The short version: once again, I ran further, did longer races and had some pretty OK results.

The long version: This year saw me find some new challenges – longer races, some pretty epic events when it comes to vertical gain and once again some good times with great people. For those statistically curious:

  • Total distance: 5599km
  • Total time run: 553 hours

That equates to an average of 108 kilometers a week or 15 kilometers a day on average and, interestingly, my average pace throughout the year was pretty much bang-on 10 km/h (or 5 minutes kms for those who prefer to look at it that way).

Why running? And why racing?

Running time is therapy for me – I never run with a device and, while much of my running was done with a few key training partners (Yonni primarily, but also the old-man’s running club: Andy, Lee and Kevin) I’m just as happy spending three or four hours on my own with just my thoughts for company. My life is a barrage of communications – hundreds of emails, tweets, Facebook messages and other streams every day, running time is a fantastic opportunity to get away from all of that and just get centered. I guess running gives me a chance to reach some kind of a Zen state and enjoy the feeling of stress flowing off me along with the sweat.

So if running is a therapy, why do I race? It’s a valid question, and one I’ve been pondering as I look into a future that, inevitably, will see me slow down (judging by how sore my ankles, knees and hips are when I wake up in the morning, that future might not be too long away). I’m a results-driven sort of a guy and racing is a great way to test myself – against others, against my own previous results and against my own perceptions of what I’m capable of. I don’t really envisage any time when all I do is run socially – racing gives me the goals I need to work towards.

Of course having ticked off some pretty big goals with my racing this year, I need to think about setting new ones – maybe some big overseas races might be in my future… Watch this space.

Anyway, that’s my 2017 running year over with, below are some of the monthly highlights.

January

After getting back from a trip to the middle east, the St James Ultra was the first event of the year. Run in two parts (a 45km shorter course and 60km for those wanting to continue), I got 4th at the end of the 45km and then Yonni and I got first equal over the 60km distance.

February

In 2016 I raced the inaugural Old Ghost Ultra. An amazing event run by some incredible people. It was great to return for the second running and to take along Yonni to give it a crack. I didn’t have as good of a race as the year before, some digestive and cramp issues hampered me, but I still managed to take 15 minutes or so off my previous time.

March

March was a chance to race the Arrowsmith Off-road Marathon, an event my training buddy, Andy, has raved about since I’ve known him. Yonni and I drove out the night before and camped in the incredible race location overnight – it was nice to be first there and watch all the racers arrive after their early starts the next morning. The race itself went well, I managed to sneak in under the 4 hour mark and got 2nd veteran and 5th place overall.

April

I didn’t have any races in April, but did some pretty big mileage getting ready for my next challenge. I ended up doing half a dozen marathon distance runs over the month, a few of which were in the middle of the night. All a cunning plan for May…

May

A “miler” or a 100 mile race, is the pinnacle of most ultra marathon runners’ ambitions – and so after completing races up to 100km, it was time to move up to the next challenge. The Hanmer Old Forrest 100 is a new event, so again I was taking part in the inaugural running of it. I really wasn’t certain how I’d go over that sort of distance, but had strategically chosen a relatively flat event for my first miler. A dozen or so of us set out on the Friday morning and I purposely started slow and steady. It seemed like a good strategy – start near the back and pass people all day. Running right through the night was a new experience – seeing snow falling in the beam of my headlamp was actually pretty cool.

The race itself went perfectly, and I was able to pass my last target within the last couple of laps – I ended up winning the event in 18:21 – a time I was really happy with and far faster than I would have expected. 100 miles is a long way, but I think I’m actually pretty suited to those sort of distances – I really enjoyed all that time out in solitude.

June/July

No races these months, June was pretty slow with recovery from Hanmer taking longer than expected. But July was about building up some big base miles for the coming months.

August

A casual event, the Christchurch Slightly Ultra Marathon, saw 30 or so people head out on an informal run/race. Yonni and I did it together, more as a training event than anything else. It was good to have a solid six or seven hours on our feet and in the hills – it wasn’t fast, but it was fun. August also saw me run the longest week ever – seven days, seven runs and just shy of 190kms in total. Long and slow…

September

I’m a new-found long distance guy, but when Yonni and Omri were part of the organizing committee for the 11km Waikari Fun Run, I had to go along and race. 11km feels really short for me, it normally takes me that long to warm up during an event! And the extra speed was something I’m not really used to, either. I ended up getting third overall, and first vet, and got close to averaging 4 minute kilometers for the entire event.

October

Last year saw me run a terrible race at the Taupo 100km Ultramarathon (another inaugural event). So this year saw me head back and take Yonni with me – it was also awesome to meet up with school best-friends Ed and Paul – we all raced at the event and had a good chance to catch up. After a dismal 14 hours 38 minutes last year, all I wanted was to improve upon that time and I certainly did, ending up finishing in 10:42 for sixth place overall. Super proud of Yonni who came in 16th overall and, in doing so, became the youngest ever New Zealander to complete a 100km trail race. It was a shame that Ed ended up pulling the pin at 70kms but proud of buddy Paul who smashed his first ever ultra, completing the 50km fresh as a daisy.

November

Because one miler isn’t enough, and because friends Steph and George where introducing a new event pretty close to home, I signed up for the Krayzie Kapers 100mile. There were only four of us entered, and one of those withdrew injured after only a couple of hours. Friend Tony, who I’ve raced with a bunch in the past, made it to about 120kms before deciding to stop and look after the kids while his wife went for a run. That left Michael and I – Michael was ahead of me all day and ended up beating me by a couple of hours – I had some blister issues (mental note – never run with Salomon trail shoes again). It was awesome to have the whole family there and all three of them came out and ran (walked!) some laps with me over the event. Training buddy Kevin came out and did the hardest lap, chatting away to me at around 2am for a couple of hours and keeping me away from the really dark places (metaphorically, not literally)’’.

29 hours is, I can happily report, a very, very long time to be on your feet. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t have any hallucinations as people suggest often happens during an event of that distance. I could even walk (kind of) afterwards – my feet were pretty cut up, and it took a few weeks for the blisters to heal, but I was running again (albeit short distances and slowly) the next week.

December

Again, no racing, and a short month due to travel and recovery from the previous race – but looking forward to some new challenges, and returning to some old ones, in 2018.

The graph below (thanks StravistiX) shows my total mileage for the past few years – a good graphical depiction of just how much more running I did this year. Also interesting are the notches in May and November when I did my 100 mile races (and the relative flat spot thereafter as I recovered from my events).

years

For previous reviews of my year in running (I never did one last year for some reason) see 2015’s here and 2014’s here.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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