‘Trail running is not all about time, it’s the experiences you have along the way’
I lace up my Brooks trail runners, shrug my pack onto my back cinching the straps so it is fitting snug (I strongly dislike running packs that move around) and grab my iPod untangling my earphones as I walked out of the wooden bungalow studio and down the gravel track to the road that would eventually take me to the Mt Karioi Track turn off.
My plan for this morning is to run from Whale Bay, Raglan to the summit of Mt Karioi and return in time to catch some afternoon waves. It’s a mere 13km uphill run that is easy on the eye in terms of scenery, a nice challenging uphill lung buster and a thigh burner exercise in terms of everything else but she had been beckoning me the whole week I have been here in Raglan surfing so today was the day.
I am thankful for the cloud cover. It is high enough not to block the views but thick enough to protect me from the intense attention that the sun freely offers you in this part of the world. As I hit the pavement and start the immediate, but gradual climb towards the single track, I enjoy a quick glimpse of the swell lines breaking at Whale Bay and hope I will be back in time to catch some surf action. The car park is full so the surf must be on today. For a fleeting moment, I think about turning back and exchanging my runners and pack for a wetsuit, a surfboard and some icy water.
After about 500m, the pavement finishes and the sweet sound of gravel crunching under my shoes is pure bliss. I love trails. Houses are soon replaced by paddocks, livestock and gurgling streams and the smell of the pine trees mingles with the smoky smell of wood fires. The gravel road meanders along the side of a ridge, climbing steadily higher and I enjoy unobstructed ocean views of the Tasman Sea below. I love the ocean. My rhythm and breathing have settled in to a smooth, easy pace and I pass a brightly painted van with a group of about half a dozen folks hanging out the front standing around a small fire as the melodic sounds of Dave Matthews Band filter out to the world. With a wave, I run onwards and upwards through the yellow gate that tells me I am close to Te Toto Gorge. Watching the swell lines of the ocean below brings me easily up to the stile that marks the start of the trail and before I cross it I take a minute to have a drink and enjoy the solitude at the lookout. It’s one of those special moments where it’s just you and a view!
From the stile, it is all uphill, and the iPod it turned on as the run/walk becomes all business. The track at this point is a mixture of kanaka forest, crossing small streams, running up through open grassy slopes, over rocky outcrops, up ladders, navigating step ups with the help of chains while the scenery just grows wider and wider and bigger and bigger with these spectacular views of Raglan town, Raglan harbour and an ever-expanding coastline. Although it is windy, chilly, fresh and cloudy when I hit the summit the sense of relief and happiness wraps me in a warm glow of achievement. It’s one of those adventures where you are working hard but grinning bucket loads and there is a constant urge to scream and whoop with joy, jump, high-five everything and throw your arms in the air and yell ‘I love you outdoor world’.
The way back is the same as the way up so I carefully navigate steep rocky descents, muddy streams and rugged up against the wind and rain as Hilltop Hoods and a Cliff Bar recharged my tired spirit and soggy feet. The stile finally appears, I jump it quickly and continue onwards down the wet gravel road, ducking away from the wind into my Patagonia Torrentshell jacket and pulling my running cap down low over my face to protect it from the splattering of icy rain drops. The brightly coloured travelling van has vanished taking music and a warm fire with it and leaving me alone on the road with some very dark and stormy black clouds. I continue down the dirt road, alone with my music, my wet trail runners and my thoughts of a hot shower. Waves, it seemed will have to wait today.