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August 2011 Issue
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Trail runner ‘runs the beast’ twice in one go

Trail runner Shaun Collins ran the 70km Hillary Trail in each direction in less than 30 hours. Photo: Josh Gale

For ordinary mortals the 70km Hillary Trail in the Waitakere Ranges takes between three to four days to complete.

Trail runner Shaun Collins “ran the beast” twice in 29 and a half hours during its wettest season without properly training for it.

Just before the trail first opened in January 2010, Collins and his friend Gus Grey became the first people to complete it in one running session.

Afterwards, Collins, who works as a financial controller, thought to himself: “it would be nice to do a double”.

However, earlier this year in March, during an eight hour race in Queenstown, Collins damaged a disc and stopped training during April while he was getting physiotherapy.

He only began training again in May, running about seven hours each week.

“It wasn’t an ideal build up to something like this, but I’d been talking about it so long I just wanted to get out there and do it,” said the 37-year-old Laingholm resident.

He started his 149km run, with about 6700m of ascent, at 2pm on a Saturday from the Arataki Visitor Centre.

Heavy rain in the Waitakeres meant the narrow and rugged tracks that form the Hillary Trail had become boggy in some sections and rivers in others.

But despite the conditions Collins made it to Muriwai 12 hours later at 2:30am.

“I got to Muriwai at a faster time than when we did it just the one way,” said Collins. “I was starting to wonder when I was going to hit the wall and slow right down, but it just didn’t seem to happen.”

He ran through the early morning, had a 20 minute break for breakfast at The Piha Cafe and made it back to the Arataki Visitor Centre at 8pm on Sunday evening.

Collins said he was surprised how well his body coped with the run. “It was weird because I hadn’t done lots of long distance training specifically for this mission. “At about 5am I was sleepy tired, but I was still able to run the flats and downhills.

“My legs felt great, but as soon as I crossed the finish the body just went into shutdown mode.”

In better weather conditions and with more prior training, Collins said he could shave three hours off his time, but doing it in under 24 hours “would be a big ask”.

“You could do it one way in 10 hours if you had good conditions and you were really fit, but I don’t think you’d be able to maintain that pace for double,” he said. “I reckon 26 hours.”

When he is not running in the Waitakeres, working and spending time with his family, Collins also organises Lactic Turkey trail running, rogaine and multisport events.