Duo’s special attraction to Routeburn Classic

The Routeburn Classic and Routeburn Track hold special memories for two Queenstowners who’ll run the 32km trail race together tomorrow.

For Bex Andrew, 49, this will be her fifth Classic, qualifying her for a special medal, while it’ll just be the second Classic for her best friend, Ina Chalmers, 40.

But that doesn’t tell even half the story.

Bex actually met her hubby-to-be, Phil, when they shared a taxi to the chopper that took them to the event’s start-line in 2014.

Phil was still married at the time, but they kept in touch and, after his divorce, they moved to Queenstown to be together the following year — fittingly, they got engaged on the Routeburn’s Harris Saddle in 2019.

Ina, meanwhile, married her hubby, Andre, on the Routeburn.

She also considered her first Classic, in 2021, so special — coming after the three previous Classics she’d entered had all been cancelled due to bad weather — she got a tattoo of the race logo.

And though Saturday’s just her second Classic, it’ll be her 35th track crossing.

A keen ultrarunner, most of these runs have been for rental car relocations.

Recently, she even did three back-to-back crossings.

Ina’s already achieved some fame for her close-to-home endurance feats during the two Covid lockdowns.

In April, 2020, she ran and walked for 24 hours around a square by her Lake Hayes Estate home, clocking up 102km.

Then in August, 2021, she made up for the cancellation of the Great Naseby Water Race’s 100km event by completing the same distance via
11-and-a-half laps of Lake Hayes — this August, she’s attempting the race’s 200km event, which’ll be her longest run yet.

Meanwhile, Phil Andrew will be the Classic’s ‘tail-end Charlie’ for the fourth time this Saturday, meaning he walks/runs behind the last competitor — in ’21, the last Classic, he was out on the track for eight-and-a-half hours.

While looking forward to tomorrow, Ina and Bex both say they’ll miss former race owner/organiser Queenstowner Evan McWhirter, who recently sold the event to a division of Trojan Holdings, which already owns the Coast to Coast multisport race.

Bex: ‘‘I’m going to miss his antics — he’s crazy funny.’’

Ina adds: ‘‘He made this event different from all the other ones.’’

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