Old Forest Hanmer 100 miles 2018

100 miles is the overhanging goal for most ultramarathoners. You see, most people can run a marathon off a bit of training, but only a few will ever think of a 100 mile race, let alone actually finish one. It’s a distance that requires dedication and isn’t for the faint-hearted. It was in December of 2017 when I started toying with the idea of having a crack at my first 100-mile race this year. I’d finished up a successful year where I had run my first 100km race and I was in need of a bigger goal, a longer race, something that was going to test my limits. After the 100km, I was adviced that to avoid injury, I should leave the 100-mile idea and stick with 100k’s for the next few years… But, instead, the idea of getting my first buckle while still in high school excited me and I decided to give the miler a crack.

I chose the Old Forest Hanmer 100 mile race which is a race run alongside a 100km, 50 miles, 50km and 21km event in May each year. The race starts and finishes in Hanmer Springs and consists of 16 laps of a 10km route through the hilly terrain on the outskirts of the village. With about 3500 metres of elevation, it is a perfect first 100-mile race for any dear soul who wants a buckle. Having crewed dad here last year and raced the 50km here, I knew the laps well and it was an easy decision to have a crack at the distance in Hanmer. Both dad and I entered and we were set. We were lucky enough to have friends doing some of the other races here. Tony Sharpe, Mark Rigby, and Michael Stuart were having a crack at the 100 miles, Andy in the 50km’s and Lee in the 21km. Given that Ben, Andy Higginson, Lee Butts and Kevin Grimwood (the last of whom couldn’t make this race) do most of their training in Hagley Park it felt like the weekend of the Hagley Hombres. For those who don’t get my sad attempt at a joke, the Hombres is a long, lost distant group of cousins of the Coconino Cowboys. Just, the Cowboys use a canyon for training and the Hombres use the park. Other than that, both groups wear shorty shorts, talk a large amount of running smack and train harder than they should! If you still don’t get my joke, just move on to the next paragraph…

Fast forward four months and it’s March and I’ve just returned from my expedition to the Kermadec Islands. After returning from my trip, I started to train and slowly build up a strong base of fitness that would get me through the unknown. A key component of a 100-mile race is the ability to get through the nighttime section and so I incorporated nighttime runs into my training to help get myself use to the moonlight trails. I also used the Arrowsmith Mountain Marathon and the Totara Trails Marathon as longer training runs for the race and they were good excuses to spend between 4 and 7 hours out on unfamiliar steep trails in the middle of nowhere! You can see all the nitty-gritty bits of my training on Strava, however, I will talk about a specific 10-day block of training I did one month out from race day. Long story short, I ran 250km in 10 days, which included two marathons, two runs over 30kms and a few more at around 25km’s. I felt pretty tired after the 10 days, but it did reassure me that I had the legs to finish the 100-mile race and that I wasn’t signing up for something too silly…

Race week came with a dose of a chest infection and so I didn’t run in the week leading up to the race. I felt weak, unsure whether it was smart to race and really questioned the convenience of this infection. But I pushed on, slept well on Thursday night and was excited to begin. The weather was forecast to be a warm 12 degrees this year and the mood was cheery when we arrived in Hanmer. Both dad and I collected our numbers, caught up with other running buddies and set up our marquee aid station. We crossed over the road, were briefed on what the next 30 hours would hold, took a photo and then were set free into the forests of Hanmer.


Setting up the marquee for our aid station. T-30 minutes!

The plan was to run a very easy first 40km’s to see how I felt and prep myself for the back half of the race. Unfortunately, this would be one of the worst parts of the race and it really put me to the test. The chest infection that both dad and I had come down with, had left me weak and feeling at about 60% my normal self. This wasn’t ideal only a quarter of the way through the race and so with dads advice and motivation, I pushed on and took each lap as it came! In hindsight, I don’t think I could’ve even managed 50km’s without dads help and I was lucky to catch him in one of my many low moments during the race. We pushed on into the evening, spending time running with Tony and enjoying the atmosphere around the Race HQ and aid station. We tried a range of different foods to get us through this period including, chips, bars and lollies. Unfortunately, the mashed potato burritos I had made the night before, didn’t work and I pushed them towards the bin while I gagged from the taste.

Andy and Lee joined us at 8.30 for a lap and this lifted both our spirits. After running together for nearly 12 hours, it was nice to spend time with others. Loads of banter was shared and Andy even face-timed Kevin from the trails. This lifted myself and dads spirits and we wished Kevin well for the Oxford Odyssey Half marathon in the morning. The final words of advice from Kevin, “make sure you’re carrying your frequent flyer card on the trails!” Although it sounds cheesy, it’s amazing what a joke can do out on the trails after running 80km. Andy and Lee left us back at the aid station after a 10km lap and we met Omri and mum who come up after school and hockey to crew and pace us through the night. Although I don’t remember much of the evening, I’m told that I was chatty and in a good mood!


Torch time! Photo credit: Lee Butts

Dad and I were joined by mum for the final lap and a half and we ticked off 100km’s just after midnight. The lap was tough and I learnt how important it is to eat ‘real food’ and not just eat lollies, chips and drink water. We got to 100km’s slower than I thought we would be, but I was stoked to get to this milestone in just over 15 hours. We spent around 15 minutes refuelling in the aid station, drinking soup, eating lollies and resetting ourselves for the final 60km leg. I ate a PB and Nutella burrito which restocked my energy supplies and put me in a better mood for the kilometres to come. I told dad in the aid station that I knew this final 60km would be a tough slog and that he didn’t have to stick it out with me. Gratefully, he decided to continue at my pace and we headed out into the night, embarking on new distance territory for me. I’d been told that the early morning before the sunrise is the hardest part of a 100 mile race and as the hours slowly crept by, I understood why. A lot of the early morning is a blur in my mind, but somehow we slowly ticked off the laps and the sunrise got closer. At one stage I was carrying a small bag of chips in one hand and a handful of Fruit Bursts in the other – anything to keep my mind occupied and energy levels high. I also had managed to set my charging watch up on my vest in a hands-free system that I had called the ‘Barkley Method’. Ironically, GPS watches aren’t allowed in the Barkley and I still wonder how this strange idea came to me while I pushed myself around the trails.


High on life! Photo credit: Andy Higginson

By 6am I was struggling with the fact that the sun wasn’t rising. I remember being down about the fact that it wasn’t light and I’d convinced myself in my own mind that the sun would never rise again. Weirdly, by 7am, the sun had risen and I was in a better mood. We had passed 130km’s and I was excited about nearly being finished with this race – by this time, I was done and all I wanted was the shiny buckle. We were also joined by 100km runners and this cheered us up as we were seeing new faces each lap! By now our pace had slowed down a lot and we were both stiff and sore. At 9am we were joined by the 50km runners on the trails and this was an exciting part of the morning (believe it or not!)! It was a chance to see Andy racing and eventually, Lee smash the 21km. For some reason, this continued to motivate us and both dad and I pushed through the pain and the slow laps. With dad’s hip giving him a lot of pain and my calf tightening up, we looked a mess. It was amazing to have so much support and help from those around the tents and in the aid station. Thankfully, Mark Rigby (who’d finished earlier) and Mark Inglis lent us their poles to use on the final lap and a half. These helped and somehow we were able to hobble to the end and ‘knock the bastard off’.


Not quite No Hands Bridge, but it certainly felt special to walk the bridge for the last time! Photo Credit: Lisa Rigby

They say “100 miles is really far. It’s harder than you think it is and it’ll hurt more than you think it will” and this pretty much sums up what my race was like. It was special to finish my first 100 mile race in 29:09 hours and receive my first buckle after a tough first miler. Even better, I was able to cross the line with my dad after running 100 miles together, a feat that not many fathers and sons can say they have done. Yes, it hurt a lot and I swore I would never run again, but there is something special about the buckle. It pulled me towards the finish line. You don’t get a buckle for a half-hearted effort or a DNF. To get a buckle you must race smart, finish (under the cut-offs) and throw every ounce of energy into finishing the race. To receive my first buckle while still in school is pretty cool and I believe that it makes me the youngest known 100 mile finishers ever in New Zealand at the age of 18! Although it wasn’t the race I had hoped for, at the end of day finishing is better than not finishing. Dad and I placed 8th equal overall and were presented with our buckles after finishing on Saturday afternoon.


All for such a special piece of metal!

It’s nearly been a week since the race and I’m already asking myself if I’ll run another 100 miles. The answer is yes. Although I hate to say it, ‘pain is temporary and glory lasts forever’ and this is exactly what a 100 mile race is. Although I don’t think I’ll be lining up for another miler this year, I have set my sights on a few in the near future and I have some exciting races ahead of me in the next six months.

So there you go! That was my experience at the Old Forest Hanmer 100 for 2018. It was an incredible race and I’m stoked with my result. I’m now going to take it easy over winter and I have a few goals and ideas up my sleeve… Which this space!

Thank you for following my journey throughout my training and this race. It’s always motivating to have so much support for what I’m doing, and all the comments always mean a lot! Thank you to dad for sticking with me for the duration of the race and supporting me throughout the night. Thanks to mum and Omri for giving up your night and day to help both dad and I out. Finally, well done and thanks to Andy, Lee, Mark, Tony and Michael – the weekend was heaps of fun (sort of) and your support was appreciated! Also kudos and thanks to Mark Inglis for helping us out towards the end of the race!

Finally, thanks to OSM for supporting me with all my racing! These guys always have my back! You can find all the details about my racing and training on my social media channels. Find me on Facebook or on Instagram! Also, you can find the Strava details for my race, here!



Taupo Ultramarathon 100km 2017

“I don’t even drive that far…” – This was one of the responses I had yesterday at school when a friend found out I had finished a 100km race on the weekend. It was funny to hear this in a schoolyard conversation when it’s also a household joke between myself and dad!

Last year as I finished the 50km event at Taupo I was asked whether I’d ever think about stepping up and taking on the full 100km event. Me being me, of course, said yes and I made it a goal for 2017. Some might say that at such a young age this sort of distance is unhealthy or dangerous, yet I was keen to prove them wrong and have a proper shot at finishing this race.

The race started in the cold on Saturday at 6am in Waihaha Carpark. The field of over 100 runners all stood shivering under the Hoka One One startline and were all ready to embark on their own personal journeys. Some of these runners would smash the course out in under 9 hours, others would be out all day and finish in 18-19 hours. Regardless of how long it was going to take each person, all were there for a pretty similar reason. To get from Waihaha Carpark to Whakaipo Bay and complete the ultramarathon!



Ed, dad and myself at the start line!


As a young runner, I do have a tendency to start off fast, and so when the race started, dad ensured that I started off at a slow pace. It is extremely hard to run this slow on a lovely trail, especially when you have people so much older than you passing constantly! One of dad’s tips for the race was that ‘you can’t bank time, but you can bank energy’. Meaning that if I went out too fast, I’d blow up by 50km’s and have to walk the rest of the way to the finish line. Instead, I should run conservatively for the first few hours and so when I got to 50-60km’s I would have enough energy to continue at the same pace or faster to the finish line.

Initially, dad was going to run the first 10km’s with me at around a 7-min/km pace, but this didn’t end up being the case. We actually ran about 38km’s together. In fact, we covered the first 27km’s of trails together, followed by most of the farmland section. This was a nice way to begin the day and it helped me set up the rest of my race. But at about 38km’s as I went through a low patch, dad decided to push on in his own race and leave me to experience the highs and lows of a 100km race.


Still together at 32km’s!

The farmland section finished at 42km’s and from there it was a short run to the aid station at 44km’s. Here we would be turning onto the road section of this race, a 6km stretch of windy road. Beforehand, I had thought that I wasn’t going to like this section and I had this picture in my mind of myself walking it. Luckily, this wasn’t the case and I enjoyed it. It was a chance to speed up slightly, prepare myself for the halfway point of the race and to pace off another lady who was running the race (I think her name was Billie). My feet were feeling sore after 50km’s of hard trail and road, so at the halfway point, I decided to change into a pair of road shoes! I also replenished my supplies and made sure I had my trucker cap with me.

From here the trail followed a mountain bike track back down towards the lake. Another running buddy, Matthew Orange, ran with me for a couple of km’s and it was nice to be able to experience a change in scenery, after spending hours running through farmland and on roads! It was around lunchtime when I reached the 60km mark and the bush started to really heat up. Even though the temperature was only about 22 degrees Celcius, it did really feel like it was at least 25-26! After downing a couple of cups of coke and electrolyte drink at the aid station, I continued on and started the big climb over the hill to Kinloch. On this climb, I started to realise why it was so important to start so slow and conserve energy in a race as long as 100km’s. Over the 10km’s to Kinloch, I probably passed at least 10 runners who were all competing in the same race as me!


Pushing through 55km’s feeling good, but wasn’t enjoying the heat!

In Kinloch, there is a small 4km loop that runners must complete. Although some may dislike this sort of thing in a race, I found that this loop was a great time to reset my thoughts and get ready for the final push to the finish line. I sped up and spent as little time in the final big aid station in Kinloch, as possible! I was also informed that at the halfway point I was sitting in 44th place. Not that this should matter during an ultra and with 24km’s still left, it should really be meaningless. Yet I calculated that by 75km I was probably now sitting around 30th place.

From Kinloch, I started the final climb up onto the headlands above Whakaipo Bay and the finish line. This was by far the hardest part of the race, due to cramp and tiredness. I was in autopilot mode and fully focussed on getting to the finish line. I spent about an hour shuffling along with a few guys who were racing the 100km’s as well. All of us were experiencing similar pain and were focussed on getting to the finish line. I stayed with these other runners until about 88km’s, where I discovered possibly a third or fourth wind. With 12km’s to go I decided to just try running, and slowly I picked up the pace. At the 92km aid station, I refilled with water and then continued running the final 8km’s down to the finish line.

The final part of the race was a mixture of up and down trails that brought us down to a gravel road, 1km from the finish line. With such a short distance to run, I picked up the pace and enjoyed the final few minutes of the race. It was an incredible moment running towards the crowds with the sun shining down, and knowing that I was finally about to finish. Then, just after 6pm, I crossed the finish line in Whakaipo Bay.


Feeling a mixture of pain and glory as I crossed the finish line…

I finished the Taupo Ultramarathon 100km in 12:10:12 hours! Not quite my goal of under 12 hours, yet I couldn’t be more happy with my time! I placed 16th overall in a highly competitive field of well over 100 competitors and I won the under 20 category! I’m also now the youngest person to ever finish a 100km trail ultramarathon in New Zealand. I couldn’t be more pleased with how my race went. For me, it seems that it was one of those races where everything went perfectly. Throughout the day, it all seemed to work like clockwork!

I was also super happy to hear that dad had finished earlier in a time of 10:42 hours and this had put him in 6th place! He had sought redemption on his race last year and he’d well and truly received it! You can find his blog post about his experiences in Taupo, here. Also well done to dad’s old schoolmates Paul and Ed! Paul had a great day finishing his first 50km, while Ed, unfortunately, had to pull the pin in the 100km at Kinloch – still, a massive achievement!



Little bit dazed at the finish line

So, there you go! That was my experience at the Taupo Ultramarathon 100km. An incredible race that is put on by the awesome TotalSport team! I’m now looking forward to resting up for a few days, before taking on my final race of the year; the Krazie Kapers 25km here in Christchurch!

Thank you for following my journey throughout my training and this race. It’s always motivating to have so much support for what I’m doing, and all the comments always mean a lot! Thank you to the TotalSport team for another great event, and to dad, Ed, Paul and Gian for a fantastic weekend!

Also thanks to OSM for supporting me with all my racing! These guys always have my back! You can find all the details about my racing and training on my social media channels. Find me on Facebook or on Instagram! Also, you can find the Strava details for my race, here (yes, the trace is a tad shorter than 100km, but this is because the course is measured on a wheel to exactly 100kms!).


Hanmer Old Forest 100 – 50km

After recovering from little training on my school Service Trip to Cambodia, it was time to take on my next race of the year. This time it would be closer to home and not such a stress of having to fly to our destination! Thursday night came around and I was packed for a pretty crazy weekend! I myself would be racing the Hanmer Old Forest 50km and my dad would be competing in the 100-mile race at the same event! Both these races were part of one of Heath Lunn’s, St James Mountain Sports events!

Starting on Friday morning I would crew my dad for the first part of his race until 10pm that night, before mum and my younger brother would come up to Hanmer and take over my job (I needed at least 5 hours sleep before my race). I won’t give away the details about dads race, however, I do suggest after reading this you go and see his blog post here! All I will say is crewing him was relatively successful and it was great to do a 10km lap of the course with him in the afternoon as a warm-up for my race the next day!

Anyway, on to my race! The race was run on 10km laps that were in a figure of eight. This meant that we’d complete the 50km course after 5 laps and that we would be passing the aid station roughly every 5km’s.

After waking up at 4:30am in the morning to see dad finish his event I spent the rest of the morning sitting in the aid station tent close to the gas heater. My race didn’t start until 9am, so this gave me a lot of time to eat breakfast, get ready and get myself to the start line. Breakfast was an OSM and a banana. I hoped this would give me enough energy for the first couple of laps of the race so that I didn’t have to always stop!


The race begins! Starting out slowly in the bright yellow jacket!

At exactly 9:01am, Heath looked at his watch, checked everyone was ready and started the race. Our first half of each 10km lap would follow a series of trails through the beech forest roads and tracks, winding their way around a loop with very little climbs or descents. From the start, I eased into a good pace and led the race. Surprisingly, after only 5km’s I had built a lead by about two minutes. Dad who was relaxing and watching my race felt as if I’d gone out too hard, and when I passed him at 5km’s he blurted out, “Remember this is a 50km race”!

The second part of each 10km loop came past the aid station before winding around a park and climbing up a small hill. Roughly a 150-metre climb, it took us to the top of a small hill, where we would continue down the other side and then along a range of single trails back to the aid station. These 10km loops were really enjoyable and they were great as there was a mixture of different terrains on them. I enjoyed going into the climb leading the race, knowing I had time to take it easy and not burn myself out. From here I eased down the single track towards the aid station. I was met by my brother, Omri who would be crewing and helping me out during my race. He told me I had now stretched my lead to 4 minutes, this excited me and after downing some water and having a few lollies I left quickly.

The second and third loops went like blurs and very soon I was at the aid station having completed 30km in about 2:45 hours. For 50km on trail, I was happy with this time and I was on track to complete the 50km’s in under five hours. But sometimes when things feel as if they are going best, the bad things can happen. As I slowed down to grab a bar and a drink at the aid station my quads locked with cramp and I couldn’t move. I was gutted and worked as quickly as possible to stretch them and get as much proper food as I could into my body. I was hoping this would replace my energy and salt stores and prevent me cramping anymore.



30km’s in and trying to sort a few leg cramps!


I spent three minutes at that aid station and when I left I knew that I would have to work hard on the next lap to keep a good lead on the guy in second! The next 5km segment, however, was a ball of pain. At 32km, I cramped so bad again, I had to stop and stretch while eating the OSM I had brought with me on this lap. As I looked up, my stomach dropped, I saw the second-placed runner come around the corner and speed past me at a blistering pace! How own earth was I suppose to catch him? I thought to myself. I continued on the lap and made it into the aid station hurting.

Leaving the aid station, the new leader had more than a minute on me and was running strong with his mate who was pacing him. I knew that I would need to go above and beyond to come even close to catching him before the finish. Over the climb and down the hill to 40km’s I put as much effort in as possible and yet it wasn’t enough. He now had over three minutes lead on me and I was giving hope. Omri gave me the run down of what to do in the aid station and I exited with 57 minutes to run the last 10km’s in (easy huh… maybe not after 50km’s!).

The half lap from 40km’s-45km’s wasn’t pretty, and I’m pretty sure the only thing that got me through it was the thought that I wouldn’t be running there again and every tree I passed and step I took was one bit closer to the finish! At 45km’s Omri told me I had made up time (I didn’t understand this…) and I was only down one minute now and he (the leader) looked as if he was struggling. This gave me hope and as I left Omri walked with me and sent me off shouting, “Dig deep, do you want this? You can do it”. He was right, as I made my way around the park I saw him in the distance and immediately my pace quickened and I felt a rush of adrenaline going into the last climb.

Up the climb, I seemed to gain time quickly and was great to have a quick chat on the way up, with Kerensa who was competing in her first 50km ultra (well done!). By the top of the hill, I was within earshot of him and I knew that the last 2.5km’s would be a challenge. A challenge it was, and after 50km’s, running at speeds of 13-14 kilometres per hour for about 10 minutes was pretty sore! But finally, after 50km’s, we were approaching the finish line. Now within 25 metres of each other, it was a sprint finish.



Nearly there…! Putting the hard yards in. 10 metres to go!


Never have I ever seen a 50km race come down to a sprint, and a good one it was! Unfortunately, today wasn’t my day and I couldn’t get ahead quick enough for the win. I took 2nd overall and 1st Under 18 male in a time of 4:57:44 hours, just three seconds behind first place! Obviously, I’m gutted that I didn’t get that win, but at the same time, I’m stoked! To take second place in an event like this at only 17 years of age is great! Maybe the win can wait for next year!

So that was my 50km race! I’ve recovered well and after taking a few days to think about it, I’m pretty happy with my efforts over the weekend! I’d like to thank Heath and the team at St James Mountain Sports for another great event, and to those on Instagram and Facebook who supported me over the weekend – it really helps! Thanks also to OSM NZ for looking after me always, you guys are great, your support is incredible and your bars keep me going (www.osm.nz/yonni)! Finally, to Dad, Mum and Omri. Your support and funding keeps me going and thanks for all the help crewing me over the weekend!



Talking it through with the coach!


From here, I’ll be training a bunch leading up to my big race of the year in Taupo, in October. Bring on the Taupo Ultramarathon 100km!

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!

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