The X-Terra Race series comprises three off-road running events around the capital with breath taking views, jagged coastlines and lush native forest. Runners can choose to do either a short, medium or long course so all running ability is covered so long as you have a general level of fitness and some experience of off-road running.
The first race was held at Owhiro Bay which is very close to where I live and I had ran this track a number of times by myself. I entered the medium course of approximately 13km as I was recently getting back from injury. Sharron Came entered the long course of approximately 20km because she is totally hard-core! After a 20 minute delay the organisers set a crowd of about 150 runners on their way with an early climb of 400mts up the Tip Track, so called due to its proximity to the Happy Valley landfill site. The track still offers wonderful views of Wellington Harbour but today held no time for sight-seeing. After the initial climb the track turns south, undulating towards Red Rocks and the sharp descent to the south coast. When I reached the coast the race marshals pointed out a small pod of whales breaching no more than 200 metres away which is something I had never seen before along here – this certainly called for a very brief stop to chug down a few more jelly-beans! The final 4km was along the coast on the gravel beach and hard sand to the finish line in a time of 1hr 20 minutes. Fortunately there was little wind as I have ran this course before where you are literally running on the spot, such is the strength of the wind on some corners.
I decided to upgrade to the long course for the next race held in Belmont Regional Park from the Woolshed entrance at Stratton Street. This 21km course involved about 700mts of vertical climb so was definitely more challenging than the previous race. Due to rain the previous day the course was muddy and slippery in many places which drastically slowed my pace. I was keen not to take a tumble and careful to control my momentum on the downhill. After the first initial climb I was regretting the two beers I had the previous night as I felt my speed slow and the effort required to keep moving increase. A friend I was running with whom I usually beat had now gone ahead and I was resigned to having a bad race day and coming behind my friend. Although my speed was not great I did keep moving as we headed up to Belmont Trig. With the main ascent now over I regained some breath and even passed a couple of people on the descent. As the final uphill section of 150mt was conquered I was surprised to see my friend just ahead who was suffering from cramping and had taken a slight fall off the track. With about 1km of downhill remaining we set off together and I was now motivated to beat him to the finish. Although I too started to cramp up in the last 500mt it wasn’t as bad as that of my friends cramp so I beat him in the end by a couple of minutes in 2hrs 20mins. I finished only 10-12 minutes behind some other friends who ran the race so considering my feelings of an off day it wasn’t too bad in the end.
For the final race I made the sensible decision to return to the medium course around the Whakanui and McKerrow Tracks in the Rimutakas. A large mist hung over Wainuiomata as we drove down the hill through Wainui to the start line at Richard Prouse Park and the temperature was low, creating a reluctance to get out of the car wearing shorts. I decided to wear my running jacket as it was so cold but had to wear it round my waist soon after we started on the 600mt climb up the Whakanui Track. Due to rain the previous day and lots of other runners ahead of me the track was extremely muddy and slippery and was not very wide, making it difficult to pass people. A 3.5km loop track went off the main track and followed some bait stations. This part of the course involved the kind of mud that clung to your shoes, the track was overgrown which made it difficult to see your next step and was technically challenging. This part of the course was more like speed-tramping than running. Once this section was over we were on the way down along a more gradual track though still narrow so a bit of a bottle-neck was developing. As I am a better downhill runner than an uphill runner I was able to overtake a number of people along here before emerging from the bush and back to the finish line in a time of 1hr 50mins.
If you are a runner who is perhaps a little bored of running on concrete or a trail runner that wants to get out and run new tracks in a well organised and social event then the Wellington X-Terra Race Series could be for you.