Completely off-topic, but something of an annual tradition. Since I’m heading off to Nepal with the family in a few days trekking in the Everest region for the month, last weekend marked my last big run for 2015, so it’s time to review the year’s progress.

Short version – less distance, more long runs, lots of trails and some cool ultras. Some epic proud dad moments that made everything else fade by comparison.

The details:

Last year I had the admittedly weird aim of running as many half-marathon distance runs as I possibly could. After clocking up 122 runs of 21.1km/13.1mi or more, I ended up the year on about 3200km total distance.

When 2015 rolled around I decided that continual road running of that extent was kind of boring, probably unhealthy and kind of pointless. I decided that venturing onto the trails and into the hills might be an interesting idea. To this end, 2015 was to be my year of trail running.

It started pretty early at the end of January when I ran with Yonni to complete his first ever half marathon. A 30-degree day and intense sunshine made things hard, but running alongside my number one supporter and seeing him tough through a pretty impressive event for a 14-year-old kid was an awesome time. It also gave us both a taste of what the year would bring for his running experience.

The week after I ran the 20km mountain run in the Oxford Odyssey, an awesome event put on by the tireless Kerry Uren from Scenic Sports. Considering it was one of the first times I’ve entered a mountain race by choice, I was pretty happy to end up in third place int he vets category and 14th overall.

My next race was also my first ever ultramarathon. Nominally 50km in length (but for me almost 55km due to some dodgy individuals removing trail markings) the Bedrock 50 was an awesome race held near Oxford. We got to run the popular Wharfedale mountain biking track before a long, hot and hard flat run down Lees Valley before a horrific climb over the dastardly hill and back down to the finish line. The detour meant that I finished just outside of the top 20 but getting through my first ultra without dying was the biggest achievement. It was great to meet (and run with) Andy Higginson and Shannon Leigh-Litt on the day.

Early March saw me run back to back legs of the High Five-0 fundraising event, a 50-day challenge to raise money for the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand. The first day was a 45km or so day with around 2.5km of vertical gain while the next day was a seemingly more sedate (but actually much harder) 37km with 1.5km of vertical gain. 20 hours of “running” in the space of 48 hours was a great time!

In March, I raced the Christchurch City to Surf event. Yonni’s entire year-group at school were expected to run the race this year so the pressure was on to not let any of the young guns beat me! Luckily I had Lisa Brignull, an amazing local runner, to pace behind and ended up doing the 14km in just over 56 minutes – for a smidgen over a 4min per km pace – not bad for an old bugger! Best of all was that I managed to beat all of Yonni’s classmates – I’m totally aware that it’s likely the last year I’ll be able to do so.

A rookie mistake in early March caused some problems. I did a 5km “fun run” at a conference I was attending in Silicon Valley. I didn’t bother warming up and raced hard. Sub-4min kms are hard on 43-year-old Achilles tendons and I really paid the price. I’m still, eight months later, a little tender in the ankle.

My next race was back on the road for the annual Christchurch Marathon. This was the first road marathon I’d done for four years so was interested to see how I’d go. I ran conservatively and kept with a modest 1:40 pace group for the first half before opening it up a little bit in the second half. My 3:17:44 was actually around five minutes faster than my previous best marathon time and good enough for top 25 in my category.

Lots of running, but no racing ensued until September when I raced in the Ashley Forest half marathon. This cool event is a fundraiser for the local school and always has great support – with lots of families out doing the various different distances. I raced the half and stupidly tried to keep up with some ridiculously fast people for the first few kms. I paid the price for it later and faded heaps coming in at 10th place.

Not a race, but an awesome trail run nonetheless eventuated in September when Yonni, Omri and I ran from the rim of the Grand Canyon, all the way down to the Colorado River and back again. Tough and hot, but awesome all the same!

The end of the year was a blur of races. First up in October was the Pegasus Fun Run, another friendly, family-focused event. I managed to race relatively well in the 10km event and came in third overall and first vet.

The next two weekends saw me racing in a couple of half marathons. First the Clarence Bridge to Bridge event where I ran most of the way with my new running buddy Andy Higginson. Another tough but beautiful race and I ended up in 4th place and 2nd vet. The next weekend saw us in Waiau to race the Lodge to Lodge – a lovely downhill half marathon on the quiet North Canterbury roads. I went one up on the week before and came in 3rd overall and won the vet category. It was great to do the event with the family and enjoy a day out together.

My second ultra for the year was the Tarawera Trail Marathon and 50km, in which I raced the 50km event. Again I had issues with pace and also suffered from some severe cramping issues. My first 30km or so was excellent and then things went very downhill. I pretty much went backwards from then on and watched scores of people pass me. My eventual 5hrs 58 time got me 28th in my category and 92nd overall. And an excellent lesson in why good pacing and magnesium supplements are critical elements for a long race!

The week after Tarawera I raced the final race in the Oceania SkyRunning series. The Sky Rock’n’Run event was a full marathon distance with 3.2km of vertical climbing. This was a pretty epic event, especially for a relative newbie trail runner. I ran the entire event alongside Yonni who was given special dispensation by the pragmatic and flexible Adrian Baily from ActiveQT events to enter the race despite not being the required 18 years old. It was a very long day in the saddle, but it was a massively proud moment to cross the line together with Yonni.

The final race of the year was the Hanmer Alpine Marathon. I’ve done the half marathon in this event for the past couple of years and am well aware that it is a fast course (my PB in a half was set here in 2013). Despite being on rough gravel tracks, the overall downhill gradient and predominant tail wind make for a fast run. I probably went out a little too hard and suffered for it later on, but still managed to hold on for third place overall and first vet. Again it was awesome to be in an event with the whole family – Yonni ran the half marathon, Omri ran (and won!) the 10km and Viv also did the 10km event. The best part for me was another PB, I ended up doing the full in 3:13:24 taking another four minutes and change off me fastest time.

Overall this year saw me run less distance (around 2800kms) than last year but, I reckon, a much more sustainable and enjoyable distance. My highlight though was seeing Yonni develop his running and run both his first ever half marathon and his first ever full marathon in 2015. I need to savor running with him because I suspect it’ll only be a year or so before I can no longer keep up!

So that’s my year – next year will likely be similar, but with a bit of a stretch goal to race some even longer events – there’s potentially an 85km or maybe even a 100km event waiting for me to visit it. Most of all, though, it’s going to be a continued case of me running for the joy of it. As I tell people, I was the fat asthmatic kid at school who always had an excuse to avoid PE. I didn’t really get into exercise in any real way until after school, and it was only in my 30s that I discovered running.

I want to be writing posts like this, and boring readers with the minutiae of my race results, for many years to come. I’m sure I’ll get slower, and my boys will get significantly faster and decide that they can’t be bothered running with me, but I’m fully intending to try and be one of those nuggety old leather-skinned guys still doing it while entering dotage!


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.

1 Comment
  • A great read Ben. You and your family are truly inspirational. You’re a fantastic role model to your boys. Can’t wait to hear how next year goes!!

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