The headline result makes for interesting reading. After finishing this race in 2017 in first place with a time of 18:21, this year I ended up eighth equal with a time of 29:08. How on earth did I end up almost 11 hours slower, you might ask…

Well, that’s a complex story. I’d done far more training for the event this year than the previous year, and had also reduced my work travel (well, slightly, but at least this year I wasn’t on the other side of the world only days before the event.) All that looked good and had me feeling good about the event. Until, that is, five days before the event when I came down with a serious dose of man flu. The day I first got sick I slept the entire day and achieved a sum total of 300 steps for the entire day (for reference, I generally have no problem achieving my daily goal of 10,000 steps.)

I seriously thought about pulling the pin, but I don’t like having to pull out of races, and the fact that I was defending champion, and that son #1, Yonni, was using the event as his first attempt at the miler distance convinced me to at least start.


The start line, 10 am Friday morning. The line up of the mad buggers (and buggeresses) who decided to give 100 miles a crack

So race day dawned, and Yonni and I toed the start line with no massive expectations of a good performance, but just keen to rock it with some mates. And so it went – after a few laps it was pretty obvious that Yonni was finding it hard, so I decided to hang with him for the event. On the one hand, it was kind of hard to see much of the field head off into the distance, but given my chest infection, and the overarching goal of wanting to help Yonni to become the youngest ever New Zealander to finish a miler, it wasn’t such a hard decision to make.

And pretty much that’s the way it went: round and round the loops at a slowly diminishing pace and with gradually more bodily niggles. The night came and, unlike last year when I was running fast enough to keep warm, things got a little cold. I ended up fully decked out in an alpine-weight down jacket, just to keep warm. Around 8:30 pm we were joined by a couple of training buddies, Andy and Lee. These guys were up in Hanmer to do the 50km and 21km races respectively, and decided to come out the night before to do a course recce, and also support Yonni and I. Much banter ensued in the lap they joined us for, including a FaceTime call to the fifth member of the Hagley Hombres, our training group, Kevin. Kevin was off to do another race the next day so we had a few minutes of him regaling us with race strategies.

Viv joined in for the next lap – it’s unusual for us to be moving slowly enough for her to partake with us so it was actually quite nice to do 10km all together. She also gave me a break and took over the duties of making sure Yonni kept eating – before the race he had grandiose ideas of mashed potato burritos – suffice it to say that one bite of those was all he could manage and more simple fare was the order of the day.

Once Viv had done her lap, it was up to Yonni and I to make it through the night. Personally, I really love night running, the quiet, the tight focus of the little disk of terrain that ones headlight illuminates and the feeling of solitude. Albeit that I was moving alongside Yonni, after so many years running together, we tend not to talk that much when we run.

In a race that goes through the night, the hours before sunrise are always the hardest – it’s the time that mentally and physically one reaches the nadir. This race was no exception and we both suffered a bit in these hours. For me it was especially interesting – normally all I need to think about is getting myself through the race, this time I had to manage my own mental and physical state as well as keeping an eye on Yonni to make sure he was doing all the things he needed to in order to ensure success.

With the sunrise, we both got a second wind, at least mentally. The toll of close to 24 hours of walking, an activity I don’t really train for, meant that my hips were pretty shot and I ended up spending the next few hours on a weird sort of a lean as my hip flexors (or at least my left hand side ones) gave up their job. A few judiciously administered drugs (Codeine – the choice of a new generation – thanks Mark and Lisa!) helped ease the pain, if not the lean.

With sunrise we still had a good six hours left to “run”, but the fact that all the other races were being held that morning helped – despite all those runners moving far faster than we were, the support we got from them as they sped past was invaluable. Seeing our training buddies come past near the head of their respective races (and, in Lee’s case, very much out in front of his race) was awesome to see.

The next few hours were a simply case of “getting it done.” It was obvious we’d finish, and it was obvious we’d do so tired and sore, but we just needed to get through it. And get through it we did. Omri joined us a few laps before the finish for 10km or so, and Viv came along for the last lap and helped Yonni get through it. With only a couple of kilometers to go Andy and Omri walked up the track to walk us in and so a big bunch of racers and supporters went over the bridge for the last time and two of us received our race finishers’ belt buckles.

It was a super proud dad moment to see Yonni get his buckle – last year he became the youngest ever New Zealander to complete a 100km trail ultramarathon at age 17. This year he went one better to be the youngest ever Kiwi to do a miler – there’s not many 18 year old’s who could get their heads around 29 hours of constant motion!

Thanks to Viv and Omri for their support. Thanks to the other members of The Hagley Hombres, Andy, Lee and Kevin for their training companionship and quality banter, and thanks to all the other racers who gave us encouragement through our long day at the office. See you all next year!


Omri, a jubilant Yonni, a very wonky Ben and Viv just after we finished the miler


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
  • Martin Lukes |

    Thanks for the write up Ben; hopefully you’re back on an even keel now with a full set of hip flexors. Outstanding effort and history made. Great story; Cheers

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