Deep breath, here goes…
I’m going to run the length of New Zealand.
There. I said it. On the 15th of January 2015 I’ll set out from Cape Reinga, the very northernmost tip of the North Island and make my way down to Bluff on the Southern tip of the, um, South Island. Just me, my trainers, a backpack, Tina Turner on repeat and 1,800 miles of delicious trail.
The Te Araroa
I’m heavily allergic to running on roads. There’s something about tarmac slap slap slapping away at the souls of my feet that brings me out in a rash. That, and road running seems to make my shins explode in all sorts of unwelcome directions. Trails, on the other hand, reek of adventure. They allow you to rub your gleeful little face in whatever landscape you happen to find yourself passing through. Best of all, trails have the power to transport you to the places that no motorised machine can.
The Te Araroa trail is a relative new kid on the block as far as epic pathways go. It’s not even made National Geographic’s top ten long distance hikes list yet (although I’m sure it won’t be long). Starting with a section called ’90 mile beach’, which, as advertised, is a beach, it then continues on through dense forest, across rising rivers and over mountains, before winding into the Fjords of the South.
Why New Zealand?
Because they filmed Lord of the Rings there. Okay, not really (but really). I’ve just always wanted to go. And seeing as though adventures should be about exploring places that you’d like to get better acquainted with, it seemed like a good bet. New Zealand is rumoured to be extremely easy on the eye, and should I be found in need of a cultural fix, there’s a hunk of Pacific Island history to top up the well. Plus, did I mention they filmed Lord of the Rings there?
Am I breaking any records?
No siree. Although as far I can work out I’ll be the first woman to run the trail. But really that’s like saying I’m the first person with two a’s and two n’s in my name, to be born on the 18th of October 1984 in Kingston hospital (I’ll await the certificate). This trip isn’t about records or speeds, its about the people and the places. And people and places demand time. I’m doing my best to learn from last years American escapade, and have more freedom to go with the flow. This time around, if someone says to me ‘Hey, Anna (kiwi accent) – fancy spending a day longer here and climbing that mountain / speaking to a bunch of school kids / meeting my 101 year old grandma?”. I want to be able to say: “Yes. I have time. Lead on awesome kiwi person, lead on…”
How far will you run in a day?
I’m training to run no more than 20 miles in a day. I know Eddie Izzard ran a marathon a day. I know ultra runners cover more. That’s nice for them. In July I trotted 60 miles in a day, just to see if I could. I can. It hurts and costs you toenails if you’re stupid enough not to cut them before race day. So I do know I could run more. Heck, I could walk more, but I’d like to allow the time to run less. I adore running, for all the simplicity and freedom it offers, and I’d like to keep it that way. I have no doubt that there’s enough Type 2 fun in running 20 miles each day to make for tales of personal discovery and keep me suitably miserable.
How will you carry your worldly possessions?
On my back. Like a tortoise. Or a snail. I think I prefer a tortoise, they’re a little faster than snails, yet still not as quick as the hare. You, much like my new running coach may shake your head at this. What am I going to do to my knees? My back? My poor hips? Actually I’m more concerned about my shoulders and trapezius muscles. Being an ex-rower I already have knots there so impressive that not even a pneumatic drill would release them. By the end of this I quite suspect that my neck will be as thick as my head. I look forwards to rocking that look when the time comes.
I’m aiming for the pack to weigh 6kgs. It’ll contain a small one man tent, sleeping bag, a spot tracker, a kindle, a phone, solar charger and as little clothing as I can muster. There’s something wonderfully gratifying about travelling with so few possessions and I’m looking forwards to it immensely.
Wow. There’s a header here because I’m actually doing some, which makes a change. Thankfully, unlike the last adventure I’m not working seven days a week in the lead up to this one. So I have some time to prepare my body. I’m also wise enough to know that running is a serious business. Get it wrong and you’re screwed. Get it right and you’re probably still a little screwed, but able to keep going. So I’ve put my faith in a coach who’s got a truckload of experience and am making myself (as he puts it) ‘Bomb proof’ . Yikes.
The important bit
Adventures are all very well and good. They encourage people to pursue dreams, live vicariously, inspire and instill confidence where there may have been an absence of it before. But for me the true value in an adventure always comes in that little bit of summthin’ summthin’ it offers the world.
I’m always on a mission to get kids active and to embrace the outdoors, so I’ll be going into schools again throughout this trip. I want as many mini-people as possible to make the planet their playground, as opposed to just their living room. So if you know any teachers in New Zealand, get in touch and let’s get this classroom party started.
Am I crazy?
Definitely. Life really is short to be anything but. I only hope this encourages you embrace your inner crazy too.
Why am I so gosh darn excited?
Because this, on a number of different levels, is a challenge. And with a challenge there’s always a strong chance that things can go tits up. Mentally I’m capable. Physically, I’m hoping so. All I know is that I need to start. Once I start, the four months that follow will be an adventure whatever happens. And not really knowing how it’ll unfold is by far the most exciting part.
Journeys are always more fun with some virtual companions, so I’d like to cordially invite you all to enroll in the adventure army for this trip. My call to arms is to join me on the journey to the start line and beyond it – say hello on Twitter, or Like up the Facebook page. I can’t promise it’ll be plain sailing, in fact I can guarantee it won’t be, but dear me, either way it’ll be one heck of a ride.
Until next time, all aboard the train to Adventure Town… Woo! Woooo! Chug-a-chug…