'Running lunatics' battle elements to break range record

MATT STEWART
Last updated 13:43 28/12/2013
Chris Swallow and Laurence Pidcock

REFUEL: A support crew left food drops at huts along the way for Chris Swallow, left, and Laurence Pidcock during their record north-south traverse of the Tararua Range.

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It takes a certain kind of person to want to run the length of the Tararua Range in high winds and driving rain - the kind best described as "running lunatics".

Wellingtonians Laurence Pidcock, an experienced ironman athlete, and PE teacher Chris Swallow have broken an 18-year-old record for running about 100 kilometres from Eketahuna to Kaitoke along the spine of the Tararua Range. It took them 22 hours and 12 minutes to complete the feat last weekend - despite taking a wrong turn at one point.

In 2011 the pair ran a rare double Southern Crossing, completing the 74km run from Otaki Forks to Kaitoke and back in 16 hours and one minute - an achievement that earned them the label "running lunatics" from the organiser of the 2011 one-way Southern Crossing Race, Mike Sheridan.

Pidcock, 35, describes Swallow, 31, as a "madman" and is picking him as the most likely to break the sub-20 hour mark along the Tararua ridge track as a solo runner.

Last Saturday the pair set off from Eketahuna at 3am and began climbing the Dundas ridge and were straight away confronted with low cloud and high winds, and later driving rain. It got worse - the pair took a wrong turn and lost about 2 hours before getting back on track.

"I remember saying to Laurence shall we can it today and save our legs?" Swallow said.

It was a blow that cast a negative shadow over the attempt, but that lifted when they reached Kime Hut about 7pm - only 13 minutes behind the old record of 22hrs 59min, set by ridge runner Colin Rolfe in 1995.

"It was a good carrot dangling, and it kept the motivation going," Swallow said.

An 11-strong crew who did not stay on the mountain because of the bad weather made food drops to huts along the way - and in one case left a tantalisingly warm fire burning.

"Leaving a warm stove was tough, but it was a case of just keeping moving and keeping warm," Swallow said.

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