This is the account of the first time I ran the Hillary Trail back in January 2012. At the time I was the youngest person to run the trail and since then I have completed the full Hillary Trail twice more, currently holding the record for fastest woman to run from Muriwai to Arataki.
Why. This word is frequently heard by endurance athletes from uninitiated people who struggle to comprehend the motivation behind thrashing your body and pushing your mental toughness for hours on end. It also a word I was asking myself in the days leading up to the Huia Road Bush Runners’ annual Hillary Trail run. Why run 73km of bush trails (with 3,700m of climbing) when ordinary 15km runs are enjoyable? The best reason I came up with was the same that George Mallory gave in 1924 when asked why he was attempting the first ascent of Everest: “Because it’s there!” My longest run to date was just under 30km so attempting the full Hillary Trail was merely doubling that distance and throwing in a bit extra for good measure. Accordingly, at 6am on the first Saturday in 2012, ten of us were assembled at the end of
Horseman Road to tackle the challenge.
Stage 1: 14km from Goldie’s bush to Bethells Beach 2:06
With a hint of moisture hanging in the air, we started off through the bush in the half light of dawn. Conditions were perfect for running – overcast with a gentle drizzle and no wind to drive it into your face. We settled into an easy rhythm through Goldie’s Bush but despite eyes straining to make out the track, a hidden root saw me roll an ankle within 20 minutes. It was fully light by the time we reached
Constable Road and the many muddy/narrow/overgrown patches on the Te Henga walkway made for interesting running with the moody west coast as a backdrop. Michael Rodliffe, Penny Kirkwood and Jim Davidson powered away, followed not too closely by the peloton of Simon Clendon, Shane Absolum, Tony Bus, Dan Roberts, and myself. Stuart met us with his camera as we loped across the bridge to complete the ‘warmup’ leg.