Image of the April 2021 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
April 2021 Issue
Home / Articles / Sponsored

Lessons learnt from running Te Araroa

Natalie Gallant ran the TA and says no matter your experience there are lessons for everyone from attempting a thru-hike

When physiotherapist Natalie Gallant decided to run Te Araroa Trail, she thought her professional career would prepare her well. Turns out, even she learnt a few things along the way.

As a physiotherapist and keen trail runner, you’d think I’d have a pretty good idea about what’s needed to train for a big event. Things like a structured training programme, adequate sleep, strength to maintain endurance and an epic support network. So when it came to running the 3000km Te Araroa Trail, I figured that, for the most part, I’d have it nailed.

But some lessons can only be learned by putting one foot in front of the other.

Lesson #1: Practise makes perfect-ish

Turns out, lack of time spent training with my pack before embarking on my ultimate adventure had some unexpected consequences. Fully loaded, my pack’s two large front pockets had so much vertical jiggle I had to run with one arm across my chest for most of Ninety Mile Beach. I had achieved my goal of being run-fit ready but totally ignored the specifics of training with a 10kg load on my back. Weight changes everything from your speed to your entire gait pattern.

Lesson #2: Assume the position

Do anything long enough and you begin to assume the postures you spend the most time in. Coming off the back of weeks of running days to suddenly paddling the Whanganui River with no preparation was a shock to my body. Boy did my hip flexors, neck and upper back tell me about it later. Stretching didn’t seem to cut the mustard. Like a tightly coiled spring, whatever position I pulled myself into I’d spring right back into a hunch that would make Mr Burns jealous. It took some dry needling in the field and a few kilometres to run that look off.

Lesson #3: Sleep = recovery

Lack of sleep leads to clouded thoughts, negative self-talk, and ever-increasing coffee and chocolate consumption. By the time I reached Arthur’s Pass, my lack of rest was beginning to take its toll and I needed to slow down and give my body what it was craving: a little R&R.

Lesson #4: Support networks

It’s too easy to plan a solo adventure and forget how that may affect those dearest to you. I ran the TA unsupported in that there was no one running the logistics for me and I was carrying everything I needed on my back, but I use the term ‘unsupported’ loosely. Through the positivity and encouragement shown to me from my friends and loved ones, to awesome Kiwi-owned companies and total strangers, I never once felt alone out on the trail.

Even as a physio, it can be tough sometimes to listen to your own advice. Never underestimate your prep phase and always reflect on lessons learnt. Here’s to making slightly different gaffes on future adventures!

My favourite Macpac gear that I can’t adventure run without

Caples Trail Shorts: Super light and allows tonnes of movement for rock scrambling.

Eyre Long Sleeve Tee: I never leave the house without it!

Tempo Pertex Rain Jacket: Lifesaver. 

Amp Ultra Running Vest: A comfortable hug of hydration.

– Natalie is a Macpac ambassador and ran the full length of Te Araroa in 2019. Follow her at @trailrun_physio