I ran the full Hillary Trail in Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges at “Midnight Midwinter Madness 3” starting at midnight on Saturday June 30th 2012. 11 of us started and 9 finished the roughly 75km trail.
Since then, I’ve only been running relatively lightly so I knew this would fairly tough. I knew the people I was going to be running with would be taking it fairly easily and I wasn’t in any hurry to finish. I figured it would take somewhere around 14 to 16 hours.
I ran the West Coaster Marathon last year, and that with a lot of training runs this year, I’d run almost the entire Hillary Trail in sections with the exception of Piha to Houghton’s Track, and the final section down to the Gannet Colony and Muriwai. This was my chance to run the whole thing in one go, and cover those final missing sections.
Arataki to Whatipu
We set off at midnight and the “fast four” took off never to be seen again; the rest of us ran together pretty much all the way from Arataki right to the end at Muriwai, although we broke into two groups from Hamilton’s Track down to Whatipu.
Occasionally one or other of us would speed ahead, but would usually wait at the junctions for the rest to catch up. Down at Whatipu, two of our group decided to pull out and the rest of us continued on our way.
Arrived at Whatipu at approximately 4:30am, departed approximately 4:55am. 23kms done.
Whatipu to Piha
The next leg goes from Whatipu to Piha via Karekare, and on this leg the sleep deprivation really began to sink in. I really struggled as we ran up Gibbons Track and was seriously thinking of pulling out at Karekare.
Earlier this year I’d run from Arataki to Piha, although I lost the trail at the end of Log Race Rd and ran down the road to Piha, so I was determined to at least get through to Piha following the trail correctly. This helped me to keep going at Karekare and then sun coming up as we left Karekare made all the difference.
Once we got to Piha there were no thoughts of giving up! Our wonderful support crew met us as we popped out of the bush at Glen Esk Rd and went ahead to order us coffees and pies for breakfast. We probably spent about 25 minutes at Piha before pushing on to Bethell’s.
Just one note about the section to Karekare; there’s a tunnel you run through there and, as we approached it, we could see some backpacks lined up in the entranceway. As we got closer we could see these were set up as a wind break and there were three people fast asleep in their sleeping bags. There wasn’t much room, but we managed to step over them and go on our way. It was a rather surreal moment.
Arrived at Karekare at approximately 6:50am, departed approximately 7:05am. 34kms done.
Arrived at Piha at approximately 8:55am, departed approximately 9:20am. 45kms done.
Piha to Bethell’s
On and on… Running along Piha Beach my right knee started to hurt and this was to become a recurring pain for the rest of the day. When we were on Houghton’s Track, Vicki gave me some codeine/paracetamol tablets which seemed to dull the pain a bit, but it never really went away.
This section included Vicki’s “trail that shall not be named” – Kuataika. I didn’t really want to say at the time, but I didn’t think it was that bad. In hindsight this is especially so, given the climb up to Constable Rd at the end when we were all very tired.
By the time we got to Bethell’s I was over food. My stomach was growling at me and I’d forced my last sandwich down on the run around Lake Wainamu; I tried to eat a banana at Bethell’s but only managed half of it – it made me feel like I was going to be sick. That was the last food I ate for a couple of hours.
Arrived at Bethell’s at approximately 12:30pm, departed approximately 12:40pm. 62kms done.
Bethell’s to Muriwai
The last section is on Te Henga Walkway and then along some roads until the final downhill trail and around the Gannet Colony at Muriwai. One of our supporters, Simon, ran the last leg with us. We didn’t all stick together quite so much at this stage but were all still within a coo-ee of each other.
I walked for most of the first half of Te Henga and then decided enough of that, and shuffled/ran the rest of it until we hit the final climb up to Constable Rd. That was tough going.
Jo, another support runner, was waiting for us up at Constable Rd with some cookies. They were really nice but I could only manage a nibble because I still felt like I would be sick if I ate anything.
Jo waited for the last of us while I tried to catch up with the others; I spent a frustrating 20 minutes or so only about 200 or 300 metres behind them. At this stage my knees and calves were killing me. I’d run when I could and then have to drop to a walk again. If it hadn’t been for the pain, I’m sure I could have caught them up.
Simon let the others go on and waited for me when we turned off the road onto the final trail and ran with me to the end.
Arrived at Muriwai at 3:37pm. 77kms done.
My wife Jane, boys Jamie and Sam, and mother were at the end. They’d been very nice and bought me some hot chips but I still couldn’t really face food. We drove home to mother’s place (only 10 minutes away) and after a wonderful hot shower I had some pea and ham soup and toast. That was perfect for the end of this run. I then had a sleep for about an hour and a half and then a huge dinner. Jane drove us home and I slept from another 11 hours.
After the run, Jane asked if I’d do that again. “I’ll never do that again” I said. But I know I will 🙂
Thanks to our supporters
A big thank you to our support crew.
Simon and Jo followed us all the way around, starting at midnight with us and meeting us at Huia, Whatipu, Karekare, Piha, Bethell’s and at the end at Muriwai. And Simon ran with us from Bethell’s. I hadn’t realised they were going to meet us everywhere. They were amazing!
Lon and Wendy saw us off at the start, and then met us at Piha, Bethell’s and at the end.
Jo fed us cookies and ran with Felix from Constable Rd to Muriwai.
Thank you to all of you. We might have been able to do it without you, but you made it so much easier and more fun.