British ultrarunner Jez Bragg has just embarked on what is sure to be the biggest challenge of his illustrious career. Yesterday, the endurance athlete began an attempt to set a new speed record for running the length of New Zealand along that country’s famed Te Araroa trail, an epic hiking route that stretches for nearly 1900 miles north to south.
Bragg began his run in Cape Regina, the northernmost point of New Zealand and the start of the Te Araroa. He now plans to run an average of 35-50 miles per day, for 50 straight days, in order to reach the finish line in Bluff, the village located at the extreme southern end of the country. In order to maintain that pace, Jez estimates he’ll consume 6000 calories and ten liters of water each and every day.
Of the 1898 miles that this run will cover, approximately 1506 of those will be along remote and rugged trails. Another 177 miles will be run on paved roads, while the remaining 214 miles will be completed in a kayak. There are various water crossing that make up the official trail , including an open water passage from the North Island to the South Island across the Cook Strait.
The Te Araroa is one of the world’s newest long-distance hiking trails, officially opening just last year, following a decade of planning, development. The route wanders along New Zealand’s beautiful coastlines, across verdant farmland, into high mountain passes and through dense forests. It’s extreme length and idyllic setting have quickly made it a popular option for backpackers and thru-hikers from around the globe who have already walked it end to end.
As amazing as this run will be, Bragg isn’t the only endurance athlete to have a go at a speed record on the Te Araroa. Australian ultrarunner Richard Bowles set out to do the exact same run two months back and he is now closing in on the finish line in Bluff. Originally Bowles had intended to complete his speed attempt in 60 days, but thanks to some unexpected delays and challenging weather, it looks like it will take him just a bit longer. The Aussie is on pace to finish this weekend however, and it appears that he’ll do so in a record 63 days. That will be the the official mark that Bragg will attempt to break when he finally nears the end of his expedition.
By Kraig Becker
[Photo Credit: Jez Bragg]