2017 – Where has it gone?!

It feels weird writing a blog post in April when it really feels like the year hasn’t even started! It’s about time I caught you up with what’s happening in my world and how the trail running is going.

So if I take you back to February, you’ll remember I had the Old Ghost Ultra 85km on the West Coast of New Zealand. I’ve never run a race on this side of the island, so it was a new experience. The race would follow 85km’s of single track bliss that had been built over a period of 36,500 man hours. It was astonishing running along the trail as we pictured what once was an old mining track between two villages.

The race started early in the morning and we were all off on our own adventure. Early on in the first 17km’s, I made a few mistakes which would come back at me 50km’s further into the race. A mixture of dehydration, trouble with keeping food down and the humidity, all led to a tough race. Originally, I had, had my eyes on a sub 10.30-hour finish. However, with the mistakes I made, that time was out of reach.

I focussed and pushed myself up and down the hills and came into the finish in Lyell in a time of 12:23 hours. I was stoked to finish and this put me in 2nd place in the Under 18 category. Sure I made some mistakes and didn’t finish the way I wanted too, but I was happy to get to that line and I knew it was one step further to my ultimate goal. My ultimate goal for 2017 is to finish the Taupo Ultramarathon 100km. Not only would this be a great accomplishment for my career in ultra-trail running, but it’d also make me the youngest person in New Zealand to ever finish a 100km race!

After a few weeks of training, I found myself at the start line of the Arrowsmith Mountain Marathon. I was hoping to forget the demons of the Old Ghost, and prove to myself that I had it in me! From the start, we followed a series of gravel roads and farm tracks over mountains and along rivers. The scenery was incredible, however, the rocky scree did take a toll on the body! But this time I finished well! I won’t forget the feeling of coming through the finish line – I’d left the demons behind and finished well. I came through in 18th place overall, 1st Under 18 and in a time of 4:37 hours. Not bad for 1300m of climbing over 42.2km!

So that is where I am in terms of racing for the year. I’m heading away overseas on a school trip for a few weeks, so I’ll just be focussing on as much training as possible!

In other news:

As I look for new goals to pursue, I decided to apply for the Salomon Running Academy 3.0 2017. This academy is run by Salomon’s pro-trail runners and it looks to teach young trail runners many skills both on and off the trail. It also introduces young runners to what goes on behind the scenes at Salomon and how the gear is made.

To be a part of the Salomon Running Academy 3.0 for 2017 would not only top off my season, but it’d also help me develop as a young trail runner. I see it is an opportunity to not only develop skills and meet new people but to develop myself into the best trail runner I can be. It’d also play a massive part in becoming the youngest New Zealander to ever finish a 100km race. This academy with be an incredible motivation for me and would give me the ability to learn new skills that I can put towards my trail running career.
As part of my application, we are required to make a video about ourselves. I’ve gone ahead and made one, and I’d really appreciate it if you gave up a minute and a half of your day to view it. Also, if you want to share it, feel free too! It’s something that is very important to me and I really would love the opportunity to attend the academy in Austria this year! You can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOYOYoCWTbE

Other than that, that’s me. As I write this I’m on my way to the airport. Tonight I’ll fly out to Cambodia with 15 friends from my school. Over the two and a half weeks we are there, we’ll do some sightseeing, community service in the poorer parts of the country, and I’ll make sure I get some running in! You can follow my adventures on my Facebook page or on Instagram!

St James Stampede Ultra 60km

Well, yesterday I competed in the St James Mountain Sports Stampede Ultra. Originally this race was going to be 50km’s, but due to the ‘weather-bomb’ that had hit the South Island and raised the rivers, the race was changed to a different course which was 10km’s longer.

After just returning from a holiday overseas, both dad and I were a little apprehensive about this race as our training leading up to it wasn’t too ideal! It’s hard to find trails in a country full of roads and deserts! We entered anyway with the thought that it would also be a good test for the upcoming Old Ghost Ultra 85km at the end of February.

After a quick visit to registration in the township of Hanmer Springs on Friday night, we made our way up to the St James Homestead where we would spend the night. Gear ready, alarms set, we settled down for the night. It only felt like a couple of minutes, but 7 hours later we arouse to the dark and cold morning. Breakfast was half a watermelon and an OSM bar each – I honestly think that this is the perfect breakfast before an ultra!

Friends of ours, Stephanie and George were racing as well. George in the Stampede 60km and Steph in the Homestead 20km. We met them on their way up to the Stampede start line and caught a ride in their warm car. In the cold, we waited, making nervous trips to the toilet and quick checks of the DOC map in the car park! It was also great to meet Ian and Emma who were participating in both the 60km and the 20km!



Dad, myself and George at the start of the race! Photo: Stephanie Grace Berry

Then, like that, the race started. It seemed slow to start off with, but within the first 5kms, as we started the climb up Mailings Pass the runners started to spread out. As we made it over the pass, the St James valley showed it’s real beauty as the mountains stood above us in the clouds. We followed the four-wheel drive track down from the pass, along the raging river and into the first aid station at 17km. By now dad had a five minute lead on me, and as I came into the aid station they told me “…he was gonna wait, but thought he might prove his manhood first…”! I chuckled and continued running!

From here we followed the river for 25km. Passing huts, crossing bridges and even climbing steep hills – the legs were starting to hurt! By 30kms into the race I’d worked out that I was in 6th place out of 20 runners, which I thought for a 16-year-old, wasn’t too bad. It’s amazing what you can occupy your mind with for 3 hours!



Some of the amazing scenery along the way. Photo: James Crockett – https://www.facebook.com/hillfox6/?fref=ts

With many huts and bridges along the way, it was perfect to fuel up with an OSM (mostly chocolate… sometimes apricot) every time I arrived at a different landmark! It seemed to work well and I never felt too hungry! The landmarks included swing-bridges over the raging river, huts and even very steep climbs!

With the change in course, St James Mountain Sports had set up an alternative finish at 45km for those who didn’t want to continue and finish the full 60kms. After a steep climb, an aid station and a swing bridge, I arrived at the 45km finish in about 5:10 hours and 6th place. With the option of finishing here, I asked to see how many in front of me had continued to finish the full 60km. The answer? “Just your dad…”. And so I was the second person to continue in the full 60km ultra.

It was a hard slog along a four-wheel drive track to the last aid station where I found dad had waited for me. He asked whether I still wanted to continue… Of course I did! It was only 7km’s to the finish and there was a pretty good chance to claim my first overall win of an ultra. We climbed up Bull Gully and slowly made our way down to the Homestead. Yellow bibed (Stampede 60km Ultra) runners were slowly creeping up on us, and we both broke into a slow jog for the last 3kms to the Homestead.


Finally, after 60.5km’s, 1000 metres of climbing and 7:29:28 hours we both came into claim 1st place equal in the Stampede 60km Ultra. What a day! My longest run to date and my first outright win of a race (with my No. 1 training partner)!



That’s the story. Photo: Yonni Kepes

And so just like that… Another event finished and I can now move my focus on to the next one. That is the Old Ghost Ultra in one months time! Thank you to OSM NZ for their support with my racing – your bars really do make me go that extra bit further! Also thanks to dad, St James Mountain Sports, Stephanie and George, James Crockett for the photos (check out his Facebook page) and everyone who helped put on the race. What a day… Here’s to next year!

P.S. Here’s the Strava stuff for those who want to have a peak: https://www.strava.com/activities/838736344









Taupo Ultramarathon 50km 2016

Taupo you beauty! Last weekend I took part in the Taupo Ultramarathon.

taupo_ultra_2016_010214Being the inaugurals, we were the first to take on this amazing, well-organised event! Everything down to the finer details was in place, and it all showed on race day! Being a ‘spring chicken’ I was a novice to ultras, and therefore took part in my first 50km race.

The day started out with drizzle and light winds – Pretty much a perfect race day… Well, sort of! Dad had mentioned something earlier about taking it easy, but knowing me I took off. I felt great so I just ran. The first 10km’s was stunning, we made our way down through the bush on winding single track to Lake Taupo. The first aid station was quiet, but a nice place to pause and take my jacket off.

Unfortunately, I did start a little fast, and found myself struggling is we hit the first hill. But I found my feet and eventually I made it into Kinloch, the halfway point. A lovely little town, with lakefront views and excellent aid stations. It was only halfway, with the majority of ‘climbing’ to still be done, but I felt relatively good!taupo_ultra_2016_011558Being a young one, the medics were worried, but I told them I could handle myself and I made my way along the streets of the lakefront town onto the climb. The climb was long and gradual, but after a bit of running and power hiking, I made my way to the second to last aid station tucked away in the bush.

A SHOUTOUT to the young boys there who provided Cola and pretzels and of course told me it was only 18.6km’s to the finish! A simple half marathon right?! Now it was time for the well-deserved downhill which took us around the headlands and gave spectacular views of sunlit Lake Taupo.

It was a nice surprise to slowly pass runners on my way down, and being seen as an incredibly young person running the 50km, I picked up many shouts and cheers. They motivated me! The last aid station was only 8km’s from the finish, so rather than having an awful long yarn, I was quick. But not quick enough! Grant Guise, the Altra legend caught me with the words “There’s this lady right up my ass!”. He jokingly asked me to pace him, but I kindly declined based on the fact he was running four-minute kilometres on the back of some 90km’s!

The final descent was hard but memorable, and the finish shoot was an amazing experience! But most of all were the faces when Kerry Suter (SquadRun legend) explained my age! It was something I’ll never forget! If you think 50km’s is bad for a 16-year-old, well think again! I’m planning to be back in 2017 to take on the 100km! There’s a goal!

Thank you’s go to Will and the TotalSport team for the amazing event! Congratulations to dad for his first 100km finish and well done to everyone who participated! With this ticked off…


By Yonni Kepes

Thanks to OSM NZ for fuelling me on my adventures. Check out their product; www.osm.nz/yonni 

Follow my latest adventures on my new Facebook page; https://www.facebook.com/yonnikepesathlete

Or my Instagram; https://www.instagram.com/yonnikepes/





Progression through the ages

It’s a weird feeling looking back on your running career. Sometimes it’s even fascinating to see the changes you have made to your body and health. Other times it’s not as nice to look back to the days when you were a legend on your legs. But I believe even as a younger member of the running community it is essential to take time out and think about how far you have come, and the changes that have occurred in your life.

12698247_1698501280403897_505216172160997740_o I will use an example of a race on the road, and I know this is viewed by many trail runners but read on!

Two years ago, I would have never dreamed of running half marathons, marathons, and ultras by the time I was 16-years-old. I had always done a bit of running, maybe 100km per year at the maximum. But at the start of 2015, I set myself a goal to run the St James Country Half Marathon. I completed this with my dad, in a very slow time of 2:32:20. That’s a long time to be out there hah? Well, I guess I enjoyed it, I slowly moved into trail running, and eventually I was addicted.


2015 saw me run eleven times more kilometres than the year before, and my running just kept running I guess (it was intended) ;)! The Christchurch marathon in June was my first road marathon, and went very well! But I had only cut my half time down to 1:51:56 – still not fast enough!

But yesterday, at the Sri Chinmoy Half marathon in Hagley park, I thought I finally better have a shot at a sub 1:45. It’s amazing what the body can do! I came in at 1:35:51 (fast for a 16-year-old)… A little different to that 2:5 hour run two years ago!

What I’m really trying to get at is that through years of hard work and many hours of training, you can achieve your goals. But it’s always good to be looking how you are going, and the changes you are making. Similar to my two-year effort in the half marathon, many of you will have distances you have been trying to crack for many years… But it’s always good to take time out and understand how far you have come since first having a crack at that distance.

Like I said earlier, sometimes it’s a good thing, other times it’s a bad thing.

Either way, I believe it’s essential.

By Yonni Kepes

Thanks to OSM NZ for fuelling me on my adventures. Check out their product; www.osm.nz/yonni – It’s worth it, and get 40% off your first subscription pack of goodies!

Follow my latest adventures on my new Facebook page; https://www.facebook.com/yonnikepesathlete

Or my Instagram; https://www.instagram.com/yonnikepes/


Does age really matter?

Being the teenager who nags race directors constantly for race entry dispensations, it’s a coincidence I should be addressin14324300_10154533428684878_2096487673238629180_og this question.

A 16-year-old running trail marathons and ultras? Shouldn’t his parents be preventing this and be worried about it causing injury and problems with his growth?

It’s amazing going to school each day, seeing my mates’ faces when you tell them your weekend Strava results and statistics. Or even better if you claim a CR on your local Mount! All of them, and I’m being serious think I’m crazy! In the context of young people I guess the real question is, whether they are passionate for the sport, and if so do they know how to listen to their body.

With the commercialization of Ultra-distance trail running, younger teens are being pulled into the high-intensity weeks of training and are being physically drained. Maybe in this scenario, it’s not the distance, it’s the training, the push of large sponsors wanting these athletes to push themselves to their potential. With big training weeks, age does matter, it’s a maturity thing to be able to listen and understand how your body properly works.

But what about those who do listen to their body, those who don’t train to a plan, those who train when they feel good? Does age matter in that context, shouldn’t the maturity define whether these young people have the same

14358650_314037615624090_6854525534345623243_n ability to compete in these large races similar to adults? In my experience, I haven’t been turned down yet from a race  but have had numerous comments from other competitors, many of

them asking why I do it. It’s a good question I guess, why on earth would a young 16-year-old choose to run marathons and be fit, in his prime, social and party years?! Like I said earlier it’s a passion, I enjoy it, and I’m able to understand how to train properly.

So with that said, does age really matter? Well, I believe it comes down to both passion and maturity. Does the young person have a passion for the sport, and sees it as something more than just training? Do they run in the mountains because they enjoy it, and can they listen and understand how their body copes with this running? If yes, then let them do it. My parents have, and I’m glad they did!

Oh and for those who are still worried and don’t quite believe me, I’ve entered for both the Taupo Ultramarathon 50km in October this year and the Old Ghost Ultra 85km in February 2017. I guess if these races go okay, I would quite like to finish Northburn 100 before I’m 18 (that’s of course with a dispensation! 😉

Thanks to OSM NZ for fueling me on my adventures. Check out their product; www.osm.nz/yonni – It’s worth it, and get 40% off your first subscription pack of goodies!

Follow my latest adventures on my new Facebook page; https://www.facebook.com/yonnikepesathlete

Or my Instagram; https://www.instagram.com/yonnikepes/


Catch up!

Well I’ve been busy I guess! School, Youth Council work, more school! Oh and yes! Lots of running!

I haven’t blogged in a while, but I’m planning on starting to write a post every couple of weeks! I guess I cannot however go without mentioning two big races I’ve done since.

First was Christchurch Marathon! My first road marathon! What an effort by a 16-year-old hah? 42.2km in 4:10:15 hours. That put me at 5th U20 male, and in the top 150 overall! It was a pity I didn’t crack that magical sub 4, but there’s always next year!

Second of all, the Ashley Forest Trail run – a beautiful 22.7km trail run through North Canterbury. With 550 metres of climbing it wasn’t a joke, and coming in at 1st Under 20 male and only 30th overall was an awesome effort. I finished in 2:07:03 hours, which was some great training! 

Its also exciting to announce to new races I’m doing in the coming half year. These will be my focuses and the big ones of the year. Taupo Ultramarathon 50km in October and the Old Ghost Ultra (85km) in February next year. Both look like incredible races and I’m honoured to be able to participate in them. I’ll keep you updated with my training, but for now, enjoy the comeback of blogging!  🙂

Thanks heaps -Yon

A training run in Wellington with dad!

HYP – Mt Grey walk

Well sorry, I haven’t written in awhile! Been very busy with running and school work. I have done a bunch of races including the Sri Chinmoy 30km Champs in Christchurch. I will try and keep blogging about my running, but just less frequently.

As part of the Hurunui Youth Programme (HYP), I was involved in organising a programme for youth in the Hurunui District to start working on fitness and have a go at either the Half Marathon, 10km or 5km at the upcoming Hanmer FourSquare races in Hanmer on May 7th.

With a massive turnout of 18 people (that’s a lot), we started our walk up Mt Grey. With different abilities and different rates of fitness, everyone had a challenge for the day. The plan was, up the Lake Janet track and then back down the logging/forestry road. The track is fairly wild so it made for a slow 750m climb to the top. With a few stops at both the firehouse and then cellphone tower, we made it to the trig in about two hours (including breaks).

It was windy on top, so we had a quick snack before starting a well-earned run down. The group was broken up a bit when people realised that we would all run at different speeds. Some walked, others ran! Luckily enough there were a couple of fast runs in the mix, so it made for a lovely last 4km. I got a great chance to stretch the legs when a newbie to trail running, Rosa, pushed the pace and ran a flat 4-minute km… That was unexpected! It was great to have someone who was motivated for the programme and was keen to start running more often! Welcome to trail running!

The day was finished with a BBQ at the end and a chat about what was next with the programme! If you want more information on the programme please comment below and I’m happy to help! Thanks to everyone who made the day happen, and we at HYP look forward to the next one!

Find the Strava trace here: https://www.strava.com/activities/534124595




2015 – My Running Year

This year has gone fast. As I sit here writing this blog post it is hard to comprehend that I only ran 50-60kms last year. But come January 2015 I made a decision to turn my running life around and actually run rather than talk about it.

Racing started in late January when I set a goal to run a half marathon. My first half marathon was the St James Homestead Half in which I competed with my father. It was a hot day and there were a few hard climbs but, in the end, we made it to the finish line. I finished in just over two and a half hours and placed first in the under 20 category.

Next came the Oxford Odyssey organised by Kerry Uren on Mt Oxford. This was to be my first trail running event. I raced in the 15km race and finished in 1 hour 51 minutes. I was happy with how the race went and was excited to start training on some more trails. I believe this was my turning point from being a road runner to being a trail runner!

Racing was quiet in February. I had no races but did help out as a volunteer at my father’s first ultramarathon (Bedrock50). He did extremely well and finished strong. It was great to give back to the running community.

In March, I raced the City to Surf. It was compulsory for my year group to either run or walk this race. I chose the longer option (14km) and ran it. Of course, it was to be a very fast course so learning to not speed off at the start was key. I got there in the end in a time of 1 hour 10 minutes. I was happy that I completed it, but there was some stuff to improve on.

I didn’t race again until May where I raced in my school cross country event. At a distance of 3.2km, I knew I could easily complete the distance, but the question was could I make Top 10? Starting off, a bit too fast I clocked the first lap (1.6km) in a fast 6.10 minutes. But for the second lap I slowed down and finally finished in 11th. I was happy with the result but disappointed that I couldn’t hold a fast pace the whole way.

My next race was the Christchurch Half Marathon. It was perfect conditions and I knew I had a shot at a PB. I started off a little fast as I always do, but kept a good consistent pace till the end. It was a PB and a good one too! I finished in 1 hour 55 minutes and 44 seconds. My father ran the marathon doing very well in that while my brother and mother both ran/walked the 10km event. It was a great day out!

Next came the North Loburn fun run in September. It’s a lovely race with a gradual climb/descent. It is an out and back course which follows a road through pine forest. I completed the race in just over 48 minutes and placed about 15th overall.

Hellers Pegasus fun run was next. I raced the 5km event in which there were about 500 hundred people. I messed this race up and started to fast. But finished in the end. I finished in 9th place but could have easily placed in the top 3. Better luck next time!

After a range of short races and training runs, it was time to get back into my half marathons. In the space of two weeks, I raced two half marathons. The Bridge to Bridge Clarence Challenge and the Lodge to Lodge Half Marathon. These were both hard races with a bit of climbing. One was trail and the other road so it made for an interesting few weeks. I finished the Clarence race in just under two hours, while in the Lodge to Lodge I ran a PB in 1 hour 54 minutes and 32 seconds! I was stoked and even better my father did well placing in the top 3 of his category in both races. My brother and mother did well in the 10km event of the Lodge to Lodge.

Next came the big marathon! You can see the full race report here. But what I will tell you is the statistics: 42.2km, 3200m+ of vertical climbing and three mountains climbed. It was a hard day. But I finished in 8 hours 41 minutes. A great effort for my age.

My last race for 2015 was the Hanmer Alpine Marathon. A full race report can be found here. I just missed out on a PB but placed 3rd in the under 17 category. I was extremely happy and it was great to catch up with many friends who we know through running. Thanks for a great event as always Hanmer Holiday Homes!

Well, this year has gone fast. With 13 half marathons and one full marathon under my belt, I have to say I’m proud. Thanks to all the race directors for a great year of racing and a thank you to the Kepes family for a great year full of memories.

Yeah okay, the stats. Well, I ran 901km’s this year! It’s a bit more than 60km. I climbed over 15,000 metres and spent over 100 hours running. I would write down my goals, but I’m in a rush to get to the airport for a flight to Nepal where we’re going trekking for a month. I will track a few of the days. You’ll get a write up sure enough in early January! Have a great year and thanks for reading!

Strava profile can be found here.



Hanmer Alpine Marathon 2015

Today I raced my last running event for 2015. It was the Hanmer Holiday Homes Alpine Marathon. My father raced the full marathon, I did the half marathon and my mother and brother raced in the 10km event.

The half marathon started 8km’s north of the Saint James Homestead, in the Molesworth Station. We started at 9.30am and were met by the lead full marathoners as we set out (dad happened to be one of them!). Our first five kilometres were over a flat, never ending gravel road. It was hard work (mentally), but the tailwind helped.

After a quick drink at the 5km drink station, we continued towards the Saint James Homestead. The gravel road curved around the river to the homestead. Short, sharp climbs made for an interesting second 5km! From the homestead, we curved along the road to the 10km drink station. Here I had a Hammer Gel (grape flavour) and a quick chat to the Boy Scouts who were handing out water.

From here we ran another 3km before we hit the hill… It was tough going and the sun beating down on us wasn’t pleasant. But I made it to the saddle of Jacks Pass in 15 minutes. I realised at the drink station that I was very dehydrated. So I downed six cups of sports drink… Maybe not such a good idea!

From the top of Jacks Pass there is a 500-metre descent over 5.5km’s to the finish line. As easy as it sounds, it wasn’t. I started getting stomach pains at 18k and then cramp at 19km. But I finished… Unfortunately, it wasn’t a PB today but it was a good race.

I finished in 1 hour 56 minutes which was very good considering the climbing we had to do. Placing third in the U17 category and 46th overall! Thank you to Hanmer Holiday Homes and the other sponsors for a great event. We’ll see you next year!

Mission Mt Grey

Today I did a mission up and around Mt Grey. I was joined by my father who ran and my brother who mountain biked. We started our run at the Lake Janet Carpark, where we followed a steep overgrown single track up to the Fire Department Lookout. We were climbing around 120 metres per kilometre! At the lookout, we waited for my brother to complete the climb on his bike.

After a white chocolate Cliff Bar, we kept climbing to the cell phone tower (technically the South Summit in Everest terms). It was a gradual climb and took about 10 minutes. From here on all we had to do was descend down a steep slope, and then climb back up the other side and we were at the trig. It was windy, so we snapped a quick selfie and left.

Our route down was towards the Grey River Carpark which is four kilometres west of Lake Janet. We descended quickly along the single track losing close to 120 metres per kilometre. It was quick and after a few tumbles and cuts we made it to the Grey River Carpark. It was very hot, so we ate a PowerBar quickly and started the last of the climbs back up to Lake Janet.

The going was tough, but we arrived after about twenty minutes. It was a nice run, and really good to get some proper climbing/descending in a long-ish run.

You can find the full Strava trace here.