Decade of challenging off-road event ends but organisers promise better.
Race organiser Shaun Collins knows that many runners will be sad to see the Wild Turkey run end but promises the new event which will follow the complete Hillary Trail will be even better.
There are mixed emotions at the approach of the iconic Auckland off-road run next weekend. It celebrates the 10th staging of the Wild Turkey and bids farewell to that stretch of the Waitakere Ranges in the last event.
Due to council regulations, only one event per year is allowed in some parts of the ranges and organisers Lactic Turkey are in the planning stages of a new event that will encompass the Hillary Trail, a 75km trail linking some of the best tracks in the Waitakere Ranges.
"We are really proud of the Wild Turkey event as it's a very challenging run and shows off an amazing area of our fabulous region," said event organiser Collins.
"I had an email from a past participant which sums up the event: 'I've been meaning to give you some feedback on the Wild Turkey. I'm a bit sentimental about the Wild Turkey because it was the first off-road race I did, six years ago, and I loved it. That was the beginning of a love affair with off-road running and I've done plenty of events since, including a few more Wild Turkeys. I'll be sad to see it go.'
"So although we are sad to see the end of the Wild Turkey era, we truly believe that the Hillary Trail event will be even better."
He should know. In his day, Collins was a New Zealand orienteering rep and then got into adventure racing and now off-road ultra-marathons.
He recently did the Tarawera 100km Ultra, Kauri Run 70km Ultra, and holds the record for the fastest run of the Hillary Trail (10 hours 10 minutes).
"I'm currently the only person to have done the Hillary Trail Double - there and back 150km in 29.5 hours in winter. It was the shortest and wettest day of last year. I can't wait to show it to local and international runners."
But for now the first priority is honouring the past. Collins hopes they see out the Wild Turkey in style. The event has moved to April from its usual mid-January date because they found people were still on holiday in the past two years and missed out.
They are looking to fill up the 300 person field and people will sit back and reflect on a special 10 years.
"The Wild Turkey has become an iconic adventure run in the Auckland area. It was one of the first annual trail runs in Auckland and provided a good, tough challenge for all, fast elite runners through to newbies.
"We set the course and date back then to be an ideal lead-up to the famous Coast to Coast multisport event. The course back then with its boulder hopping up the Pararaha Stream was perfect training for Coast to Coast.
"Then in 2009 we were forced by the council to change the course. Right from the early days, the event has been well supported by people from all over the North Island. Finishers would buzz about the course as they stood in the stream at Whatipu soaking their aching legs."
The event has two courses; the 21km half marathon (with 900m vertical ascent) and the 15km short course (with 400m ascent). Both options are loop courses taking in the tracks of the southern Waitakere Ranges.
"Although they have some serious climbs, runners are rewarded with the amazing views of the rugged west coast and heads of the Manukau Harbour," said Collins.
"I guess the times show you how the course stacks up. There's no arguing that this is quite a tough course. The 16km has less hills and is generally a lot more enjoyable! I'd definitely recommend this course to those who are hesitant and haven't done many long off-road runs before."
What advice do you offer to newcomers to the Wild Turkey?
SC: Try to spend time on some hills prior to the event - it will make the whole experience a lot more enjoyable! Not necessarily running up at speed but tramping them so you get used to them.
This would help on the final downhill finish too. It's quite technical and fast but lasts a while so can be a challenge to those more used to flat roads.
Most importantly, people need to be ready to have an amazing day out. It'll be hard at times and it'll hurt at times but these stages will pass; one minute a runner will be ready to quit ... but before they know it, they've broken through to the next part of the course and are loving it again. So bring some mental toughness.