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The Coromandel’s Great Cranleigh Kauri Run turned 10 on Saturday. But this trail run across the Coromandel’s Central Divide is so much more than another great race in a great place. For every runner who has finished this unique event, the organisers have planted a new Kauri tree.
Almost 300 runners from five countries turned out for the 10th anniversary Great Cranleigh Kauri Run. In the 10 years since it was founded by Coromandel event organisers Keith Stephenson and Andy Reid, this unique event has planted almost 3000 new Kauri seedlings on the very trail in follows.
Starting at Waikawau Bay on the rugged Pacific Coast, the feature 32k run traverses the Coromandel Ranges from east to west with over 800m of vertical climbing to finish at Coromandel Township on the Hauraki Gulf. In recent years, the organisers have added 13k, 23k and even 70k options. But every distance takes in golden beaches, native bush and copious stream crossings.
Bay of Plenty runner Sjors Corporaal has made a name for himself in recent years as the best mountain runner on the domestic scene. The tougher the course the better the Galatea farmer goes. In 2009 he set the current race record at 2hrs 25min, and then won again the following year for good measure. But this year he faced his biggest challenge with 2011 winner Chris Morrissey (Taur) and 2012 winner Vajin Armstrong (ChCh) also looking to add to their trophy cabinets.
Corporaal, however, had previously beaten both these men at the Great Cranleigh Kauri Run and despite very hot and dry conditions, his confidence was apparent. Leading from the first few strides, he opened a two minute lead over Armstrong after the first major climb to Waikawau Lookout, with Morrissey another minute back in third.
Once on the Central Divide Corporaal continued building his lead to four minutes at Tokotea after 24k. But it is on the rough and tumble downhills that the leader is at his best. At the Coromandel Townhip finish line Corporaal had stretched his lead to almost 12 minutes to stop the clock at 2hrs 33min 45secs. Behind him, Armstrong held on to second place, with Morrissey third another 10 minutes further back.
As impressive as Sjors Corporaal was, however, the women’s race threw up the closest competition. Cambridge’s Jenni Hoogeveen led over Waikawau Lookout, but by Tokotea she had been joined by Auckland’s Jo Bannister. The Aucklander was fleetest of foot on the plummet down to Coromandel town, where she had 1min 27secs in hand as she crossed the finish line in 3hrs 37min 18secs. Taupo’s Megan Coup filled third in 3hrs 59min 15secs.
In 2011 the Great Cranleigh Kauri Run added a 70k ultra challenge. In 2013 Cambridge ultra-distance specialist Kerry Suter won this for the third consecutive year, leading all the way to win in 7hrs 05min 19secs. At the halfway point on top of Waikawau Lookout, second place had been held by Nelson’s Nathan Bycroft. But New Caledonia’s Stephane Bur finished strongly to claim second place 63 minutes behind Suter, while Bycroft held on to third in 8hrs 29min 33secs.
Among other events, Australian Mark Lee dominated the 23k race by almost 12 minutes in 2hrs 37secs. The women’s race went the way of last year’s 70k winner, Dawn Tuffrey. The Hamilton runner finished 19min ahead of any other woman in 2hrs 21min 44secs. In the 13k option, Te Kuiti’s Flyn Hastings won by 16 minutes in 1hr 16min 41secs. But it was the women’s race that provided the highlight, when Tairua friends Michelle Cameron and Rachel McDowell gave the Coromandel Peninsula hometown win of sorts by finishing first equal in 2hrs 25min 08secs.
Perhaps the most impressive performances of the day, however, came from two old-hands at the trail running game.
In fifth place overall Rotorua’s Colin Earwaker maintained his record as the only person to have run all 10 Great Cranleigh Kauri Runs. This year the former winner clocked in at 3hrs 06min 27secs to nab the 50-plus age group.
Almost four hours later Huntly’s Brian Smith became the eldest person to finish the Great Cranleigh Kauri Run. The eighty year old finished in 7hrs 04min 12secs.
The Great Cranleigh Kauri Run is the second of Adventure Racing Coromandel’s popular summer events, which include the Cranleigh K2 Cycle Classic and the ARC Adventure Race. Their events benefit the Spirit of Coromandel Trust, which provides opportunities for young people to experience the outdoors.