably always going to happen. In a moment of weakness I signed up for OG Ultra 2019. My first Ultra. I had no real time expectations but starting and finishing in the dark seemed likely. Finishing was the goal.
The whole lead up seemed surreal and the enormity of the challenge ahead never really kicked in until the race briefing on Friday night. I have been to two of these briefings before with Mel and enjoyed the humorous but practical way Phil Rossiter delivers his briefing, but sitting there in that theatre listening and absorbing the challenge in front of us all was a new & daunting experience. This guy does not undersell the difficulty of this race.
Friday night’s sleep was not one of the best I have ever had and probably the same for a lot of runners waiting to take on the Old Ghost Ultra.
Saturday morning arrived and in the predawn we made our way to the start line, the nerves were really kicking in now, I have never really experienced pre-race nerves before but this day I felt like throwing up. I was wondering how the hell I was ever going to complete this task and was wondering if even starting a wise decision.
The countdown came 5,4,3,2,1, and the hooter went and as it sounded my nerves vanished, we were on our way in the dark, 300 runners about to tackle the OG Ultra.
The run through to Specimen Point went well, dawn arrived and the splendor of the country side revealing itself in the dawn light. Running beside the Mokihinui River in the bush was fantastic.
Arriving at the aid station a quick top of flasks, a bit of orange, and of course an update on how well Mel was doing and then off towards Stern Valley.
I settled in with a group of three other runners and with a bit of light conversation and a steady pace the km ticked away. At about 29 km my good old friend cramp started saying “hello”, nothing serious just a wee reminder that “hey I’m here” so I eased off the pace a bit and did a bit of walk run through to Stern hut.
Halfway there just another marathon to go, surprisingly I was feeling great, I had only ever completed 1 marathon and a few half’s in the past.
My plan was pretty much to walk through to Ghost Lake as the dreaded 300 stairs and the majority of the uphill were in this section and I knew pushing it was just going to invite cramp to make the rest of the run miserable.
Tagging along with Liz who was now also on the walking journey made the km slide past and the slower pace allowed us to enjoy the beauty of this magical place. We got to the top of the stairs and manged some gentle running towards Ghost Lake which, from when we first saw it, seemed a long way away but suddenly we were there.
From Ghost Lake it was about 3 km of climb to the top and then the run across the top where cramp again forced a drop in pace and separating from the wee group I was in but still managing a reasonable trot and then it was into the downhill.
After one bad cramping I got underway and Crampfix was holding the cramp at bay, the pace picked up and the km ticked off, through the last aid station at Lyell Saddle and before I knew it I was approaching the swing bridge to the finish line with only those 12 or so stairs to negotiate and then the run to the line. Those steps looked like a mountain but I surprised myself and bounded up them and across the finish line in 11 hrs 49.
Stoked, to say the least, that I had done it
Why is this my greatest run ever, well it could be completing it, it could be the time I did, it could be the distance I ran or it could be completing my first Ultra, but it’s not.
It is about what I learnt about myself on the way, how great our bodies and minds are if we challenge them and what we can overcome when we do. Not once during that run did I enter that dark space and wonder “what have I done” which was something I expected to happen but instead felt grateful that I had the opportunity to do this magical event.
I met some fantastic people, saw amazing country that most of the population will never see and experienced the dedication of dozens of people volunteering their time organising the event and working at aid stations to allow us runners to fulfil our dreams. What a stunning country and race community we live in and how privileged are we.
I am forever grateful and that is why this is my greatest run ever
March 27, 2019
Hi guys and Cooee from here in Oz. Thanks for the podcasts, have been with you from Number 1 and hope to continue for quite some time yet.
My greatest run ever starts with a bit of a story about my son. After doing some running at Parkrun and moving up to half marathon distances he decided he would travel to NZ for his first ultra marathon, the Tarawera 62k Ultra in 2017.
Most of us thought he had a few ‘roos loose in the top paddock (unashamed Aussie reference ;)) but never the less tried to provide as much moral support as possible. With his younger brother and mother in tow he set off for NZ for a bit of touring, catching up with family history (my father-in-law, his grandfather was born in NZ, so there is a Kiwi connection) and ultimately the Tarawera Ultra. He completed the race but it did not go well. Through sheer determination he got through and showed strength of character I had not previously seen.
So now to me. I am not an athlete no matter how you twist the definition. However I was so inspired by my son’s effort at Tarawera that I got up off the couch and walked around the block. At the time I was 63 years old and had not done much since high school and not even much there, so definitely a late starter.
Since then I have joined Parkrun and my local Cross Country Club and completed a 12km trail race. I have continued to walk around the block but prefer getting out on various trails in the local area and have steadily built up the distances and I look forward to continuing to do so. That first effort of just over 2km may not be much of a “greatest run” but it was a great achievement because every great journey must start with a first step and that was my first step. I look forward to continuing wherever the journey takes me and I will not limit the possibilities. It is never too late to start.
Thanks again and keep up the good work.
I don't normally write about the running events I participate in but this time I felt compelled to share my greatest 10km run ever. It was really my sister who told me to send this in so then I would have someone else to share my running stories with. The sun was out in Wellington today and when this happens, runners participate in full force in the biggest running event in the city- Round the Bays! A support team of residents in the area aid in spraying athletes with garden hoses, water guns and bubbles. Free buses from 6am to 3pm- anything for a free bus ride The bays provide a beautiful backdrop to remind us that yes, you really can't beat Welly on a good day. #greatestrunever best timed 10km event for me so far maybe this training thing is helping after all. So what could make this run even greater? Not making people pay $5 for a medal when you've already paid $50 for entry #allaboutthefreestuff Overall, loved the community atmosphere, can't think of another sport events where competitors are so supportive. Bring on Great Forest at Waiterere Beach in April!
March 20, 2019
Dearest Rigby & Dirt Church Radio!
You guys say every week I should write in, I figured at first you weren’t talking to me. Then after a few episodes and your insistence I thought ‘maybe I could... wait nah’ and then last week you said you were living week to week... ‘maybe, just maybe an Aussie could squeeze in a #GreatestRunEver’
‘I did hear one from a Queenslander... nah he was probably a mate, heaps of Kiwis on the Goldy’
Well - here it is my greatest run ever, from an avid Melbourne listener. Put it at the bottom and read it if you are scrapping the barrel!!
Warning: I am verbose and my writing appears to reflect my Sunday long runs. They tend to drag on. Feel free to cut off the path and head for the coffee shop when you need.
So. I’ve not met a centurion before. I’ve seen some interviewed on TV and the like, the questions always centre around the same theme... “Wow, how did you do it?” “What an achievement!”
The perplexed responses amuse. As if to say ‘Mmm I didn’t set out to live this long’ but the common inference is that to live that long, the centurion has indeed set constant goals and kept moving.
The first thing that struck me upon finishing my first century event was how emotional those around me were, they seemed staggered and inspired that I could have completed 100km. Upon finishing I was actually partly disappointed that it was the end, partly surprised that I felt strong enough to contemplate a lap of the carpark if my Garmin came up short and partly proud that my pacing and eating plan had helped me to the finish line in good shape.
Now that it was done I kind of feel like that the mythology and mystery of achieving this goal is a little out of whack. It seemed prior to race day, an epic challenge, on that night as I lay in bed too sore to sleep, I reflected and flicked through the epic FB feed from my darling wife. The responses and reactions were overwhelming also.
But here is the reality. Its not that far. Karl is right. Seriously it ain’t and if you focus on what is in front of you, almost everybody could do it.
It went to plan for me. I had prepared well and worked hard on the trails and off them. When race day arrived, I decided to turn my watch off (not completely, deep down I am a Strava nerd that loves reviewing stats) I toggled the watch face so the only thing showing was the time of day. I ignored the km time splits and just concentrated on each moment.
Often we talk about running with neutrality, the ability to observe and respond to each and every facet with a calm neutral response. Each moment tackled on its merits. I remember looking up at the 40km marker and saying to Jodie, ‘wow thats nearly a marathon already’ between then and the 97km mark I never really contemplated the finish. I just ran and observed the surroundings and the journey. The steps in front, the people beside us, sharing the trail. Talking and learning about their journeys. Soaking in the people, the environment and its challenges. The hail, the rain, the unexpected sunshine when the wind ground to a halt.
Ultra runners are a sharing group, 5 mins together on the trails is enough of a shared experience that we can, and often do open up about our driving forces and experiences. Some of the best conversations I have had in life have come on the trails and this day was no different.
In between conversations about work challenges, sick ageing parents, the joy of the parenting, the bliss of a newly discovered father-to-be, my mind rested quickly back to my mantras I set out at the start of the day. ‘Avoid the Pity Party’ and ‘Get it done’ was the Texta smudged on my arms as a reminder to run the day, not let the day run you. But hey I am a distracted mind at a whim.
The kids had listened to the Matilda musical cd on the trek down. Annoyingly, but somewhat poignantly the words kept bouncing around my narrow skull. “What if you haven’t got a fairy to fix this? Nobody else is gonna put it right for me, Nobody but me is gonna change my story” buggered if I can remember the rest or if the words are in the right sequence, but the words
kicked around like a bad M.A.S.H episode, always on repeat. Every now and then I would notice something and the song would pleasantly change to Busby Marou’s ‘This moments gonna pass’.
Mostly Matilda came and went, each time, I figured ‘yep thats interesting?!’
I wanted to achieve a distracted mind to the body, allowing observation of changes rather than falling into a catastrophe for each increment in pressure to various parts of the legs and hips from fatigue.
The trail and people around offer you the opportunity to shift focus. It’s not that hard, it’s just being aware of when it’s needed. The Surf Coast Century provided stunning moments. My favourite was late in the afternoon when the sun broke through the clouds, splintering through the hillrise just after muddy trails of Distillery creek. A heavy downpour, just moments prior had drenched me through to the skin, my gloves were soaked and cold. My shirt, sweat drenched, needed a change. Currawongs flitted like angels above through the trees, their sonorous trill singing out into the valley. The wind stopped dead on its own heels. Clouds parted and the late afternoon sun shot a sidelong beam across the landscape. The angle of it, with the water still perched precariously on leaves, reverberated with sparkles. The spring wildflowers, in full bloom! It was like I had arrived in the perfect place at the most perfect moment as the valley showed itself in all its glory. 100mts before or past and I would have missed it. The beauty of it shook me to the core, I literally had to choke back tears as I was sprung into thoughts of my Mum and how much she would have loved it. The random trail train of thought. Unexpectedly slapping you into an emotional state when all ya wanted to do was run. It must of been 75-80km in and I should have been in pain and thinking about my legs, hips or chaffing. I was easily distracted and lost in the landscape.
Running into the last checkpoint was like starting the day new. Seeing all the kids together. The attention and seamless efforts of the best family & support crew one could hope for, I headed into the last 14km quickly. Like a trail runners GP pit stop, fuelled, new shirt, new torch and a few hugs. Good to go. I floated up the rise to the lighthouse and gave it a hearty slap, only a few more obstacles remained.
The trail along the coastline out of Aireys inlet, into the 90kms is a single track that requires attention to foot placement and observation of the trail and tree roots. With head torch and tired legs it required heightened attention to the task at hand, as we descended onto the beach for a 4km stretch on hard sand, it was like ditching all the focus. The tide was well out. The wind had calmed to a whim, a whisper. The sky open, thousands of stars and the moon lit the sky, the reflection upon the wet sand at the edge of the water, dazzled.
I turned my torch off and drank it in. I moved quickly and effortless (well maybe just in my mind I was moving that fast) past dozens of other runners, some walking, some transfixed and non verbal as I passed with words of encouragement. A serene and peaceful experience, with no concerns of foot placement on the wide open & level beach. I could run with my head in the stars.
This was, what many had warned was an endless beach stretch & a test of the mind at the end of a long day. They said it would catch runners via a monotonous never ending vice of nothing. For me it was the most peaceful thing I have experienced on a trail run. I floated down that beach.
Star gazing and running strong along the perfect sand. It was over all too quickly and as I made my way up and over the stairs I looked back along the stretch of beach and was breathless at the quiet beauty of it. The long parade of runners headlights dotted for endless kilometres along the beach, under the backdrop of the star smothered sky, a poetic continuation of the stratosphere to the trail atmosphere, plenty of stars were on the beach.
The final kilometres rolled along effortlessly, knowing the course I was pretty sure when my watch hit 8.30, I knew that I had taken my final gel, that was a nice relief. My fuel plan for the race was spot on and allowed me to run without cramping. After plenty of failed races it was a good day to get it right. On the Sunday, to many, it seemed unfathomable that I could front up for another 8.5km trail run. I am a firm believer that two changes made this achievable. Post Two Bays 56km run in Jan I couldn’t walk for 3 days. In an effort to remove inflammatory foods that halted recovery, I moved to a vegetarian diet, a simpler mix of foods that still fuelled my run program, moving away from complex carbs and sugars has helped my recovery of long run days. I can now, almost always back up runs the next day, even if they follow 6hrs on the trails. The other obvious change was the ‘Run Strong’ program of plyometric & isometric exercises set out by Campbell Craig.
Looking back it feels like I have cheated the system. Surely the story of 100km should of been one of pain and enduring effort. Sadly for the script writers I found it went to plan. I trained hard, ate well, mindfully observed and drank in the moments as they happened. I knew what to do and when to do it. I am convinced, anyone that wants to can also run a 100km ultra.
As the centurions on TV remind us, keep setting goals, keep moving.
Just 5 years ago I was 36kg heavier and battling. Trapped & tired. Struggling with the booze.
Like a dinner set kept for family gatherings, I carry the stains & aura of a dark history. My mistakes haunt me, to the point I often wake cringing at things which happened.
None more so than a torrid 3 week period, where, my wife battling her own mental health issues spiralled into a vast blackness. She made several attempts on her life. I didn’t understand it. I just couldn’t grasp it or workout how to help. In that time during the biggest of tests...
I failed her and I failed my family.
Through good luck and support of brilliant professionals, she spent sometime in the pysc ward and has slowly worked her way back. It’s been a journey.
It’s taken me a longer time. Yes 5 years. I am slothful learner.
The idea of a greatest run ever for me is encapsulated in this Surf Coast Century cause I haven’t always been a runner and this run wasn’t about me running. It was the moment where I have drawn a line in the sand. I understand now, how to observe and respond to the challenges we get thrown.
Over the last 5 years I have run heaps! I started running cause it would hurt. I wanted to punish and drive myself into the point of pure pain. I did it over and again. The more it hurt the more I figured I deserved it.
Somewhere along the way it stopped being about that and I just loved the post run high.
Still, even though I was out running getting fit, I was driven by the emotions and reactions. Living on the result and not understanding my why.
The Surf Coast Century and the reaching of this goal is my #GreatestRunEver because I finally feel like I understand and can implement what trail running has taught me. To observe. To assess.
To respond with purpose. Plan. Work. Turn up.
I am forever grateful for you and your wonderful podcast. It too has been part of my learning.
Finally I may be growing up.
Finally I now I feel equipped to help my loving family
March 13, 2019
Hi guys, love listening to the podcasts, and love each and every #greatestrunever. I have been running pretty much my whole life in one way or another, and in the last few years have run a number of marathons, an ultra, and had many great adventures in many great places. But when I think about my greatest run ever, I keep coming back to a run that happened in the autumn of 2012. My husband and I were living in Dunedin and had started a family. We had a 2 year old and a 6 month old and fitting in a run was often impossible, between naps and feeding and a busy partner who also wanted to squeeze in a run when he was home. One night he walked in the door and I ran out, having just fed the baby to sleep and knowing she would wake again any minute. I headed out aiming for a 20 minute jog, but from the moment I got outside, there was magic in the air and in my feet. I have NEVER had such a run before, and never since, where everything came together like it did. I ran in along the Ravensbourne cycle way, around Logan Park, back along sargood drive to make it up to 10km and then back home along the cycle way. Every single part of that run was magic: no one was burning coal and the Ravensbourne fertilizer plant was not smelling like it usually did, the air was superb. There was no train coming through either of the railway crossings on the way there or back. The woman who often walked her poodle who always tried to nip my ankles was absent. The boys in the bad flat on harbour terrace who often called out crass comments to women running past were absent, or too hungover to lounge on their porch couch. I FLEW around the loop of Logan park, passing the local rugby team training on their rugby ground, pretending their warm down jog was actually as fast as they could go, and I was whipping past them. I can still taste and see the colours of the air from that night when I think about it. I'm not sure if it was the freedom of moving my body, after what was at that point three years of pregnancy and breastfeeding, or the freedom of being away from the responsibility of children at home, or just a magical Dunedin night under the watchful eye of Kapukataumahaka (Mt Cargill). It feels a bit anticlimactic to label a basic 10km midweek run as my #greatestrunever, but nothing yet has surpassed that perfect run, one night in Dunners. My 20 minutes had extended to 53 minutes, a record time for me on that loop, and my baby was still asleep when I got in the door. Every run from home since has felt like an elusive hunt for the magic flow of that night.
Keep up the great work, loving all your guests
March 6, 2019
Andrew H from Wellington
OK Dirt Churchers, I just listened to your chat to Tim Sutton and I am inspired to write. Like Tim, I also live in Wellington. I run the same trails he does, and compete in many of the same events (although at a much, much slower pace) and I too have been inspired by Chris Martin’s enthusiasm for all things wild.
So, my greatest run ever is a story of learning to be a trail runner, a story of friendship and a story of my best ever racing result.
The year is 2009. I had been living in Wellington for a few years and had been learning to train on trails, mostly shorter runs up Mt Vic at lunch or the Skyline on the weekends. My races however were still road races – everything from a corporate 5k to the Wellington marathon. I started to just dabble in trail races, like the run leg of the Crazyman and a few others. I started to look around to see what was out there. My mate Morgan told me about the Tararua Mountain Race. I read all I could and decided I liked the idea of running the “interminable” Marchant ridge, dress circle and Mt Hector. On the other hand, I was decidedly anxious about the length of the run. The website at the time advised I should expect to double my marathon time. For me, that’s 8 hours. I’d never run longer than 4, and then mostly on the flat with drink stations provided. No worries says Morgan, we’ll enter as a team and do it together.
Over the next few months Morgan and I did some longish training runs, and some local trail races. I was the slower and less experienced of the two of us, and am sure I tested Morgan’s patience many times. On the day of the race, my wife dropped us at the Kaitoke end and wished us luck. We began by running up the first short steep section, passing several walkers. I made a silly comment about being tired already, and the knowing reply came that ‘its better to be running at the finish than the start’. Huh, whatever I thought in my ignorance. Up we climbed onto the ridge. I remember time passing easily as we bantered away on our way up to Alpha hut. The mud was deep this year, and I was starting to feel it, but I was having a great adventure.
After Alpha is when the fun really started. This was one of those classic Tararua days: howling northerly wind and zero visibility. Into the mist we marched with heads down. The banter stopped because conversation was impossible over the gale force wind. Now time seemed to slow. On I trudged from what seemed like hours. I had no idea about nutrition, so I had eaten and drunken too little, and it was seriously telling now. I stared at Morgan’s heels as he led on through mud and puddles and rocks and tussock. At one stage I think he saw the state of me and made me climb down on the leeward side of the ridge and sit and eat a sandwich. A bit of food and jokes about a picnic in the park and I felt a bit better. Onwards!
The Mt Hector cross surprised me (mostly because I couldn’t see it through the wind and the mist), and Kime hut was next. I was filling my water bottle at the hut when none other than the indomitable Colin Rolfe cruised in. He’d started 2 hours behind us, and was moving easily. Any idea of the time? he asked me. Not even wearing a bloody watch I thought! We were 6 hours in, and all the mistakes I had made – going out too fast, not eating or drinking enough, gear that really wasn’t suitable to the conditions – were adding up. Down, down, down we ran. My quads were seizing, and I was at the end of my tether. Just a bit more Morgan said cheerfully and repeatedly, even when I was walking or stopped altogether.
Finally to the last bridge. I was shuffling along, but still moving. The sun had come out, the wind had dropped and suddenly life seemed a bit sweeter. Prize giving was sweeter still. I normally sit through prize giving so I can watch and clap amazing athletes and maybe pick up a spot prize. Not this time – we had won the open men’s team race! Sweeter indeed! Up we went to collect our prizes and get a photo with the biggest trophy of the day. Later I found out that in the early days of the race all competitors had to run as pairs, and this was the original and, back in the day, the most prestigious trophy. Did it matter that our time, shortly to be engraved on the trophy, was 2 hours slower than the next slowest? No, I can tell you it did not! Did it matter that we were first out of two teams? No, it most certainly did not! Victory was ours.
In the end, I learned what a long adventurous technical trail run really was – I learned about gear, and nutrition, and weather, and pushing my perceived limitations. This run marked the start of a decade of trail and ultra runs for me. I learned what a good running friend I had – thanks Morgan, love you buddy. And I claimed my one and only first place finish in an organised race. My greatest run ever.
Andrew H, Wellington
PS – I went back a couple of years later to reprise my effort, solo this time. It was a perfect blue bird day, no wind and unlimited visibility. Quite a different experience! I was nearly an hour faster this time round, but sadly no trophy!
February 27, 2019
Running. A connector; a release. Some say a drug. For me, even today it is a feeling that,
when fit, can’t be replaced by any other physical pursuit. It’s just not the same. I’ve done
some pretty serious cycling and triathlon in my time and it never got close to the feeling of
So, this story needs a little preamble as it involves a self-confessed running geek who also
happens to be one of the DCR hosts.
It was a fairly normal afternoon at the Papakura athletic track. Nothing out of the ordinary
other than some dude running laps that I hadn’t seen before. He seemed to run and run and
run but never looked comfortable. A heavy stride, punchy arms and nothing like a Gazelle.
We were fortunate that the committee of the athletic club had had the foresight to
somehow fund and build an all-weather synthetic track and that ‘new track’ smell still
floated in the air as the sun stretched out its last few hours of warmth and the shadows
grew longer across the red rubber surface.
What I didn’t know was that on this day a lifelong mateship was about to begin. Born from
running, a mateship that has a special place in my life as it has drifted in and out of
moments in time but never faded.
The conversation was most likely started by me. Young, full of life and endless athletic
confidence. If the planets were to align I was the next John Walker and Olympic 1500 meter
gold medallist. There was no doubt in my mind. Whilst stretching on the old wire fence we
got to talking about what he was doing there. Why do all of those laps and not flog yourself
through a program of highly specific, lung-burning speedwork I thought?
He just liked to run. A lot. And ironically was reading ‘running to the top’ a book by NZ’s
legendary running coach, Arthur Lydiard. Lydiard had been cold called by my mother some
months earlier and was in fact responsible for the program of speedwork that I was slogging
through that day. Whilst I had always participated in athletics and tried to emulate my big
brother who seemed to hold every track, road and cross-country title going around, my
‘talent’ had only really started to show promise in the few months prior.
When told that he was reading Lydiards book, I, in my typically flippant and cocky
demeanour said “oh Arthur, he’s my coach, (of course he was!?) so why don’t you come and
have a run with us on Sunday”. Lydiard lived in Beachlands and had a group known around
running circles as ‘Lydiard’s boys’ and I thought it would be a great opportunity for my new
running mate to get his head out of the book and into some real-life learning. We would
run somewhere around 3 hours in the forests and roads around the area where he lived
followed by 30 mins in the cold salt water in the bay across the road from his house for
recovery. I loved trail running, and it grew to become essential in keeping injury free and
fresh of mind when doing big miles.
I don’t think we ran together that weekend but I do know that we swapped numbers and
became regular training partners. We lived close to each other and although we went to
different schools quite some distance apart, found time to run together a number of times a
week. I think to some degree he came on the ‘Lydiard program’ by definition of being my
We were different athletes with different athletic ambitions and he was always the smartest
one of the two of us. Calm, thoughtful and insightful, he never just talked shit to fill the
silence and trained harder than I naturally wanted to. A perfect training partner.
I had raw speed and had grown to understand that I did in fact have the aerobic engine that
would respond to my new found physique and training plan. But ‘ol mate’ would tear my
legs off in training when pounding the streets and whilst never spoken of, would be the
catalyst to the motivation required to stick to the monthly schedule drawn up by the great
man. Always turning up on the doorstep just as I was second guessing why I was going out in
the rain, hail or sunshine to prime the engine time after time.
By now I had taken up triathlon seriously. I don’t remember how long after meeting that my
focus changed from ‘just’ being a runner to taking on short and Olympic distance triathlons,
but one thing hadn’t changed. My trusty training partner was there. Injury had led my coach
to suggest I do some cycling and swimming to stay fit and the rest is history. At the local
club and through the running community the word was that I was now a ‘Triathlete’ and
would no longer be a force in the middle-distance ranks.
I was training with a group of triathletes based in Papakura due to the awesome facilities in
the area. A 50 mtr Olympic pool, a synthetic track and the best cycling roads on our
doorsteps. A small group of Canadians, Americans and Australians would join the local tri
‘mafia’ for the summer. One of these guys had just won one of the biggest races on the US
circuit and had come to NZ for the season. We hit it off one day on a group run. He was a
‘pure’ runner. Long stirde, big engine and had a turn of speed that many swimmer/cyclists-
turned triathletes couldn’t dream of. At the age of 15 I wanted to go toe to toe with him. He
could run a 30 min 10k and to be competitive in the Olympic distance event, I needed to run
sub 34 mins off the bike to be competitive and make up for a slight time loss out of the
water. He was also pretty cool to train with for a young grommet like me. He was in the
pages of the US Tri magazines and was beating the ‘Big Four’ of triathlon.
He had a motor bike and invited me to join him on a trail run that he had found in the
Hunua ranges just 30 mins from home. I don’t think my mother knew that I was jumping on
the back of a motorbike with a crazy American, but I am glad I did. He had a trail run loop
that was the perfect test, refresher and drag race all in one depending on your form
and/or(his) mood. It began uphill, with stairs almost straight out of the carpark and over a
swing bridge. It wound its way to the dam where you thought that the tough bit was done
to only turn left and up into stairs and an uphill gradient that burnt the fittest legs every
time. It finally reached a summit that drew you onto rolling fire trails along a ridge for what
seemed like forever- never relenting and making you hope that the next corner was in fact
the turn that HAD to take you back down into the valley below. Once that corner came you
were challenged with the gravel at your feet at full stride for the long downhill to the
carpark and an unspoken winner on the day. Sub 70kg with long legs and a barrel chest,
Louis Murphy Jnr was built for this run and was only ever bettered by me on a couple of
occasions when I’m sure he backed off and let me feel like I’d had the better of him.
There was one person who HAD to do this run. My best mate and long-time training partner
had a tough initiation, as I had weeks earlier, but it became our staple run long after Louis
had returned to the US and we were left to test our form, side by side. That stubborn
bastard would kill me regularly too, with the only hope for me being the last downhill where
genetically I had the advantage in stride length. I have never asked him, but this may have
been the beginning of his love for the bush trail.
The greatest run ever?
It is etched in my mind like it was yesterday. Driving out to the Hunua’s in the 1100 Mk 1
Ford Escort with my training partner at the wheel, I pondered whether the doubters were
right. Could I compete in the Auckland Championships on the track in the 800 and 1500
meter events when I was a ‘Triathlete’. It must have been an intuitive suggestion that we
run an ‘easy’ loop on the Friday before the heats at Mt Smart Stadium the next day. I should
have been tapering but instead I was convinced that it would be an ‘easy’ one. Had I
forgotten that there was no easy in this loop. My mate knew that I probably needed it for
the mind and that the form would look after the weekend.
On this day I followed the rhythm of the feet in front of me. That determined cadence of
attacking the ascent like the placement of every footstep was a well-worn path that needed
to be respected. I listened to the breathing from my mate only a few steps in front of me
match the driving or easing of his stride; I felt better than ever. I floated from step to step
like we were skipping through puddles rather than climbing 1000 steps. As we hit the
summit and started across the ridge I remained behind, happy to be following in the
footsteps of my mate who was now stepping up the pace with ease, in his own running
nirvana and inner thoughts. I didn’t feel the pace but as we started to descend it became
obvious that our ‘easy’ had turned into fast. I hustled a little as the legs felt so good and the
lungs were open with ease, stride by stride slowly telling the body to relax and glide through
the last few km’s just fast enough to stretch the legs but ever wary of the sound of the
crunch of the loose gravel at my feet and potential of imminent injury only a step away. I
had never seen Eugene run like that before, he too was running with such ease, like there
was greater meaning to getting to the end than we had intended but his breathing was
smooth and his stride long. I don’t recall who made it to the car park first, what I remember
was that it was the fastest that we have ever done the loop and the time was never
bettered. I doubt a word was spoken throughout the whole run, it was just one of those
The next day I struggled through the heats of the championships with what felt like concrete
boots. The previous day’s effort had stung the body and I was lucky to get through to the
finals. My legendary coach had scolded me for my decision to run in the bush the day before
and was unusually direct in his criticism and certainly lacked any sympathy for my form that
With many friends and family present, the ‘triathlete’ broke the national 800 meter record
and took home the 800 and 1500 meter double. A long-time rival, club mate and ‘runner’
took the bronze. The form had looked after itself.
Driving home that day I pondered whether I had made the right move to Triathlon and if
there was still potential to emulate my hero, John Walker. I continued to be coached by a
legend, never raced on the track again other than on 2 wheels instead but have been left
with a bigger legend of a friend, pure runner and more importantly, a shared memory of
that day in the bush- The Greatest Run Ever.
February 20, 2019
Dear Father Matt and Reverend Eugene. I have a confession to make. I'm not sure I really like running! (gasp!) But I love freedom, and I love adventures, and I love our community, and I have two feet - so it seems to work.
Here is my Greatest Run Ever. Actually, its part of a run and, let's face it, there wasn't really a lot of running going on. In January I was fortunate to take part in the Ultra Easy. A 107 km race in the Wanaka area dreamed up by madman-genius-race director Terry Davis. It was a "big day" for me in every sense of the words - my first 100 km, big climbs, gale force winds, and 18 1/2 hours on my feet. It was tough, it was epic. But that's not why it was my Greatest Run Ever. This is: At about 60km, heading up Little Criffel in the heat of the day, I came across this dude. He was climbing over a stile, looking a little lost. He wasn't. His name was Grant and we soon fell into pace with each other. We started hiking together up the world's longest hill. At times we broke into a trot, but mostly we hiked. Sometimes we hiked in companionable silence, a lot of the time we hiked and talked. We talked about running, we talked about life. We had conversations about all the deep and meaningful stuff that you don't talk about with someone you literally just met. We also named all the rock formations - not in a geological sense but in the "that's a chicken driving a tank" sense. We basically talked crap and then we took it in turns to hold down the fences whist the other one clambered over. We talked and hiked for 5 hours up to Snow Farm, and on up through the wind blasted mountainside of Pisa. Without any agreement or plan, just an understanding that we would get each other through it. Those 5 hours of shared experience were EVERYTHING! Just after Mount Pisa we parted company as Grant still had some running in his legs, and it was a joy to see him heading off to complete his goal. I still had another 3 hours or more to go, being battered by those winds on the tops. But I finished grinning and full of happiness (and also singing the Baby Shark song - probably the least said about that the better!). And Grant was at the finish line giving out hugs. I know for sure that my journey would have been a lot longer and a lot harder if it hadn't been for this dude to share it with. And the same goes for the other people from our community - runners, volunteers and supporters - who I briefly crossed paths with that day. Sometimes we live our lives in such isolation from those around us. But if all it takes is a 100km run to really connect with someone, then everyone should go do it. OK so maybe I do like running and maybe my #GRE was the whole of the run, but - Grant Mataira, YOU are my greatest run ever!
February 6, 2019
Love the show!
I've been meaning to write in about my #GreatestRunEver for a while now, but it wasn't until I was recently catching up on some missed DCR episodes that I was inspired to do it.
I spent a while thinking about my greatest run ever. It would have been easy to talk about my first marathon, the Tarawera 42k in 2016. Or my fastest half marathon, the Hamilton half a year later.
But I realised that a "greatest run" isn't necessarily your fastest time or longest distance, but one that no matter how hard it is, you make it to the finish line.
The 24k Waitomo trail run in 2017 was my greatest run ever. It was the infamous Wai-slow-mo mud run, but despite the weather I was enjoying it. People were in good spirits, I made a few friends while trudging along in the mud, and the scenery was pretty amazing. It was more of an adventure hike than a race.
Unfortunately at about 14km in while jogging down a hill, I landed full force in a fairly large hole that was hidden by mud. As I landed, I slipped and fell sideways, and my foot wedged in the hole. With nowhere to go, my ankle bent at an angle it wasn't made for, making a popping sound that was heard by passing runners.
The pain was excruciating, but I put on a brave face for the runners that were passing me asking if I was OK. At the time, I thought it could possibly be a sprain, but I didn't think anything was broken.
Due to the remoteness of the area, I didn't have much choice other than to keep going. So I hobbled onward at a pace of about 3km per hour, with my foot swelling up to about twice its normal size.
To be honest, it's a bit of a blur now. To cut a long story short, I made to to the finish after about 6 hours thanks to a mixture of stupidity, sheer determination, and a bit of ego.
X-ray results the next day put an end to my running for about 6 months, with multiple fractures and torn ligaments. Walking was extremely difficult for the following 3 weeks, and it took about 8 months for the pain to fully disappear.
So, it was probably the worst run ever. But it was also probably the best run ever. Sheer determination to get that damn finisher's medal got me to the finish line, as well as my own stubbornness to not give up.
Looking back, the smart move would have been to DNF. But I'll always remember the feeling of crossing that finish line.
I entered the Waitomo 24k event the following year in 2018 and finished unscathed. I probably won't do it again... probably :)
January 30, 2019
Tēnā Kōrua e hoa!
First time caller, long time listener, I'm writing this having just gotten home after spending 3 hours bouncing around riverhead with your show playing through my headphones! I started tuning in after discovering you'd done an interview with my Uncle, Dr Tony Page, and have been a regular listener since. I'm a medical student with shared custody between North Shore and Waitakere hospitals, with one of my placements this year being in psychiatry and mental health... So I may see you around Matt!
My greatest run ever was late last year as part of the Blue Lake Challenge. One of the consultant Doctors at Rotorua hospital convinced me to take part in the "Midnight Marathon event" (Shout-out to Dr Stanley!) but the event clashed with my flatmate's 30th birthday party... What to do?
I resolved that I was going to do both; I would attend the party AND the run on the same night. Usually my preparations for a long run are pretty structured and planned out, but not this one. Pasta and electrolytes were replaced by burgers, beers, and biscuits. One well meaning party goer kept bringing me chips, one at a time, concerned I hadn't eaten enough for my midnight escapade.
I rolled up to the start line 30 minutes late, head torch on, with a helium balloon I'd hijacked from the party tied to my backpack. It had a smiley face on it and everything, it was a cool balloon ok? The race director threatened to pop my balloon if I didn't get out on course immediately, so not wanting to lose my new floating friend I shot out the feed zone and onto the trails.
I've not done a lot of night running, but for anyone wanting to give it a go I can highly recommend it. Cloudless skies, the stars up above, the occasional tendril of fog rising from the lake into the almost frozen night air... I felt free, at peace, and at the same time so very alive.
I met a lot of runners that night, some who had been running for over 16 hours at that point. Many of them had a good laugh at the sight of a bright orange springy legged boy bounding along with a slowly leaking helium balloon nipping at his heels, and I hope I brightened up their days a little! I'm sure some wrote off seeing the Balloon Boy at 2am as a hallucination, but if any of you are listening I am very real!
I ended up settling for a midnight half marathon rather than going the whole way, this being my first properly long run back after recovering from a knee injury. Good food, good company, good laughs and good running. What more could you want? In a way all the stars aligned, which is why this is easily my greatest run ever.
Here is a nice story about how we can connect even if we don’t speak the same language. Yesterday while doing my warm up for a solid Parkrun, a young boy came up to me to offer me a commemorative t-shirt for Armistice day. A number of runners had come from Vignacourt France 🇫🇷 joined us for a Parkrun. I gratefully accepted this gift. It was a firm run for me and on the final turn, I saw the boy who gifted my t-shirt pull up and stop, he looked spent. I came beside him and encouraged him in the best way I could to let him know it was just a little way to go. I showed my shirt and reminded him that he was the one he gave me the shirt. He started to move and make pace again and we turned the corner I put my hand on his shoulder and told him, “let’s run it out to the finish”. With that he pulled out the French flag and held it high above his head with pride. We accelerated and hit the finish line with matched speed and grace and broad smiles. No words needed to be said, he hugged me afterwards with thx before laying down for a rest. I will treasure that shirt and the memories attached and I will never forget this great run. Some runs are beautiful others are just mind blowing amazing! #bargaraparkrun#vignacourtvisit#runrestrepeat#armistice#runninggirl#dirtchurchradio#greatestrunever#makingfriends#runhard#runbeforeworking#kaicoffee#myhappyplace
January 23, 2019
I have been soaking up your fantastic podcast over the past 6 months. Well done on such an honest, kind, interesting set of shows.
It got me thinking every week of my ‘greatest run ever’. I find this very difficult to pinpoint as I love running every day. I love doing it to explore the amazing trails in NZ and the rest of the world when travelling. I love the scenery and wildlife and escape, and the feeling afterwards on the way home. It replenishes me, inspires me and makes me the best self I can be. I eventually settled on my greatest run ever being the Great Barrier Island Marathon in 2018. It is a half trail and half road marathon across Great Barrier Island in the Hauraki golf. It ticked all the boxes: explore a new area (a stunning island full of pristine beaches and epic mountains), some tough trails (the race being over 1000metre of elevation), community organised and supported (a lovely grassroots community spirit – the nod at the shop with the comment “you’ll be here for the island run than ay?”) and fantastic views across the island when running (for most of the trail I had to remind myself to look at where I was stepping rather then the scenery!). However the reason it was my greatest run ever was because it was the first time my partner Amanda (together for 9 years) came to support one of my runs. It added a whole new element I had not experienced before. She was there at several checkpoints and darted around the island in a 30 year-old rusted rental car (like most of the cars on the island), at some points following me and shouting support. I had never had this before and it is what got me through. This event was tough – it has been touted as one of the hardest marathons in the world and on a very hot sun-exposed day. The second half on the road still has two looooong hills with 400metres of elevation. I had to dig deep and spent quite some time in the ‘suffer’ state. Each time I saw her at a checkpoint it would reinvigorate me. It is one of the few runs I had frequent thoughts of dropping out, and I can’t honestly say I wouldn’t have if she wasn’t there. I eventually reached the finish line with my partner cheering and taking photos and the organisers providing home-baked goods. I managed to beat the course record in a time of 3:04. However an Aucklander managed an ever better time beating me by a few minutes, making me take second place. Having the shared experience with my partner and experiencing the adventure together is what makes this the greatest run ever for me. Giving her an insight into these tough events and my ‘Why’ was rewarding to us both. It has inspired her to run a little bit and also to attend other events I have done, creating some fantastic shared experiences and stories. I am very grateful for this.
We spent three days in total on the island exploring (including a reasonably long walk to the natural hot springs the night before the race!) and really loved the place. Its untouched stunning natural beauty, its friendliness and community spirit, its amazing wildlife and fantastic walks are what exploring the world and trail running are all about.
January 16, 2019
My Greatest Run Ever was the run that sparked the trail running flame for me. It was the Dual Half marathon in 2014. I wanted to set a goal that seemed out of reach and work towards it, back then, 21km seemed too much to comprehend. I committed by purchasing the ticket and began the journey of trying to figure out what it meant to run 21km. A friend of mine planned to run the race too, it would have been his first half marathon as well, however, he was unable to attend due to a prior commitment. So, I was to do it alone.
I travelled to the start by myself, via the ferry as did everyone else. I observed the other runners in their groups, with their fancy running outfits and shoes, and coloured K tape up their legs and around their shoulders... "that looks a bit excessive" I thought. I also experienced the requirement of cleaning my shoes before getting on the ferry, which was a first.
I remember warming up during the pre run briefing, thinking "... What if I get lost? How long is this going to take me?" I knew nothing about nutrition or water intake, I didn't even know what Strava was! So off I went with many other people. My one goal was take my time, enjoy travelling up Rangitoto, and take some pics when I could. The course was awesome, the scenery is so beautiful. Having the opportunity to run around these stunning parts of the world is still the main reason why I love this pastime.
I finished the race in just under 4 hours. My partner and her friend made the trip over to Motutatpu to cheer me on at the finish line, which was super cool. The next available ferry back to Auckland wasn't for a couple of hours, so we took advantage of the afternoon sun, live music, hotdogs and beer/wine. We watched the prize giving ceremony and cheered on the top ranked runners who were called out. The spot prize were also called out, and just my luck, my name was called out and I won a two tickets trip to Rarotonga race for the Round Rarotonga Road Race. I jumped up in the air with excitement as I ran towards stage, and I felt my left calf cramp up! It didn't matter, it was a magical day. That was my greatest run ever.
Just sharing a reflection on this race. Queenstown, my third full monty. First was Rotorua and second was Auckland, both of which I have trained solely for and got a good time and PR, all sub 4. Somehow, queenstown was the exact opposite. I trained for it but deep inside I was not confident I would run it strong. Just like Taupo ultra, I had colds again but lucky enough I felt better this morning. The weather picked up as well so that’s a bonus. So off I go starting from Arrowtown. The atmosphere was great! We ran beside picturesque mountains, there was a river, a bridge. Ultimately it was one scenic run, typical of what Queenstown has to offer. People cheered on. There was even a band playing a Foo Fighters song which was really cool! As a running geek, I analyze my races and as for this instance what went wrong? From the start I couldn’t keep my heart rate low, mid 170’s usually that is. My pace didn’t feel fast so I thought it was a combination of nerves and not having a shakeout run a day prior. Even my breathing was fine so I thought I’ll just base it on my effort. From 13km onwards, my heart rate was in the 180’s and still my breathing was fine. It went on like that and many times it reached 190’s up until the 32nd km where I hit bonkers. That nausea ‘gagging to puke’ feeling and light-headedness was awful. My legs were heavy but not that bad. But I knew if I carry on like that for the next 10km I’ll pass out. And I don’t play superhuman, I’m a nurse and it’s just not sensible to pass out in a race. It is meant to be enjoyed. I decided to walk most of it and ran when I can. It didn’t feel like a defeat to be honest. As for me marathons are always hard no matter how much experience one has. And just like life, shit happens, can’t always win but there will always be more races in the future. And I’m in Queenstown on a running holiday with my family. Best place ever! Such a great way to end a running year. Onwards and upwards for what’s next. 🙌💕 Despite the crappy performance this is my #greatestrunever. 🙏 Official time 4:18:59 🤣 @queenstownmarathon @garminnz#roadtoqueenstown #marathon#instarunners #mymedal
January 09, 2019
My greatest run ever.
G’Day from sunny Queensland guys,
Thanks for a fantastic podcast I am close to finishing off listening to all of the previous episodes of Dirt church radio which I only recently found while reading through all the info on the Tarawera Ultra website.
I’d like to start by saying I’m one of the many that struggle with the concept of calling myself a
runner as I spend 90% of my time walking and hiking I am currently trying to learn to jog (see I can’t even say the word run lol) on the roads to complement my walking during tarawera 102km in Feb, I find jogging on trails so much easier and enjoyable than jogging on the road but I hope by doing some road jogging training it will help me develop some skills.
My greatest Walk ever ;) I believe was earlier this yr. 2018 while coming to the completion of 12 months training for the 2018 Kokoda challenge on the gold coast which is a 96km team event and my first exposure to the fact the people are actually capable of travelling these distances.
One of my team mates and I set a couple of challenges one of which was to complete 4 times walking up our local mountain (MT Larcom which is a 3.5km climb up 635m of elevation). We had no idea if this was achievable as most people, ourselves included, find just one trip up enough to justify an afternoon nap and a fair bit of whinging.
Before I start with how the walk went I’ll quickly explain what the trail is like up to the top of the mountain. The first 1km is fairly easy and something a runner could easily run then you start the middle ½ which is just step and slippery incline a fair portion of the 638m is in this stage and it is just straight up the hill with no switch backs to soften the blow, this section is what breaks most people’s spirits,once you reach the spur it’s is a bit gentler for a few hundred metres before a couple of rock climbs and another section of steep incline. The top section is all clambering up rock faces and makes for some interesting minutes before reaching the top and being able to take in a 360 degree panoramic view of the region. On to our climb
We started at 4am in the dark and set of conscious of trying to conserve energy but found that we summited in approx. 1hr 15min which is a fairly quick time for anyone especially when we hopefully had 3 more laps in our legs. The first lap was completed with the company of a friend who had always wanted to hike the mountain and was brave enough to make her first attempt in the dark hoping to see sunrise from the top, however we were a bit early and keen to keep rolling so off we trotted back to the car (our friend went on to climb the mountain again in wks. to come with her kids and caught her sunrise.)
Lap 2 we were accompanied by 2 of our other team mates and 1 of their kids we found this lap to be very much the same as the first a smooth walk and legs felt really strong giving us plenty of confidence it was a beautiful winters morning in central QLD approx. 18degrees and by the time we summited and started back down we started to pass a few of the 20 or so people that generally climb the hill on any given weekend day they all had a look of shock as we bounced down past them and over brief words of encouragement highlighted our days plan wishing them luck and promising to say hi on the next lap.
Prior to lap 3 we stopped for 15min to shovel a chicken wrap in using this as a chance to practice our checkpoint stops for Kokoda, we headed off feeling great with 1 of the 2 team members from lap 2 still with us so making 3 of us we worked our way back up towards the top focused on completing the challenge now that we realised it was achievable, we stopped to encourage a young couple who were sitting in tears trying to find what they needed to keep pushing to the top, we were so proud of them to find out later that they had finally made it after close to 6hrs total time on the mountain. I was really looking forward to the 4 th lap as my 10yr old son and his mate we going to be joining us to complete the challenge, they were excitedly waiting at the carpark for us with a typical survival pack for kids chips, lollies and if they were lucky 600ml of water. We quickly filled our camelback bladders and said good bye to our team mate who was heading home and with slowly fatiguing legs headed up for our 4 th and final trip. The UeBoom was pumping out tunes and we steadily climbed the dreaded middle section of the climb as we started on the spur line running up towards the final climb I hit a wall that nearly knocked me back down to the bottom and realised that not finishing my wrap was a huge mistake as I’d finally used up my last energy reserves. Luckily I had some peanut M&M’s in my pocket and couldn’t believe the boast of energy they provided letting me continue to the summit and triumphally hugged my son and shock hands with Jason my team mate as we celebrated achieving our goal with only having to tumble our way back down the hill injury free to finish a successful days training.
We completed the 4 climbs in approx. 8hrs and finished with 28km and over 2400m of elevation, obviously exhausted and with plenty of leg fatigue we couldn’t of been happier a couple of cold beers to rehydrate and recover had us searching for our families and as much food as we could find before crawling into bed with big smiles and finally feeling some confidence that it may even be possible to complete 96km and 4500m of elevation with the support of a fantastic team.
We went on to finish the Kokoda challenge in 28hrs with some heroic efforts by team members and support crews.
Can’t wait to see you all at Tarawera and hope to be crying and smiling as I cross the finish line
My name is Dave Jack. I am a Leo, I love cheese pizza, and long walks in the park....Anywho lets talk about my greatest run ever. Background I am a skateboarder and until about two years ago I never considered myself as a "runner". I was just running to keep the beer gut from taking over, but back to the story. Now I have so many great runs like my first marathon with my bros where I seriously laughed so much the whole way through my cheeks hurt after the race. But the one I want to tell you about is different and it just happened a few weeks ago.
Was talking with my friend Matt one morning at the school drop off and he said "Hey I am going to do time trials on Anzac hill today, want to come?" . I looked at him and said "Yep sure will text you if I can make" In my head I was thinking, I hate that hill and there is no way I am running full speed up it. So I got home and for some crazy reason I texted him and said I am free at 11 hoping this would not work out in his schedule. His reply was cool pick up then.So that was it I was off to death hill.......We arrive 10 minute warm up then 3,2,1, go. So during the run there was no talking it was all business. I had never done a sprint up this hill before but had Matt and he had a time he was trying to beat. We were neck and neck the whole way I wanted to stop but I knew I couldn't. I got to the top just a little ahead of Matt looked at my watch and I knew he was going to beat his time. At that moment I got super excited was like watching my buddy do a new skate trick.The look of determination on his face coming up to the top and knowing he was going to do what he set out to do put the biggest smile on my face. At the top it was high fives and man hugs and for the rest of the day all I thought about was how stoked I was on the run and how he beat his PB.
So that was one of my greatest runs, having fun and watching my homeboy kill his PB.
Thee Dave Jack
Inspirational, funny, sad, delightful, everyday stories of running.