The Kepler Challenge is a 60km mountain run that starts in Te Anau and takes place at the start of December every year. It’s held on the Kepler Track which is one of New Zealand’s great walks and has three huts along the way.
This was my first ultra marathon (anything above 50km) and I really wanted to tick the box of completing an ultra marathon and be able to make the claim of being an ultra runner.
A 60km mountain run
I went down to Te Anau with my family and puppy (Herb) the night before and checked in and got all the compulsory gear sorted – so much to carry when you are running in an alpine environment.
I was quite nervous
about this run as it was by far the longest distance I’d ever tackled and above
all else, I knew it was going to hurt.
What a lot of people don’t know about ultra runs is there is actually a lot of walking or hiking as we like to say. Unless you are an elite, and even then sometimes a large portion of the uphill effort is done hiking to conserve energy and is actually more efficient.
I didn’t really have any expectations for a time for this course, this time around it was all about
completing it and discovering whether or not I could go the distance.
The first part of the course was an uphill climb to Luxmore Hut which, ended up being a lot of hiking on a track through the bush. I was conscious of saving my energy so didn’t want to go too quick! Once at Luxmore Hut we were greeted with some friendly volunteers who did a quick gear check and some food and then off I went again.
Not long after this I passed a ’48km to go’ sign and I remember thinking, is that meant to be a positive sign? Cause it sure didn’t give me any good feelings!
As I didn’t really have any time in mind to complete this I just continued to cruise along at a steady pace whilst cursing that I hadn’t done enough hill work as the quads were burning.
Hitting the wall
I hit a massive wall with 10km to go and almost cried, there was nothing really wrong but I had been running for 8 hours and had a massive wave of emotion come over me. It passed after about 10 minutes.
I got some fire in my belly when I got to 2km to go and was able to pick up the pace, it’s amazing how if you mentally switch on, how much you still have left in you physically. I smashed out the last 2km at a good pace and was happy to make it to the finish in under 9 hours!