Running the Te Araroa, yes, running! Brook van Reenen, shares his journey and adventures while running New Zealand’s Long Trail, the Te Araroa, as he fundraises for the New Zealand Mental Health Foundation.
Almost a year to the day, I left Cape Reinga in the North Island, en-route to Bluff, in the South Island, for what was to be one massive life changing experience. Fisrtly, thanks to whoever is up top and in charge of the universe, that it was 2019, and not 2020 when I started this adventure of epic proportions!
Asking my boss back in 2018 (when this project was just a dream) for time off was tough. But he knew if he said no, I was going to quit and do it anyway, so he said yes! It was then, that I had to go through with what seemed, like an impossible goal. (Bidfood and the Mediterranean market where I work in Wanaka, were extremely supportive and I can't thank them enough!)
Mount Ngaurohoe, one of many highlights from this trail.
This impossible goal, the journey running down the length of the country, was one of the biggest, toughest, most rewarding experiences of my life. Grit, Strength, Determination, Blood and Sweat, Sunshine, Rain, Wind, Hail, Cold, Hot, Rain, I had it all! Did I say Rain?
I made new friends and caught up with old ones. I enjoyed the challenge of raising over $16,000 for The Mental Health Foundation (and thank you to everyone who helped, as every dollar counts!).
As rewarding as it was, I did think of quitting more than once. However a few things kept me going, even on the hardest and longest of days. The thought of letting everyone who believed and encouraged me down, and the thought that I might miss out on something amazing on this beautiful trail (yes, FOMO is real in Te Araroa life). Thinking of these things made the quitting thoughts disappear. After those tough times, the good times were that much more enjoyable.
I ran and hiked over every different surface imaginable! From the beach, to the road, to the mud to the tree roots of the bush.
I traversed cities and volcanoes, crossed rivers and climbed over mountains, hiked through mountain ranges and over mountain saddles, heard hundreds of bird singing, and saw plenty of wildlife. I got lost more than once too (if you didn’t get lost did you even do it?).
I slept in wild back country huts, my sturdy tent, hotels, motels, holiday parks, epic lodges in the middle of nowhere, and of course the campervan when my mum came as my support crew (amazingly donated for us to use by Tim and Suzy Wanklyn).
A highlight of the North Island , was when I had to use crampons on the Tongariro crossing. This was totally out of my comfort zone, but I soon grew to love the challenges that came with every new day on the trail. Sometimes the trail doesn't go where you think it will, (weather, councils, landslips etc. can lead to adjustments on the trail proper), but I learnt to adapt, embrace it and found joy in most days. I had chosen to be there, wet feet and all!
The trail opened my eyes to how amazing NZ actually is! I'm keen to explore some sections again and others not so much!
The hardest thing I found, was not running with a heavy pack, or being unsure if I had enough food… it was being somewhere totally epic like Pirongia or in the Tararuas; spending so much energy and working so hard to get to the summits, and to then not have a view for my efforts. Due to, yep, crappy weather!
Despite being such a long trail, I didn’t always run alone. Running with friends made all the difference!
There are people along the way called ‘Trail Angels’ that generally help the through-hikers doing the Te Araroa, however, I had my own squad! The NZ running community! They came out in force and joined me in lot's of different places en route. They were MY Trail Angels!
Running with friends was a real hight light, here with Eugene, Jenny and Bronwyn!
Some of it I did do on my own, like completing the Richmond Ranges in 6 nights and 7 day's. This in itself was an extremely satisfying experience.
The weather while in the Richmond ranges was great! But once I came out of the Richmond Ranges, new plans had to be made, as travelling further into Arthurs pass was impossible, with rivers flooding and trails closed south of where I was. Safety comes first in the New Zealand back country so plan B was made.
Some good weather south of Tekapo!
Plan B involved skipping a large part of Canterbury and re-starting the trail at Lake Tekapo.
While driving on the road in the campervan from St Arnaud to Tekapo was pretty depressing, it wasn't all bad! A detour to Christchurch meant I got to hang out with the team & one of my key sponsors for the trip at Further Faster!
Once we got to Tekapo, I continued to run all the way to Bluff! Including running through my home town of Wanaka, which was a real high light after the disappointment missing such a large chunk of trail. Having my mates at home run with me was a real buzz.
While getting to Bluff was pretty satisfying, it wasn't my actual finish line… I am currently in the process of training for that ‘missing section’, and I am excited to head back in February 2021. I plan on filling in the missing link when the day's are long, the sun is shining, the weather is nice and the river's are low. My goal is to continue to raise money for the mental health foundation & I am working with Adam Keen from Aerobic Edge who is putting my training plans in place.
There is about 420 km's of trail still to complete, which includes some epic backcountry and wild mountains. And after the year that 2020 has been so far, I can't wait to get out there, on the trail and then finish in Tekapo for a long overdue party.
End of part one; 2421.64 km's completed (so far!)
Roll on Part two!
With Dad, Gilbert and Mum, Robyn van Reenen at Bluff. Yep it was wet!
For past and future updates and photos of Brooks, 100 day,Te Araroa run for mental health, you can visit his Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/thelongrun19/
If you would like to make a much needed donation to The Mental Health Foundation of NZ you can here: https://events.mentalhealth.org.nz/fundraisers/brookvanreenen/brook-runs-te-araroa
Learn more about the Te Araroa here: https://www.teararoa.org.nz