Kerikeri ultra runner takes on the TransRockies high altitude challenge
Grant Allerby [front] won the 24-hour Kerikeri Striders event, covering 116.5 km from 8:00 a.m. Saturday to 8:00 a.m. Sunday in May. Photo / Provided
Athlete Kerikeri Grant Allerby is no stranger to long distance running, having run a number of grueling 160km races over the past decade.
But running 120 miles over six days and climbing elevations up to 12,000 feet – higher than Mount Cook – on the TransRockies Run in mountainous Colorado takes it to the next level.
Allerby left for the United States last Tuesday to complete 10 days of mountain hiking before the start of the race on August 1.
He prepared for the race by doing practice runs around his Totara North farm and local gravel roads, aiming to clock in at 60-100km a week.
Sometimes he goes further, “but it’s a balancing act,” he says.
“You do too much and you risk injuring yourself.”
The biggest challenge in the ultra will be the altitude, Allerby said, and for that he has to “train in the heat.”
“I’m not used to the altitude, so the best I can do here is train in the heat.
“I go for a run, then I take a hot bath for 30 minutes, make it over 40 degrees and sit in that.”
Allerby has a few “hundies” (100 mile/160 km races) under his belt in New Zealand.
He can’t wait to take on the epic journey from Buena Vista to Beaver Creek through the Colorado Rockies.
The course will take him and the other 200 international competitors over high mountain passes, creek crossings and rough terrain at altitudes of 2,300 to 3,800 meters above sea level.
The race is spread over six days, or stages, with each day covering a set number of kilometers over different types of terrain such as dirt and gravel roads, cobbled roads and narrow paths.
Every night they will stay in tent camps.
“Seems like there’s a fun vibe about it,” Allerby said.
“I did three days in a row and after that I’m pretty gassed up, and it’s not at altitude.
“It’s next level, it’s not a long push, it’s getting up day by day, it’s something I’ve never done before.”
The 61-year-old started running in his early thirties, coupled with mountain biking.
He got into trail running and “loved it” and a passion for ultra running was born from there.
Allerby has been running ultra-running events for ten years now and has completed nine 100km events.
“I was training for 60km and I was at the stadium doing back-to-back races over the weekend.
“Once I got into the first one and did the 85km…you think okay, I can do anything now.
“It’s a chore, you have sore feet, sore muscles and cramps.
“It’s how you deal with it and use your mind.
“It’s relatively easy now because I’ve been there before. Once you’ve gotten this far you don’t want to give up, it’s one foot in front of the other.”
Allerby belongs to the Kerikeri Striders Multisport Club, a group for cyclists, runners, walkers and multisports including orienteering and kayaking.
In May, he won the 24-hour Kerikeri Striders event, covering 116.5 km from 8:00 a.m. Saturday to 8:00 a.m. Sunday, on an 8.96 km loop course in Kerikeri.
Last year he won the same event with a total of 143.4 km covered in 24 hours.
Allerby decided to participate in the TransRockies Run after a previous trip to Mongolia in 2018.
“People asked me if I was going there to run, I said no just an adventure.
“I saw this pop-up on Facebook and thought it combined the two things, hiking in the mountains and doing a bit of running.
“It’s something a little different, it’s quite spread out.”
Allerby also plans to run 80km near Coronet Peak in December.
What is ultra running?
An ultramarathon is a longer running event than the traditional 42km marathon and is becoming increasingly popular.
Events include the six-day, 251km Marathon des Sables across the Sahara and the Spine Race through the Pennine Hills covering 431km.
The majority of ultra-races in the world are trail races, often run through beautiful and remote landscapes such as mountains or deserts.