Multisports: Keeping it in the family part of Xterra success

By Peter Thornton

Dave Franks still loves a chance to beat brother Paul (centre) and father Kieran at just about anything, but that's what keeps them together.
Dave Franks still loves a chance to beat brother Paul (centre) and father Kieran at just about anything, but that's what keeps them together.

Friendly rivalry keeps the Franks competing in, and organising, trail run series that just keeps growing.

Dave Franks likes to think that he, his brother and his Dad have matured and grown out of their competitive rivalry.

The reality is far from the truth.

The passion to beat each other on the trails, or at anything for that matter, and gloat about it afterwards over a beer is as strong as ever.

The Papakura farming family are salt-of-the earth types who help make the Xterra Auckland Trail Running Series happen.

"There was plenty of rivalry between us," explained 29-year-old Dave. "Up until about six years ago when two things happened; me being the older brother of Paul by two and a half years, and used to always winning, I got beaten by him in a race for the first time at the Coastal Challenge in 2006.

"I haven't beaten him since, and Dad realised he was too old to compete with me and Paul anymore," he laughed. "Well that's probably a little unfair - he does give us a run for our money every now and then." Franks stopped and thought about his response. "So, going on that answer, yes, I guess there is still plenty of rivalry there."

Dave is the course manager for Total Sport who organise the Xterra Auckland Trail Running Series and a number of other running events around the North Island. It leaves him too busy to compete anymore.

But every Xterra event is a real family affair for the Franks. Dave and Paul (brothers), Kieran (dad), Rachel (mum) and Sarah Franks (Dave's wife) all play their part.

Dave is the course maestro, responsible for locations, measuring and mapping, health and safety, DoC permits, course crews and supplies.

Paul is course assistant, responsible for marshalling, course preparation and marking, and aid stations.

Kieran - an ex-triathlete who now enjoys trail running - competes in the 50+ age group when he's not busy with parking logistics and tailend Charlie duties at Total Sport.

Rachel and Sarah are registration assistants and the event base crew.

"It's great having the family around," said Dave. "Growing up on the farm Paul, sister Liz and myself were running around, playing, and helping out Dad and I guess that's where the love of the outdoors combined with running came from. That's where we learned how to work well together. It's also pretty fun to tell the old man what to do."

Franks, event manager in 2011, loves setting the course for about 1100 like-minded people enjoying the best of greater Auckland.

"What I enjoy most ... would be the combination of being able to work in some of the most stunning locations New Zealand has to offer, and then on event day seeing everyone on the trails having a great time. Being out on the courses on event day making sure everyone is safe and heading the right way while they have a great time is very satisfying."

He's seen the sport of off-road trail running grow phenomenally in the past eight years.

"I remember one of my first Total Sport events on a stormy winter's day at Piha in 2005 when we can't have had more than 150 hardy souls, around 90 per cent of them males, who turned up and ran that day.

"Seven years later, we're getting 1000 plus, so far this year a 50/50 male female split, at each of the six stunning locations we visit in the 2012 Xterra Auckland series. That growth looks likely to continue."

Dave and Paul ran as mates, and rivals, on the farm to get fit for rugby.

"We left school and realised we were too small to make the All Blacks so got into running for running's sake. None of us being guns, running is more about having fun with a group of mates.

"Heading to the Hunua Ranges with family and friends early on a Saturday in summer for a big morning's run around 'Ernie's Loop' followed by a barbecue, beer and swim in the river is always a good day out."

That's the philosophy they've taken to the Xterra series - the family that plays together, stays together.

- NZ Herald

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