Is it crazy to even think about running 3000 kilometres in one go; to attempt to run across an entire country at its furthest extremities?
Crazy is a word Lucy Clark uses quite frequently to describe her upcoming challenge.
Only two women have run the course since it opened in 2011, both from the UK. Lucy will be the first Australian women to run the trail and is aiming to set the Fastest Known Time for a woman. This is currently held by Mina Holder, who completed it in 77 days and 10 hours in 2015.
Credit for Images: Tom Wright
Lucy stumbled upon the Te Araroa Trail in 2017 and got the idea of running after discovering only a couple of females had done so.
“I’m inspired by other fierce women who are pushing boundaries and shattering stereotypes – Camille Herron, Courtney Dauwalter. They are going on amazing adventures and setting records,” Lucy told Outdoor recently.
Lucy will run around 50 to 70km every day while supported by her husband, Tom, who will be looking after all logistics. They will spend most nights in a support van, however there will be some long stretches of trail where support isn’t possible, and Lucy will need to bed down in backcountry huts and be fully self-sufficient.
“Running 3000 kilometres is exciting, but it is also scary. It will push me to my limits and, you never know, there’s plenty of moments where I could fail. All of these thoughts of failure freak me out, naturally, but then again, it would be an even bigger failure if I didn’t at least give it a go,” Lucy says.
“Not giving it a go, now that it’s there in my mind, is a far bigger psychological threat.”
“I like to challenge myself. I’m tenacious, once something’s in mind, I don’t let go. Im pretty dogged i guess. As soon as I started thinking about running the Te Araroa I figured immediately, at the same time, I was actually going to do it,” Lucy says, “and at the same time, I also started thinking about completing it. This is the scary aspect. It was immediately scary because it was immediately real and immediately achievable.”
The Te Araroa Trail is one of the longest walking routes in the world, encompassing the longitudinal length of New Zealand, from the top of the North Island in Cape Reinga to the bottom of the South Island in Bluff. The total elevation of the trail is equivalent to summiting Everest nine times.
“I’ll be running on roads, scrambling up mountains, wading through creeks, kayaking down rivers, fighting through dense forest, sinking into endless stretches of sand, and stumbling across grassy, tussock plains.”
“I’ll be sleeping in my crew van. But some of the trails are insanely remote and I won’t be able to get to van in time to sleep. So, there will be around 13 hut stays (thankfully, New Zealand has an incredible wilderness hut network).
“I’ll have an incredible support crew to help me through. Heading up the crew is my husband, Tommy, who is responsible for watering and feeding me, even giving me a massage oir two if absolutley necessary.
"Supporting him will be a rotation of friends and family who will either run or man the van.
"I know – running the Te Araroa in one hit is a pretty audacious challenge!
"I won’t lie – I’m a little nervous. But sometimes, you just have to leave your fears at the door and push beyond what you ever believed possible."
"I'm looking forward to what the trail has in store. I know I'll meet some awesome people and take away the memories of a lifetime.
"I can't wait for it to begin."
WHAT IS TE ARAROA?
Te Araroa is a 3,000 km track that bisects New Zealand vertically – from the tip of Cape Reinga in the North Island to the bottom of the Bluff in the South Island.
It takes-in some of New Zealand’s most beautiful sights – the roaring Whanganui River and rugged Richmond Ranges to the majestic Queen Charlotte Track and iconic Tongariro Crossing.
The TA also winds through the cities of Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown – perfect for a well-earned coffee break.
LUCY’S PREPARATION REGIME
Pre-April Training (Avg 60-80km a week):
- Monday – Rest day
- Tuesday – Easy hour run + gym
- Wednesday – Hill session: 15 min warm up, then 6x (4mins hard running/2mins hiking), 15min cool down
- Thursday – Gym (no running)
- Friday - Interval session: 15min warm up; 7 x 4 minutes hard with 90s recovery between; 15 min cool down
- Saturday – 3 hours with mixture of runnable and steep hiking
- Sunday – 90 mins easy running with last 20 mins faster
Post April Training (Avg 100-120km a week):
- Monday – Easy 30 mins + gym
- Tuesday – AM Easy 30 mins; PM Easy 60 mins
- Wednesday – Hill session: 15 min warm up, then 3 x 15min hard hiking hill repeats with a 7kg backpack; 15min cool down
- Thursday – Easy 30 mins + gym
- Friday - Interval session: 15min warm up; 2 x 20mins at 4:10-4:15 mins/km with 2 min recover between, 15 min cool down
- Saturday – 4 hours with mixture of runnable and steep hiking
- Sunday – 2 hours easy running
Lucy has also managed three training long weekends, which typically looked like this:
- Friday – 90 mins in the AM then 90 mins in the PM = ~30km
- Satuday – 6 hour with mixture of runnable and steep hiking = ~42km
- Sunday – 6 hours of mostly runnable with some road running = ~55km
NUTRITION IN TRAINING
Training for a 3000-kilometre run is very different from doing a single day race. When training for a single race, Lucy aims to be lean so her power-to-weight ratio is in her favour. Maximum power, low body weight. But for a long, extended multi-day challenge, such as the Te Araroa, it is more about ensuring her body is big, strong and fuelled-up so she’s able to endure the day-after-day pounding she cops in training and of course, while on the trail during the 3000 km objective.
A big focus has been making sure she eats enough good-quality food to keep her effort properly fuelled. To achieve this, Lucy eats a wide range of foods; there isn’t anything she avoids. She wants to train her stomach to endure anything and everything.
A sample of her current diet is below:
- Breaky: Eggs, avocado and spinach for breaky with coffee with cream. If having a big run that day, she adds-in a bagel
- Snack: Greek yoghurt with coconut and honey, plus a second coffee
- Lunch: Chicken salad or tuna wrap
- Snack: Hummus and carrots
- Post run: Smoothie with bananas, spinach & protein powder
- Dinner: Spag bolognese with zoodles, falafel with salad and hummus; rice paper rolls
- Dessert: Couple of squares of chocolate (sometimes half the block!)
Lucy has been conditioning her body to get used to running straight after eating. She regularly has lunch or dinner, then goes for a run straight after eating.
Diet on the trail will have some of the same elements of her normal diet but with more volume.
Below is what Lucy is broadly planning, but she will also ensure there is a large variety of foods to compensate for unknown cravings:
- Breaky: Eggs, bacon, avo with 2 bagels and coffee
- Snacks on the trail: Clif bars and blocks; slices of cheese and salami; bananas; lollies; boiled baby potatoes with salt, dried fruit, nuts, pringles, blueberry muffins
- Lunch: peanut butter and jam wraps; ham, cheese, tomato croissants; hot chips
- Dinner: Quality meal with lots of veggies, like spag bolognese with extra vegetables; risotto; followed by chocolate and ice cream.
- Hydration: Lots of water, electrolyte and chocolate milk.
The reality is she’ll need to eat as much as possible. Lucy will be burning more than 5,000 calories a day, for 70 days straight.