The Great PukeokaHu man vs Horse Marathon – A Recount

The annual Human vs Horse marathon took place a week ago now; the great endurance race between two legs and four.

Severe flooding from Ex Cyclone Debbie throughout the North Island the week before had the committee organisers of the event a bit worried leading up to the event.

No need, it turned into one of the most spectacularly sunny and clear days of the last month, nay summer. This heightened clarity meant that, as the participants ran/rode over Pukeokahu, the snowy caps of Mount Ruapehu were visible in the distance.

The running competitors (humans) got a slight head start on the horses, leaving the start line at the Pukeokahu Community Hall at 9.30am. The horses left shortly after, but were hard pressed to catch up with most of the humans for quite a way, especially Stewart Milne who was leaving everyone behind in a trail of dust.
Over the course of the day, participants journeyed over various sheep and cattle farms, over steep hills and through valleys and water ways. Brian and myself trailed behind on a side-by-side to photograph the event and were, well, just in awe the entire time.

A few factors that make this event stand out from a ‘normal’ marathon:

1. The Landscapes

Infograph of the changes in height of the course

At one point, as me and Brian were photographing participants running over the peak of Pukeokahu, a runner quite close to the front stopped to pull out her phone and take photos of the view below – “I just keep wanting to stop and take photos, it’s very distracting!” What came with this however, was an extremely challenging 42 kilometres which I think can be best described by the height graph above shared by one of the participants.

2. The Participants

I mean for starters, a third of the participants have four legs and a tail! One of the runners said that it was his favourite moment of the race, hearing the canter from behind and breeze of movement as horses over took him. People and horses traveled from all four corners of the North Island to participate or watch the race and it really did attract all sorts…

3. The Community

On the course, participants were already talking about the dinner that was ahead of them at the finish line. One runner said to us, “we are just here for the food and the party” as he ran over his 30th kilometre. The food prepared for this event is something ethereal; a buffet of local meat, fresh salads, home-grown vegies and everything else, supplied and prepared by the local community who have volunteered. Music was played by local hit Charles Sage and all that was left to do was quick back and dance the night away. It is for and because of the community involved that this event can occur at all and has been such a huge success.

Time to start training for next year folks, I know I will be.