Whilst we were somewhat distracted over night by the shenanigans going on in San Fran with the TNF50 showdown, back on this side of the would, one of the truly iconic utras was run, and won by yet another Kiwi.
The Kepler Challenge 60km is my favourite race by far, the terrain makes Six Foot seem like a speed bump, the location is visually like something out of Lord of the Rings and the competition is always fierce.
This year was no different with a packed field of New Zealand’s finest trail runners and some pretty decent Aussies trying their best to wrestle the crown from their claws.
In the mens race Vajin Armstrong repeated his win from last year taking the tape in 5 hrs 01 minute with a tightly packed field including former winner Martin Lukes, Australia’s Tony Fattorini and TNF100 finisher Grant Guise of Salomon. According to Dave Eadie who was on the ground spectating, by the top of the first major climb and heading to Rainbow Reach, Armstrong, Lukes, Clendon and Guise were all within sight of each other and pushing hard before the long run for home. Rounding out the podium was Lukes in 5 hrs 09 minutes and Daniel Clendon in 5 hrs 17 minutes.
I caught up with Grant after the race and he said the pace was typically hot from the start with him cresting Luxmore Hut in 3rd place, but the pace caught up with him and by the finishing stretch he was run down by Fattorini to take out a respectable 5th in 5 hrs 29 minutes.
Armstrong’s win continues a long held tradition that no one from outside the South Island of NZ has ever won this race?
In the womens competition, Dunedin girl Victoria Beck was first home in 5hrs 51 minutes from Australia’s Vanessa Harverd in 6 hrs 08 minutes and Sarah Coghlin in 6 hrs 16 minutes. It was a shame NSW’s Beth Cardelli was still not fit and settled for the easier Luxmore Grunt where she snagged 3rd place.
I can’t wait to get back there next year to mix it up with some great people and awesome terrain.