Start: Riverton (2,988km)
Finish: Bluff (3,054km)
Distance for the day: 68km
Cumulative distance: 3,054km
Distance to Bluff: 0km
At a 1601hrs this afternoon, 53 days 9 hours and 1 minute after setting from Cape Reigna, I finally completed my long journey down the Te Araroa trail, arriving in Bluff – lands end on the southern tip of New Zealand’s South Island. Gathered there waiting were my crew, Mark & James, my wife Gemma, my mum and my mother-in-law, Hilary. Damiano from the Storyteller Collective was there capturing the moment on photo and video, just has he done so magnificently throughout the expedition. They sprayed me with champagne and we danced around the landmark yellow finger post like we’d just won the lottery. There were bystanders around too, probably wondering what the heck was going on, but none of us gave a hoot. It was raw emotion for me; all my heart and soul, sweat and tears, had been put into realizing this moment, and it almost happened too suddenly to take it all in. I’ve been a robotic state for most of the time since I started – in my own little bubble – and I think it’s going to take several days to snap out of it. My body is also going to want to know what the heck is going on when I don’t run tomorrow; so I think some wind down jogging/ walking is going to be important.
So how did the day unfold? Well in the usual manner really. A 5am alarm call felt a wee bit harsh as we had all been up late last night – I only got in from the trail at 9.30pm – but there was a nice buzz in the air from the thought of the finish. It was exciting to think about the day ahead, but that doesn’t make it any easier to get out the campervan door with so much cumulative fatigue in my legs, not to mention the mental tiredness. But once out, and 10 minutes or so up the road, everything started to warm up and then we were away. The sky this morning was incredible, the colors rich and colorful, before the sun eventually rose from the sea and brought the day to life. Once through Riveton, the route was straight on to the beach for 25km around a nicely curved, sandy bay, and it was a lovely spell for solitude and reflection which was exactly what I needed after many weeks of relentless and intense running. The running was far from easy with a mixture of sand and shingle, but I felt strong from thoughts of the finish and kept moving on at decent pace.
From the end of the beach it was on to the road all the way through to the outskirts of Bluff, skirting to the west of Invercargill, most of it on the shoulder of Highway 1. It wasn’t all that much fun and the tarmac was unforgiving underfoot, causing further soreness in my feet and ankles. But the soreness wasn’t really occupying my thoughts, it was more occupied with thoughts about finishing. I had music on the go to help switch off, but it seemed to bring on regular emotional streaks where I was breaking into tears. I’ve said before that this run has worn me down and exposed my inner emotions, and there were so many examples of that today.
By lunchtime at 1.15pm I had 50km under my belt, and thoughts of a mid-afternoon finish were starting to get muted. I didn’t really stop long for lunch, I just wanted to get the job done, so it was straight back on the road through to the outskirts of Bluff. So all that was left was a 7km stretch of trail around the Bluff peninsula to the Stirling Point fingerpost, the official finish to the trail. The first 3km of this section was rough running through long grass from marker post to marker post, but then I hit the millennium trail, and nicely graded gravel track leading all the way to the finish. It was a real blast. No tomorrow to save myself for, nothing to lose, no reason to hold back. But no time to really prepare myself for stopping; that’s the bit which is going to feel very strange.
We’re now sitting in the communal room of Bluff campsite, sharing photos, drinking cider and beer, and starting to reflect and share the memories. Where do you start? I’ve spent 53 days reflecting, and now I need time to reflect. Work that one out - very strange. But one thing I know I will be doing for sure is taking a week’s holiday with my wonderfully supportive wife. I feel like the luckiest man alive….
It’s hardly suffice, but just initially I want to say a massive thank you to my incredible support guys, James and Mark. They have given up nine weeks of their life to support me with this expedition and words can’t express how grateful I am to them both for what they have done. It is with great sadness that this team will split up from tomorrow – it really has been an incredible team effort – I have just been fronting it.
I hope to share some of my reflections about the expedition as a whole over the coming days. I too don’t want it to stop, so I will get a few more posts out.
And finally a big thank you to everyone who has followed my journey and provided so many supportive comments and feedback. I hope you have enjoyed it all as much as I have.
|Sunrise on the Beach (credit: Damiano Levati/ The North Face)|
|The day is alive! On the beach.... (credit: Damiano Levati/ The North Face)|
|Focused on the final day (credit: Damiano Levati/ The North Face)|
|Finished! (credit: Damiano Levati/ The North Face)|
|The team celebrating at the finish (credit: Damiano Levati/ The North Face)|