Curly Jacobs is taking on the extreme challenge of running the length of New Zealand, followed by the length of Australia with just one week off in between.
He was five weeks into his 6000km-plus journey when the Waikato Herald caught up with him in Taupō, and averaging a marathon per day.
To warm up, 61-year-old Jacobs cycled from his home in Taupō to Invercargill, where he swapped his bike for a backpack and running shoes before flying over to Oban, Stewart Island to begin his run along the length of State Highway 1.
The Oban leg of the trip was just a few hundred metres to the ferry, but he wanted to start in the country’s southern-most town.
“Someone said to me ‘how do you train for something like this?’ and you don’t, you just get on and do it. It doesn’t matter how fit you are, it’s going to hurt for the first few weeks.
“The first 10 days - two weeks were pretty brutal, feet blew up like balloons, blisters. I had to get a golf cart and strapped my backpack to it, sleeping bag and mattress.”
He spent the weekend with his former partner and his son Finn, 7, who is the big inspiration behind the cause he is promoting on his epic adventure - KidsCan Charitable Trust.
The only other break he has had is a couple of days in Wellington, once again to spend time with Finn and he will take a week off, over Christmas, if he has finished the NZ leg of the journey by then, before heading to Hobart for the Australian leg.
Truck drivers have been “awesome” and other motorists “fantastic” about giving him space. He has only found himself in a couple of dodgy situations - at Lake Taupō's notoriously narrow Bulli Pt - Te Poporo, and on the 1.8km-long Rakaia Bridge in the South Island, New Zealand’s longest road bridge.
“I’m pretty attuned to the traffic but there is not much room there (Bulli Pt) ... If you jump too far, it’s straight down. I don’t think people realise just how close to the edge they are.”
At Rakaia, he was sizing up a long sprint across the bridge before a police officer put paid to that idea, insisting that he give him a lift across because there was simply not enough room.
There’s no fancy, high-performance diet - he sleeps wherever he can and eats whatever he can pick up from the dairy or supermarket along the way.
“It’s a see-food diet – I see it and I eat it, anything and everything. Cafes and dairies and supermarkets when I come across them. Canned spaghetti and creamed rice and fruit when I can get hold of it and in the evenings if I am not near a town, noodles.”
He hasn’t had to resort to roadkill, but the longer distances in Australia means the odd kangaroo burger could be on the menu.
In Australia, everything will get hotter with longer distances between urban centres. He is still undecided on whether he will tackle the 2700km Stuart Highway from Melbourne to Darwin, up the centre of Australia or take the longer but more forgiving coastal route.
“I’ll decide whether I go left or right when I get to Melbourne. If I chicken out I’ll turn right and head out to the coast and Sydney and go up the coast where there is a bit more water.”
He’ll support a similar charity in Australia with all proceeds raised staying in their respective countries.
“It really came about because of Finn. Started hearing more about kids going to school with an empty tummy. I can’t run on an empty tummy and kids can’t learn on an empty tummy.”
The challenge itself was because he was not sure it had ever been attempted before, so he wanted to see if it could be done.
The former farmer and handyman has done plenty of ultra distance running before but nothing on the scale he was attempting now.
He has a Givealittle page which people can search just by typing in his name and Instagram and Facebook accounts so people can follow his journey.
He was keen to get as many donations as possible and was prepared to donate $1 for every time someone toots at him as he runs along the highway, and he has a clicker-counter to record it.
“I’m quite serious about it, anyone travelling along SH1 can toot and I’ll donate a $1.”
His other motivation was simply to show older people that they can achieve physical goals.
“I can inspire older people to get out and do things - If I can, they can. We just seem to switch off a bit when we get older and closer to retirement and fair enough, but it’s doable as well.”
Curly was running from Taupō towards Tokoroa on Monday, December 11 and would be going every day until he reaches Cape Reinga. All going to schedule he should be finished the NZ leg of his journey just a few days before Christmas.
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