by Chris Tobin
Fancy a trot on foot from Mt Cook to Oamaru, starting this weekend?
But 120 intrepid competitors, many of them from 15 overseas countries, will be doing just that, setting out from the base of Aoraki Mt Cook on Sunday in the Anchor Milk Otago Alps 2 Ocean Ultra and battling it out over 323km to Oamaru.
The stages of the Otago Alps 2 Ocean Ultra on February 24 to March 2:
Stage 1: Mt Cook, 7km
Stage 2: Lake Pukaki, 50km
Stage 3: Lake Pukaki to Lake Middleton, 50km
Stage 4: Lake Middleton to Loch Laird, 88km
Stage 5: Loch Laird to Waitaki River, 45km
Stage 6: Kurow to Peaks Rd, 53.9km
Stage 7: Peaks Rd to Oamaru, 29km
Most of the course is off-road on the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail and about a quarter goes through private farmland.
Most of the field are from overseas countries such as United States, England, Scotland, Ireland, Brazil, Estonia, France, Germany and Italy. Forty-six are from New Zealand.
One of them is Kerryn Bell, of Queenstown, who won the women’s race last year by a comfortable margin, even after she tore her calf midway through stage 5.
She used crutches and walking sticks to finish and helped a couple of other badly injured runners finish stages 6 and 7 through her positive attitude.
Race director Mike Sandri said interest was so high in the event it quickly sold out.
“Last year’s event had 126 amazing competitors from all over world, along with 30 volunteers that spent seven days together, sharing some moments, emotions and experiences that will last forever,” Sandri said. Volunteers will be helping throughout the event.
“We’ve set up the Alps2Ocean Ultra Community Trust charitable trust with the objective of benefiting the people of North Otago and the Mackenzie Country, with a particular emphasis on our youth,” he said.
“Every single person volunteers and gives their time. They all love the sport, love hosting people from around the world and love showing off this beautiful part of the world we are lucky to live in.”
The event has raised over $270,000 as a result, and $31,000 has already gone to the Alps 2 Ocean trail and another $25,000 to local youth.
“It is a real privilege to be able to support our community to help local children reach their goals,” Sandri said.