There’s no doubt that this event was a unique challenge, and something I will certainly never forget. The jury is still out, however, on whether it was a positive experience.
To be the proverbial stick in the mud (literally!), allow me to give my very subjective opinion on the event that’s now a week in the past. Just to keep the yin-yang intact, I’ll try to tell it as it was. 😉 At least my experience of the day as a very average (heck, maybe even below average), back-of-the-pack runner.
We camped at Martinborough Top 10 campsite and caught the bus at 6:45 to take us to the start at Tora coast, about an hour and 15 minutes drive. Arranging buses to take participants to the start, instead of having all 800 participants driving the narrow winding road themselves, was a great idea by the organisers. Everything was on time and ran smoothly in terms of the organisation.
So far so good, but …
As far as the event itself is concerned, I guess it’s fair to say it was not at all what I expected. The race follows the same route as the 3-day Tora Coastal Walk, only difference being that it starts at Stony Bay Lodge, which is the second night’s stay on the Walk. I’ve heard so much about the Tora Coastal Walk that offers these spectacular sea views and lovely scenery on private land, great hospitality, etc etc, that I was picturing something magnificent. I was so looking forward to a great run on a stunning course in beautiful surroundings.
What I did not expect, was that only about 2 of the 32 kilometres would be on a single track bush path in indigenous forest. The bulk of the Tora Coastal Walk (and thus the run) is on farm roads and paddocks. And unfortunately, due to the inclement weather of the weeks leading up to the race (which, admittedly, the organisers could do nothing about), the whole route was turned into one gigantic butt (uhum, mud!) slide. All we saw was never-ending mud, mist and dead lambs (and a few ewes). If running in the rain in muddy cattle trampled paddocks was my thing, I could have done it in my own backyard. Especially since it was so misty that all hopes of the anticipated lovely views went by the wayside.
The first approximately 6kms (the only bit that was runable for normal folk) follows a dirt road on the coastline until you reach Shearers Cottage. From here the course turns inland and gets increasingly more hilly and muddy as you cross over farms and paddocks, making your way to the 18km cut-off point. If you don’t make it in three hours, you are not allowed to continue. At some point I was doubting myself, thinking that I will never make it in time. But with 20 minutes to spare, we continued on the final 14km stretch which was even more grueling than the first 18km. The highest and most difficult part went over Misery Yards up to Limestone Hill and Tim’s Hill before heading back down to Stony Bay Lodge. The 14km took us more than three hours to complete, and although we didn’t see a lot of other participants, the ones that we did stumble upon, didn’t seem too happy about the situation.
I guess you can call this an adventure. A Tougher Mudder of sorts. And I guess it’s run-able for some, but for average folk, this event didn’t make a whole lot of sense. To spend how ever many hours trying to balance and stay upright on muddy slopes, (which everybody failed at miserably, I might add) hoping not to break any bones, is not running. It’s not even walking. Only special types would have been able to run this event. The kind that have strong cores and muscles and a lot of guts to tackle the terrain on all fours, on your butt or whichever body part that could help propel you forward, even if it means breaking something. As I believe was the case for a few unlucky participants who apparently came away with broken arms, etc.
The percentage of finishers is testament to the impassability of the terrain. About a quarter of the 32km participants either did not finish (DNF), or did not start (DNS – the clever okes who probably knew what the terrain would look like after the rains), which in my humble opinion is not good advertising for a race. Will I do it again? Maybe. At least now I know what I’m letting myself in for. But if it rains again in the weeks leading up to the event (which is almost a given at this time of year), I will most certainly not do it again.
Thanks to the kind gentleman with the high pressure water blaster hosing everybody off at the finish. And all the marshals who sacrificed their day to stand in the rain waiting for the runners to pass and tracking them. As for the gourmet burgers, I was a bit disappointed. With a few green leaves and a patty on a dry bun, gourmet wasn’t quite the word that came to mind. I guess that’s what you get for being almost last? A fruit and something sweet (which was lovely, I might add) was included in the deal.
A bit of a negative report from my side, but look at the pics and you be the judge. 🙂