Dorset-based Jez Bragg has become the fastest man to complete a gruelling trail that runs the full length of New Zealand. He ended the 3,054km (1,898-mile) Te Araroa Trail 53 days after he set off from Cape Reinga.
I spent a day running with Jez on the Cleveland Way a while back and he mentioned he had a big project in the pipeline. He was a bit cagey about the details but said it involved New Zealand and was a biggie. He wasn't exaggerating and, especially with his disappointing DNF at last year's UTMB, it's great to see him back on top form.
The North Face Athlete, who has won the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc once and has three wins under his belt of the 97km (60-mile) Fellsman, beat the Te Araroa record by nine days.
His completion of the trail was completely by human power – running and paddling – and came despite him being stricken with Giardiasis, the digestive parasitic ailment more colourfully known as Beaver Fever.
A spokesperson for The North Face, which supported his venture, said: “Jez Bragg began well, completing the first section ahead of schedule.
“Making his way down the trail, Bragg’s pace slowed due to difficult conditions underfoot including a hard tramp through multiple forest sections.
“Weather conditions became a significant factor as Bragg experienced some unseasonably wet spells in the North Island and, in the latter stages on the South Island, considerable heat.
“The Cook Strait was a pivotal point in the success of the expedition; a perfectly timed weather window ensured the crossing by kayak went without a hitch.
“Mid-way through the South Island, Bragg’s fastest time attempt was threatened when he was struck down with Giardia. Supported by crew doctor, Dr Mark Taylor, Bragg was able to return to the trail after three days.
“Keeping fuelled and hydrated was an additional challenge to the British ultrarunner. Bragg had to vastly increase his calorie intake, eating daily cooked breakfast, pasta lunch, big evening meal interspersed with snacks of 400g chocolate bars and ice-cream to keep up required energy levels.
Jez Bragg added: “The Te Araroa expedition started as a dream several years ago.
“I have always wanted to take on an epic, multi-day run. The newly created Te Araroa Trail running the length of New Zealand fitted the bill perfectly. What better way to explore one of the world’s most beautiful countries?
“The Cook Strait kayak crossing was admittedly a bold plan but it was integral to the expedition, so having pulled it off is very special.
“Each day of running on this epic trail has presented significant challenges. The terrain has been far rougher than anything I’ve experienced elsewhere in the world, so patience, determination and core strength have been key.
“I also suffered with the dreaded Giardia bug midway through the South Island. My body is weary and my mind worn out, but the job is done.
“The pain will fade with time leaving the most incredible set of memories.
“I would like to sincerely thank my support crew, friend James Ashwell and father-in-law Mark Taylor, who have provided me with incredible support and dedication to allow this project to succeed.
“Having completed the trail, my dream has come true.”
Jez Bragg’s tested various prototype The North Face kit items during his expedition, as well as using Ultra Guide shoes and Better Than Naked t-shirt and short.
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