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After months of organisation and numerous long nights New Zealand’s first ultra-run starts in the shadow of Mt Cook this Sunday.
The Back Country Cuisine Alps 2 Ocean Ultra sold out in October and has attracted competitors from around the world with organisers already taking entries for next year’s event. Runners will tackle 316 kilometres over seven stages in seven days finishing in Oamaru following the off road Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail for much of the journey.
Event Director Mike Sandri of Oamaru is looking forward to the event getting underway this weekend and can’t wait to show off the course and the stunning scenery to the 125 competitors from 15 countries.
“The support and interest we’ve had has been amazing,” Sandri said. “Over sixty percent of the field is from overseas with a split of about fifty fifty between men and women. It’s going to be something very special to see it finally start; there’s been some long hours and now it’s all about the people and the incredibly supportive environment that ultra-running inspires.”
Sandri stresses that ultra-running is all about getting from one spot to the next and time, except for the daily cut off times, is irreverent. “It’s not about being fast, it’s about getting there,” he said. “You could walk the Alps 2 Ocean Ultra quickly and still make the cut off times, it’s just about finishing and we want as many to finish as possible.”
Self-supported runners have to carry their own food, sleeping mat, sleeping bag and other compulsory items for the entire seven days, while supported runners will have their food and bedding carried for them to the end of each stage.
Sandri says that while he was doing the Grand to Grand Ultra in the United States he was asked why New Zealand didn’t have an ultra-race as it seemed made for such an event and has often been a world leader in adventure and multisport events.
“It got me thinking and I thought, yes, why not have an ultra-run here and the perfect place is Mt Cook to Oamaru, so let’s have a go and see what happens.”
“To truly do something you haven’t done before like this can be pretty daunting while also being inspirational and motivating,” he said. “I also want to show off New Zealand and raise some money for youth in our community.”
“The popularity of ultra-running is growing, driven by being more about participation, personal achievement and having an amazing experience, instead of chasing a time or bagging a new personal best.”
Sandri and his team of 30 volunteers all have a real passion for the event, the region and wanting to do something truly special. Funds raised will be put back into the maintenance of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle trail and will support local youth in the community.
“We want to make sure competitors have the best experience possible so they go away and spread the word about how good it was.”
Competitors have been arriving in Oamaru this week. Race pack pick up opened on Wednesday at the Oamaru Opera House and registration, gear check, race briefing and the welcome dinner are all on Friday.
Competitors head off for Mt Cook on Saturday morning after a Maori blessing and haka from boys from Waitaki Boys’ High School.
Alps 2 Ocean Ultra
February 23-March 3
• Stage 1: Mt Cook, 6.02km
• Stage 2: Lake Pukaki, 47.83km
• Stage 3: Lake Pukaki to Lake Middleton, 51.34km
• Stage 4: Lake Middleton to Loch Laird, 86.6km
• Stage 5: Loch Laird to Waitaki River, 43.76km
• Stage 6: Kurow to Peaks Rd, 52.66km
• Stage 7: Peaks Rd to Oamaru, 28.67km