By Gary Caffell
Selection in the New Zealand team to contest the 2013 world 24-hour ultra-marathon championships in the Netherlands on May 11 and 12 has created a dilemma for gun Masterton endurance athlete Graeme Butcher.
Nobody understands better than Butcher the need to cover huge distances in training leading up to an event of that magnitude but he is also mindful of the injuries which have sidelined him for lengthy periods over the past 12 months.
First there was the stress fracture which meant him withdrawing from the Kiwi contingent competing in last year's world champs in Poland and that was followed by the fracturing of three vertebrae in his back, the cause of which still remains a mystery.
"Quite honestly I don't know how that happened, the back got a bit sore and I thought I had strained it but it turned out to be a lot worse than that," Butcher said yesterday.
Since January, however, Butcher has been able to return to something like full training mode, although he admits the thought of further injury has affected his preparation.
"You don't want to put yourself in cotton wool but at the same time you don't want to push too hard either just in case something happens. It's a bit of balancing act at the moment."
Even so Butcher is churning out something like 140km a week and at the peak of his training programme for the worlds he will extend that figure to beyond 200km.
"I am finding I can go 50km quite comfortably now.
"I try to average about 10km every hour and I'm also doing some walking and a couple of weight training sessions. So far so good."
The course at Steenbergen for the worlds is a 2.4km circuit and mainly flat and while Butcher is quick to emphasise that setting firm targets is dangerous for an event which so severely tests competitors, both physically and mentally, he hopes to better his previous best 24-hour distance of 207km.