Time to heed call of The Wild

If local knowledge counts, Arrowtowner Benje Patterson and Queenstowner Maureen Stachowicz should be contenders to win the headline 85km race at The Wild mountain running event this weekend.

Organised by Wānaka mountain running legend Mal Law’s Wild for Nature Charitable Trust, the Arrowtown backcountry event comprises 85km, 64km, 30km and 11km runs today, and yesterday’s 9km ‘Beast of Beetham’.

Patterson says he knows the 85km course, which includes 5000 metres of elevation gain, like the back of his hand.

‘‘I can kind of run through it, kilometre by kilometre, in my mind.’’

With 80% of the 650-plus runners from out of town, he suggests they’ll find whatever course they’re running daunting, as a huge proportion’s off-track.

‘‘It’s just going to be quite relentless, but I think it’s going to be an amazing sense of satisfaction for people, not only for what they’ve achieved, but just the jaw-dropping scenery they’ve experienced along the way.’’

The 37-year-old economist, who’s had a breakout ultrarunning year, including third place in the Brisbane Trail Ultra 100-miler in July, says a win would be fantastic.

‘‘But I just want to go out there and have a performance I’m proud of, and have my kids really excited at the finish-line.

‘‘What I’ve learnt is these sort of races, they’re so challenging, so long, they’re full of surprises along the way.’’

He quips they’re like a duathlon — a non-stop eating as well as running contest.

Those in the 85km event, which started at 6am, have 24 hours to finish, but it’s thought the fastest runners will make it in 12.

Patterson: ‘‘I think as long as we have good conditions on the day, someone will be able to go below that.’’

Putting on his hat as chair of the Arrowtown Promotion and Business Association (APBA), he says when Law discussed his idea, ‘‘it resonated instantly with Arrowtown, as we believe we’re New Zealand’s premier access point to the backcountry’’.

Prepping for mountainous terrain: Maureen Stachowicz on the Serpentine Range, near the Routeburn Track, with Lake Wilson in the background

He’s also thrilled the trust running the event is planting natives in areas the course runs through, with entrants encouraged to lop some wilding pines on Thursday — ‘‘that’s something the APBA was also onboard with’’.

And Patterson’s delighted Law’s resurrected the event after last year’s false start when the Christchurch-based organising company went into liquidation — leaving nearly 700 runners out of pocket for a combined $250,000 and Law suffering a five-figure loss.

Meanwhile, chiropractor Stachowicz, who’s originally from France, is also familiar with the terrain the 85km course is covering even though she’s not run it as such.

The 30-year-old finished fourth, and second-fastest woman, in the local Shotover Moonlight Marathon early this year.

However, she says you never know how you’ll feel on the day.

She has no idea what time she’ll do, though guesses it could be between 15 and 20 hours.

As for tactics, ‘‘I reckon you have to take it easy, not push it too hard on the uphill, make sure you drink good water, eat good food, and don’t burn your legs because it can be long on the downhill if you do.’’

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